When participants want to learn, enjoy learning and learn well without many instructions, reminders or management, this is known as Active Learning, something that every workshop leader strives to achieve. Many of us think creating great workshop content is important which it definitely is, however, delivering an effective workshop that not only has great content but also relates to participants, captivates their interests and sets them up for active learning can be quite the challenge.
In my experience when we as workshop leaders are able to win over participants and get them on our “side” then we have won half the battle. We then are able to interact with them fully, inspire them more and get them to become fully mesmerised with our workshops. How we possibly could do this is explained below.
Make an impression.
Openings are of course the toughest thing for most workshop leaders since there are only a few minutes to make a good impression and begin connecting with participants. In my opinion, as the average attention span of most participants in workshops can be small, it is vital to plan an interactive opening, something that is not only informative but is also charismatic, fascinating and captivating. This could be by using the “volume” of the voice, by the content of your initial presentation or even a demonstration of some sort. Make sure you observe participants during this stage and look for any signs of engagement and interaction or the lack of it, to think about adapting and modifying.
Tell a story.
A workshop leader that shares an authentic personal story that is relevant to the topic or the group can instantly bond with participants. It is important to be open and willing to give participants a chance to get to know you better, this will not only build rapport and interaction but also help participants connect with you. This can be done with the opening of the workshop or through a discussion by sharing a story, connecting or referring back to the purpose of the workshop topic. This will not only help develop a relationship but also give both the workshop leader and participants something to keep referring to.
We all have a story to share, there was always something we learnt from our earlier life experiences back then, so chances are others could learn from it today too. Remember the story doesn’t necessarily have to be an achievement, it can be of a failure and what was learnt from it. In the past thing like my struggle with dyslexia, under achieved academic life, a series of dead-end jobs had not only helped with story telling but also helped build interaction and trust with participants.
Finally, make sure your story is simple and leads into the workshop, the activities or is relevant to participants in some way. If you can’t find your own story to fit all this, then use another story like a historic moment.
Humour is by far one of the most effective ways to engage participants, it helps build a common ground of happiness, joy and enjoyment. It is extremely powerful and has often been used well by the likes of motivational speakers, event hosts, presenters and other professionals who speak in front of people. What I have learnt as a workshop leader is that a good joke can loosen up participants, it helps them become more connected with me and makes them more receptive to what I say to them afterwards.
It is however important to note that the jokes we use in workshops are flowing organically, that it is somehow relevant to the situation, environment and audience. It is also very important to be aware of participants, that no one feels offended and victimised. Similarly, it is also crucial to not overdo the joke as it can drive people away from the purpose of the workshop and most importantly, it puts people of.
Use wise words.
Words are classed as extremely influential, but only if they are understood. As a workshop leader, we speak to different groups of individuals all the time with different sets of vocabulary, academic levels and language barriers. This makes it crucial to only use words and terms that the groups will understand. Otherwise, we run the risk of talking over people’s heads and participants disconnecting. It might be a good idea to drop the jargon or the formal approach to build an environment that allows participants to understand everything we say.
Also, at the same time make sure your language and choice of words are not belittling and patronising. The skill here is to be sensitive and thoughtful of the audience and adapt the way you talk to them.
When we are able to construct and maintain pleasant relationships with participants, we are then able to set them up for Active Learning. Building rapport helps achieve higher motivation levels, enhances communication and develops a well-established relationship.
There are many tips that a workshop leader can try to build rapport starting by the most obvious, by learning about the participants’ interests, hobbies and aspirations and using it towards your advantage. This not only opens the barrier of communication but gets the participants comfortable approaching you, talking to you and most importantly listening to you. Having a positive attitude and showing respect is another effective method for rapport building. When talking with participants, be sure to always interact more and lecture less. If you show an interest in them more than yourself and your agenda, you will only then be able to reach active learning from your participants.
The ultimate success of any/all workshop leaders can be gained or lost in the perception of the “body”. Body language is the managing of appearance, posture, gesture, touch, expression, eye contact, tone variability and much more. Just think about the last teacher, lecturer, presenter or anyone speaking to you and try to recall their body language, especially someone who presented it badly. It is ultimately the one thing that all participants will respond do and remember, sometimes for the duration of the whole workshop.
As a workshop leader, there are a many ways we could use body language to win over participants. To begin with we should always try to open our posture, move more and move well if possible. We should use our hands more to strengthen our points and other gestures to get our points across.
Remember that participants tend to look at our facial expressions for visual cues of emotions, intentions, trustworthiness and attachment. Therefore, it is a good idea to keep our facial expressions loose and change them accordingly throughout our workshop. This will maximise the impact and effectiveness of what we’re talking about. It does not have to scripted or planned as such, but as long as we are aware of our body language then we can use it towards our advantage.
To stimulate active learning in participants, we must pay attention to winning them over. We must give the highest attention to how we act, talk and behave with them. Whilst thinking about the likes of how well participants are engaged, how well they are learning, it is crucial to think if we have been successful enough in getting participants on our side and if a positive and productive relationship has been developed. So the next time you deliver a workshop, think about the above points, implement in your delivery and you will be on your way to achieve active learning from your participants. I am a huge believer that if we building positive and trusting relationships with our participants then this does half the job.
But in the meantime, let me know what you thought about these tips by commenting below or share your own tips for being a workshop leader.