When it comes to delivering workshops, no one can deny the importance of planning. If you were to simply Google “How to plan an effective workshop” you will witness pages full of information that could result in 2719 hours of reading (according to Google)
After reading some of these myself, I saw a common trend and a useful pattern that I have compiled in this article.
I wont necessarily cover “How to plan effective workshops” with this article but instead I will cover the transferable and adaptable things you need to consider when planning, in no particular order.
Every workshop must have a purpose, a goal with a series of objectives and intended outcomes. From my experience both as a workshop leader and a participant, many workshops end up losing focus due to the lack of a clear purpose.
Workshop leaders must decide why the workshop is being delivered and what they want participants to learn, understand and do. The purpose does not have to be complicated or detailed, but instead should be incredibly simple as a matter of fact.
When establishing a purpose, it’s useful to consider your why, what is the reason behind and / or the need for this.
For example the purpose of this article is to allow workshop leaders to be able to use the 7 P’s in their planning activities.
In my opinion the most effective workshop plans are those that have background information about its people, the participants. When there is prior knowledge of their needs/wants, it results in not only a greater sense of what to focus on but also how to.
If there is an opportunity to find this information out, then make sure you do! A good suggestion is to establish things like their age, backgrounds their prior knowledge of the topic etc.
On the other hand if this is not possible then the plan should fit most individuals you have previous experience of working with the flexibility to make modifications if / when necessary. Modifications could be for learning difficulties, unmotivated learners or for those with more knowledgeable in the topic.
For example the people that will read this article will be workshop leaders looking to improve their workshops.
“Workshops should be treated like a film or a play. It should have a beginning, middle and an end.”
Workshop place or location wasn’t popular in my research but as I was reading and thinking for this article, I had an epiphany. What’s the point of defining the workshop’s purpose if we don’t know whether the workshop is indoors or outdoors? What’s the point of knowing participants needs, if the room size / layout is unknown? What’s the point in preparing activities, if available facilities are unknown?
In the past, some of my plans were forced to change on the day due to not having enough information about the workshop’s location, the place. So it is crucial that this is considered during planning, if this information is not available then one should plan humbly.
For example, the place for this article is computers, laptops, tables and mobile phones of workshop leaders who will be reading this.
By presentation I don’t mean death by PowerPoint. What I mean is, that an effective workshop plan should include some sort of a presentation. This could be either through a projector, flip chart, handouts, or even a demonstration. The method of presentation is not important, but what is important is to present something physically to stimulate interest and encourage thinking.
When planning a presentation, consider what method will be best to spark interests, discussions and engage participants. How many methods of visuals should be used? What resources are available and if doing it at the beginning, middle or end of the workshop is best.
For example on this article, I have presented some images which consist of a screen shot from my mind mapping app and some royalty free stock images.
As most individuals have different academic levels, experiences, interest and opinions, it is important to give enough time and thought into what participation will look like in the workshop.
It should include different forms of activities, discussions, individual and group tasks etc. Whatever activities you have decided, as long as the group is fully engaged and participating, then the workshop is in the right direction to become effective.
Similarly making sure the right questions are planned to check participation? What will they do to demonstrate that they are participating?
For example, participation for this article will be demonstrated through how many people read this article, how many likes, comments and shares it gets.
“Both energiser games and group discussions have saved my workshops.”
Once all the above information is available, you should set a process from the series of activities with dedicated time for each of them. A common way to do this is to put the activities in order of sequence that makes sense to you and estimate how much time each of them will take.
This will allow the workshop to have a timeline and a continuous transition for all its activities. It should have layers of activities that follow in an ascending and connective manner. Workshops should be treated like a film, a theatre play, a story line. Where it should have a beginning, middle and an end.
For example, the process of this article was running in sequence to my thoughts as I was mind mapping the topics. Therefore I simply I followed it through as I was writing in that process too.
This is the final part of the planning process, to think about what needs to be prepared for the workshop. This could include preparing resources and equipment/ Preparing questions and discussion topics to check learning and understanding etc.
Prepare several different activities to catch the attention of different participants accommodating all learning styles. Prepare varied examples and activities, building in time for extended explanations or discussions, but also be prepared to move on sooner than planned.
Many workshop leaders know how easy it is to run out of time and not cover all planned activities and vice versa. Whilst planning, make sure you also prepare additional activities if/when they are required. In the past both energiser games and group discussions have saved my workshops. For easy energiser ideas, be sure to check out this article
A workshop plan does not need to be an in-depth exercise or document. What is needed the most is your thinking behind its purpose, its people, the place the workshop will be delivered, the presentation or demonstrations you will give, the kind (s) of participation taking place and what preparations are required.