What do you want your workshops to BE like?

I did a little asking around recently, about what people thought of their own workshops. It’s fine for me to talk about good ingredients for your workshops, and what I think they should look like, but what do you think? What do you want your workshop to BE like, and what do you want other people to be saying about yours?

Well, I often say my workshops are engaging, participatory, full of energy and enthusiasm and hopefully a little bit of fun. It’s not all about what people learn then and there on the day, but about what participants take away with them and what they feel encouraged to do next.

There are lots of other glorious words for your amazing workshops, shared with me a few other people who I also happen to know do wonderful workshops.

Here are a few that I have chosen from the list:

Workshop outcomes

 

Inspiring – top of the list, suggested by several people. Of course you want your workshop to be inspiring. A good workshop is not just about the information that you provide in the session, but about the ideas people take away and the motivation they have to do something with them. If they are not inspired by what they have discovered, then they won’t take action and won’t use what they’ve learnt.

Empowering – despite what people say, knowledge isn’t everything. At least not on it’s own. People need to feel the confidence to do something with it. If your workshop is empowering, it reaches far beyond giving people new knowledge or ideas, but gives them the capacity to stretch out and move forwards.

Enlightening – a participant comes to your workshop to gain new knowledge, skills, information, techniques and ideas.  If your workshop can enlighten, it takes people from a place where they might not know that much to a place where they start to make connections.  Experiencing a good workshop is more than just learning, it is having those light bulb moments that create a pathway between existing knowledge with the new information.

Supportive – when people are in a workshop, they don’t want to be bombarded with new things, they want to be guided and helped along. It is far better hold someone’s hand when needed, and help unravel any complexities than to go dashing along to get through the content. Managing your workshop so that everyone feels included and catered for is a definitely a skill not to be ignored.

Informative – of course when people come to your workshops, they want to be able to come out with something far more than when then went in. If a workshop doesn’t really tell you, or show you much that is useful to you, then it’s probably lacking something. Communicating the content of your workshop in a way that provides your participants with something salient, interesting and useful is definitely the name of the game.

Thought-provoking – I like this one! I don’t want people to leave my workshops with their heads spinning, but I do want them to still be thinking about what they just did. Being a catalyst for new thoughts is a very special thing to do and a workshop that creates that environment is really doing its job well. It’s good for people to leave with some thoughts on next steps so that your workshop doesn’t function as a stand alone, isolated incident but something that has lasting value.

Fun – another personal favourite. When people are enjoying something, when they are happy and positive they are much more likely to be fully in the moment and embrace what we they doing. If something is boring or doesn’t grab our attention then it’s hard to stay focused. Make it fun, inject some laughter and you will have people really getting into your workshop, and that’s exactly what you want to have – good participation.

Interactive – a workshop should involve people to help them to learn, discuss, question and share – as I just said, good participation. Getting your participants doing rather than just listening is a great way to help them to take on board the workshop content. Experiential learning takes into account the different ways that people take on board knowledge. We are not quite as simple as all absorbing sponges. We need to touch, hear and see in differing proportions so interactive workshops enable these bases to be covered.

Engaging – for me this is probably one of the most important elements of a workshops – engagement. When people are on board with what you are doing, when they are fully involved and focused, they are engaged. Well engaged participants who are fully investing their energy will get enormous value from workshop, and it is part of your job to make sure that happens.

Friendly – I think the importance of a relaxed and friendly environment often gets missed. People are more likely to share ideas, ask questions and discuss what they are learning if they feel at ease. So when you are delivering a workshop, it does help to be friendly and approachable and to try to foster a receptive and welcoming atmosphere. If you yourself as the workshop host can be a person that participants can warm to in the first place, then that’s definitely a big tick.

When you think of workshops that you do, or that you might want to do in the future – do they evoke these kinds of sentiments? If they do, you are most definitely on the right track. And if others say this about your workshops, then you are onto a winner for sure!

Getting your workshop to that place is not always easy and they certainly take a bit of practise. But if you think you are ready to whip your workshops into shape, so that people are saying all these wonderful things about your workshops, then please take a look at my Workshop Essentials workshop so I can show you how its done.

And just so you know I’m not bluffing – you can click here to see what people have said about my workshops.

I’d like to thank Gail Gibson, Sarah Cook (SHC Social Media), Brand 51, Sarah Clark (Mariposa Coaching), Introtweet, Clare Stone Nutrition and Louise Jenner (The Dream job Coach) for all taking part in my twitter questioning on this subject. Check out their workshops too!

(I should add that I can only take credit for helping 3 of these people with their workshops).

Are you getting enough from your brainstorm?

Do you love a good brainstorm?

I do.

It’s a great way to collect a plethora of ideas together in one place, whether thoughts from a super creative and overflowing mind or the result of collective input from a group. It’s a common enough technique, and simple to do.

Idea

 

But there are most definitely things that you can do to make sure you get the most out of your brainstorm, and to make it more effective, at least in the group sense. Let’s leave aside for a moment the lone brainstorm. I am partial to “brainstorming myself”, and use it to:

  • Offload a myriad of thoughts floating around my head that need to be captured and contained somewhere, usually on a piece of flipchart paper.
  • Organise that information in a way that I might be able to make use of it effectively. Once it’s recorded then I can start to reflect and decide how to act upon the content.
  • Perhaps generate some more ideas to clarify, modify or add to the ones that I have just “stormed”.

That’s more or less what a brainstorm is – eliciting information from inside the complex systems that are our minds. Doing it alone can be tricky. Doing it in a group is far more effective, but not without its pitfalls.

So how can we make a group brainstorm work well?

Brain

The first thing to pay attention to is WHY you are doing the brainstorm in the first place.

Obviously you are asking people for ideas, thoughts and suggestions, but sometimes a brainstorm is used primarily as a discussion starter. In this sense you might be less worried about the answers people give, and more interested in the discussion itself. A brainstorm used in this way may be most effective at the start of a workshop where you are teaching people something new; a training session. Before giving your participants the “right answers” you are opening up, stimulating ideas and helping people engage with the topic.

You may however really need to find out and gather particular knowledge from the people in the room. For example if you are looking for ideas to save costs on a project, or answers to a specific problem, you are looking to the participants for some answers. While the brainstorm has the same function of stimulating discussion and engaging people, its main aim is to elicit the ideas from the people in the room. The ideas, knowledge and experience held by the participants are what you are really after. They can provide information on a certain topic which may then be built upon and investigated in more depth later on in the session. This is more common in a meeting or facilitated workshop where the main purpose is not to teach people new things, but to help them to share what they know.

Whatever the main thrust of your brainstorm, it is important to make sure you know exactly what you are asking of people and make your questions clear.

If you manage your brainstorm well, then you will get all sorts of ideas flowing. A good brainstorm will not only help people to share their insights and knowledge, but help ignite the sparks of new ideas and produce fantastic gems of information. This is when a brainstorm can become truly valuable. It moves beyond simply asking people to offer up an answer, or even stimulating a discussion. It is about really enriching that discussion, broadening it out and creating a result that is so much bigger that the individual ideas on their own.

WHAT you do with the information elicited very much depends on the aim of your brainstorm in the first place. But, the more in depth and targeted the process, the greater the flow of ideas and the more extensive the possibilities will be for your next steps.

A brainstorm is far more that a brain dump. It is far more than collecting and recording information. It is far more than finding out what people think. It can be the start of something quite exciting, a voyage of discovery. But as with many of the simplest things; the devil is in the detail, so make sure you think about what you need!

If you want to get more from your brainstorms:

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