How do you know if your workshop was a success?

So you’ve done your workshop, you’ve packed away your things and now you are digesting what you’ve done. Do you have a feeling of exhilaration and elation or gloom and doom? If you felt your workshop went well, then it probably did. And if you’re not sure, then there are probably a few simple changes that you might need to make so it will be better next time. Apart from those post workshop feelings, those subjective ones that can make you feel amazing or slightly out of kilter, just how do you know that your workshop was a success?

One of the most obvious things to do post workshop is to read your feedback forms. Creating a feedback form is a vital part of any workshop and enables you to know what your participants thought. You can ask them what went well, what didn’t go well and what you could change in the future.

Feedback forms pic for blog

Feedback forms

But aside from looking at the feedback, what else can you focus on?

For me, some of the key indicators of a successful workshop are:

1.The workshop ran to time. I’ll be honest, this is an area of weakness for me. I often get so involved in what I am doing that I do need to remind myself to keep a good eye on the time. It is something I have to concentrate on. Hard. I suppose getting engrossed in your own workshop could be seen as a good thing (it must mean it’s interesting!) but part of your role as a workshop host is to make sure you stay on top of what you are doing and don’t get too absorbed to move on. Keeping to time means your timetable is probably pretty good, your methods are appropriate and you have allowed the right amount of time for discussion and digestion of the information. Not keeping to time usually means some careful alterations, and working out where these alterations need to be made is an important part of evaluating your workshop.

TOP TIP: Go through your workshop timetable and note where the time pressure points were.

2. You were flexible and adaptable – sometimes you may have too much or too little in your workshop. Your participants may work through an activity much quicker than anticipated or want to take a discussion further as it is so good. This is where your flexibility comes into play. If you are going to follow the principles of good workshop delivery, you always need to allow some wiggle room. Adapting things as you go along to fit in with your participants is a skill and something that often comes with practice. Having the confidence to do this is in itself something of an achievement. But where many workshops go wrong is the workshop host’s rigid agenda that doesn’t leave space for the individuals present. If you can make room for them by being flexible then your workshops will be much more successful.

TOP TIP:  After the workshop, note down the places where you had to make alterations during the workshop. 

3. Your participants met their expectations – finding out what people’s expectations are at the start of the workshop is crucial and gives you something to work around. At the end of the workshop you can go back to the expectations and see if they were met. If they weren’t then you can evaluate why not and make changes as necessary. Obviously if people’s expectations are unrealistic or beyond the scope of the workshop then it is up to you to discuss this.

TOP TIP: If you are doing successive workshops on the same thing, keep track of the expectations and check you are meeting them.

4. You met your aims – did you meet the aims of your workshop? If you covered all the areas you said you were going to cover in the workshop then you have probably met your aims. Just covering areas in itself may not be enough however, and for participants to really have something usable they need to have done more than take away a lot of new information. If participants really feel like they understand how the information in the workshop is applicable to them and how it can be used then this is really hitting the aim on the head.

TOP TIP: Look back over your aims and see if they fit with your time keeping. You may have to reduce or re-jig your aims to make the workshop timing better.

5. There was participant interaction – for me one of the important and valuable things in a workshop is interaction. If there are questions and discussions, people chipping in, making suggestions and sharing experiences then that is a sign of success. The information generated from such interactions is just as valuable as any content that you put in in the first place, so if this happens I would class this a success.

TOP TIP: Look back over your activities and see which ones generated good discussions.

6. You ended the workshop well – too many workshops just stop, abruptly. You need to think how you are going to tie everything up at the end and consider what next. Just getting to the end of the workshop and saying “that’s all folks” is no way for a workshop to finish. Ending with a bang is better than a whisper and if all your participants are still chattering away as they leave the room then that’s usually quite a good sign!

TOP TIP: Consider whether you left enough time for the ending and whether your parting activity worked well or not.

7. There was some networking – while this is not a particular aim of doing a workshop per se, it is usually a valuable bi-product. I know of at least a couple of “let’s meet for coffee” conversations that have happened in my recent workshops, and I would say this feels like a success. It is a success for me in so far as my workshops got people talking to each other enough to want to exchange that kind of information.

TOP TIP: Think about ways to continue the conversations long after the workshop has finished.

