Not another workshop!

Tania Kraus
Senior Technical Product Specialist

LinkedIn Profile

Do you groan or grin when you are invited to a workshop? 

Well organised and executed workshops are valuable tools, but poorly organised ones can be a waste of everyone’s time. I am sure we have all been in poorly run workshops. You know the ones – side discussions and bickering, technical issues, no clear agenda or scope, the wrong people invited who get bored and play on their devices, and you leave the workshop thinking “that was time I’ll never get back!”

Don't 'just wing it' - planning is the key
Planning is essential for running a successful workshop. Putting time aside dedicated to the planning of the workshop pays off in the long run.

To start with, agree on the goal and scope of the workshop with key stakeholders so everyone is on the same page. Agreeing on the scope of the workshop will help you determine who the right people are to have in the room. It will also give you a rough idea of the workshop's running time.

Once the running time is agreed, you can start to invite your participants. Time is precious and people's calendars fill up quickly, so send the invites out sooner rather than later. It doesn't matter if you haven't prepared the agenda. Let the attendees know the scope and goal of the workshop and that they will get more information closer to the date.

Don't forget to book a suitable room if the workshop will be held in person or as a hybrid, and ensure it has the equipment you need. Will you need whiteboards (actual and/or virtual), markers and erasers, or video conferencing equipment? There's nothing worse than turning up to a workshop in an inadequate room and having to scramble to make do!

Send an email to the attendees close to the date of the workshop providing the agenda along with any supporting material that will aid discussions and decision making.

Setting the scene

You have done a great job with the planning, so now it is time to prepare for the workshop. Here are some questions to ask yourself before the big day:

  • How many people will you need to help facilitate the workshop - who will run the workshop, take notes and act as time keeper?
  • Have you gathered any stationery you may need – whiteboard markers and erasers, Post-Its and markers, blue tac, flip charts etc.
  • If you are meeting in person, do you need to organise refreshments or snacks?
And, we're off!

It is important to get to the workshop venue early, if you are meeting in person or in hybrid, to:

  • Get the room set up
  • Clean whiteboards and check that whiteboard markers ARE whiteboard markers
  • Test that the technology works
  • Set out snacks and water, and
  • Confirm refreshments will arrive in time for scheduled breaks.

When everyone has arrived, explain how the workshop will run, when breaks are scheduled and go over the ground rules, such as phones down or on silent, and how to ask questions or interact with the group, particularly for online participants.

The facilitator is to promote discussion, keep things moving, limiting side discussions between participants and not allow the workshop to get side-tracked or go too far off topic. Most importantly, stick to the time frame.

Make sure to document any issues that arise, questions that need answering and information that needs to be sourced or clarified. Assign someone to action these items with a date for them to come back to the group with the answers or information.

Wrapping it up

Phew – you have done it! Now it is time to wrap the workshop up. At the end of the workshop:

  • Communicate the next steps
  • Make sure that people assigned tasks know what is required and when
  • Provide contact details, if you haven’t already, in case there are follow up questions
  • Schedule additional workshops or follow up meetings.
  • Distribute any meeting notes or summaries to the participants.

Don’t be afraid to ask the participants to send you feedback after the workshop when they have had time to reflect on how it went. This feedback can be used to improve your future workshops.

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