8. There were a few laughs – this is probably a very personal mark of success but it is one that is important to me. I like there to have been a few moments of laughter, a few giggles and some expression of happiness. It is perhaps not appropriate in every workshop, but it is important to me to know that the participants have enjoyed themselves and there are all sorts of studies that suggest people are much more receptive when they are happy. In fact I can reveal there is a very good photo of me at my last workshop, doing just that (if you have a better caption I’d love to hear it!).

Workshop Laughter

Workshop Laughter

TOP TIP: Try to look back on the moments where this happened and try to work out what made it fun. 

Making sure you evaluate your workshops at the end is vital, especiallu if you are planning on doing more. Apart from the subjective feeling you get (you usually know whether it went well or not), particularly when you are doing a workshop for the first time it is hard to know exactly what went well and what needs adjusting. Even with extensive planning and wonderful preparation there is no guarantee that everything will go according exactly to plan. You never know when you are going to encounter an awkward customer and sometimes you do need to try out new things, and they may not always work. Working out how it all went is just as important as planning it in the first place.

Join me for one of my next workshops where I’ll be helping you get your workshops just right – click on the link below and find out more about The Workshop Toolkit and Workshop Essentials – both aimed at helping you turn your workshops into something special.

UPCOMING WORKSHOPS 

What is a Workshop Anyway?

Someone asked me a very important question the other day, one I think that a lot of people ask but perhaps not enough.

It’s something we discuss in my Workshop Essentials workshop, at the start, in brainstorm fashion. It’s a good place to start when you are doing a workshop on workshops and what’s not to like about a good brainstorm?

The question was:

“What is a workshop anyway?”

Well, let’s see……..

The fruits of our discussion on that workshop were comforting, they showed that even though we had yet to really dig into the workshop, everyone seemed to be thinking along similar lines:

  • Everyone joining in
  • Participants thinking
  • Trying out new things – practical
  • Group participation
  • Do stuff and talk
  • Ideas generation
  • Sharing knowledge
  • Self discovery session
  • Builds confidence
  • An interactive way to deliver training
  • Interactive
  • Coming away with something
  • Learning by doing
  • Catering to individual needs
  • Learning session
  • Learning in a memorable way
What is a workshop

What is a Workshop Anyway?

 

The keys points for the group were all about interactivity, learning, participation and doing. I would say that sums it up pretty well really and somehow captured what it feels like to be in a good workshop!

A workshop can, in a sense be what we want it to be. It depends on what your workshop is about, how many people are in it, where you are doing it and what types of materials you will use. Workshops can vary enormously in type and style and size and function. And they can be called many different things so that by the time you have this large combination of variables, it does become a difficult thing to define.

By way of an explanation, rather than a definition I would say that:

“A workshop has become a catch all term for a group learning experience where one person trains, facilitates or hosts the participants”.

But while the outer edges have become blurry, the exact definition rather intangible, there are some key ingredients and a balance at the heart of a workshop that you need to get right to make it work.

One of these key facets is its participatory and interactive nature. The participants take on an active role in their learning, thinking and doing. You are not talking at them, you are not presenting, you are not just informing. You are involving people. And when people are involved and actively listening, questioning, taking on what you (and each other) are saying, then they are getting the most out of the workshop. They are learning as they go along, making the workshop their own, contributing and shaping it. They are not just taking away a collection of facts to put together later, but learning while doing.

Workshop Essentials

Workshop Discussion

So perhaps it’s not a definition we need but a picture, a mental image of something that we feel we are part of, where active participation is a crucial element. It’s not always easy to achieve, and getting people involved, making sure you have the right balance and introducing the right structure and process to do so does involve a bit of work. But if you know what you are aiming for, then you are half way there. Think of the people in your workshop as working with you and you can devise and create something that may very well be “an interactive way to deliver training” where people “do stuff and talk” in the very best way.

If you’d like to know about how to make your workshops more participatory and interactive then take a look look here.

A-Z of Workshop Minigems part 4 – Tools to Zone

Here at last is the final instalment of my minigems! There are so many things about workshops that I could share, but these are just a small selection of quick pointers for you to think about when doing workshops. Enjoy!

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I’d love to know what you think of my top tips, and if you have any of your own please share!

For further information on future workshops click here or sign up to be notified of next dates and more hints and pointers designed to make your workshops run more smoothly.

Sorry About the Meetings….What Should we Change?

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I came across an article the other day, talking about something that is, I think, fairly well known, about the way women often struggle with meetings, are perceived as bossy when they speak up and often use apologetic language. I am sure it is not just women that encounter difficulties participating in meetings in crushingly corporate environments. Meetings are a fact of life and teaching people ways to survive and perhaps thrive in such situations (such as those discussed in the article) does sound like a very decent plan . If this was me I would probably love a lifeline like the Get Heard in Meetings Course – workshops in how to do things differently, how to learn poise, speak louder, get yourself listened to. I am a sucker for a good workshop, and this does look fun!

I read this not long after another article about the Google App “Just Not Sorry” that helps women to stop saying sorry via e-mail. And I watched again a brilliant sketch by Amy Schumer “I’m sorry – A Conference Goes Awry” I have seen this several times – it’s also about women saying sorry. This made me cringe and laugh out loud at the same time.

meeting-women

It is a thing. Women do often say sorry a lot. And it’s not just that, there are many many things about the way we communicate that are vastly different from the way men do. Women fitting into predominantly male environments is not a new topic of discussion. I know that it’s not just about communication and not just meetings, there is far more to these kinds of workplace difficulties where men and women in particular clash. That is a bigger conversation…..

But I confess to being the proud owner and purveyor of “soft skills”, I am a people person and I like it when people get on. I am a facilitator and my job is very much about adapting the environment to include the people. Not the other way around.

So I can’t help thinking that when looking at the bigger picture, this is all slightly back to front. Like most people I have been to all sorts of meetings in my life. Some I have felt comfortable in, some less so and for all sorts of different reasons. True, I have never been employed in a male dominated highly corporate environment, but I have worked and networked with plenty of men. I have facilitated workshops on many occasions where I am the only woman. I have also facilitated meetings. So I do know the scenario, it is not a myth.  And in many situations where you have clashes of communication, culture and style things can be tricky to say the least, and soul destroying at worst if this is your norm.

But it doesn’t make sense that women (or anyone for that matter) should have to learn to behave differently in order to be a part of a meeting. Presumably the people attending the meetings are skilled in their fields, expert and knowledgeable. Is it reasonable to expect them to learn something extra just to be able to share that with people?

I would say no.

Meetings themselves are very often at the heart of the way businesses are run. They are also the bug bear of many. They can be a necessity and a time waster, an efficient way of delivering and discussing information, or completely fruitless. A way of informing and feeding back or a lot of hot air. They are that double edged sword that many people loathe, but we all have to embrace on some level.

What about focusing on running meetings better? Managing meetings so they make space to include the people that need to be included, women and men alike. Rather than sticking to a format that excludes people, necessitating them to learn how to cope, wouldn’t it be better to revisit the way the meeting functions? Using some well founded techniques to encourage people to feel like they want to go to meetings, that they will get a lot out of them and will be able to put a lot in to them is surely a good idea. Much has been written about ways to run meetings better. A good chair or a facilitator, a focus on engagement and a clear agenda are a good start. Teaching people to listen is also a valuable skill that we could all work harder on, and something that goes far beyond meetings. Focusing on the people in the meeting is, I think fairly fundamental – after all, the people are what make the meeting.

Knowing there is a place to learn skills to enable you to get on better in meetings is great. Tools that are out there to help women “manage” their communication (whatever the format) are clearly important. But encouraging people to run better meetings in the first place would be a much larger win, have far wider implications and a much deeper impact. After all, it’s better for everyone when we are all less sorry!

A-Z of Workshop minigems part 3 – Momentum to Reflection

When I first released Workshop Essentials into the world back in November I did an A-Z of workshop minigems; little tips to help you all get into the zone. I spread these far and wide into the twittersphere and onto my facebook page but only half of them made it onto my blog! Part 1 was Aims to Flexibility, and part 2 Group Work – Listening.

Now, for your continued delight and to get you in the mood once more for my workshops on workshops here are some of my top tips.

If you have your own tips why don’t you put them into the comments box below? I’m always interested in learning new things.

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mini gems template N mini gems O

mini gems P

 

mini gems Q mini gems R mini gems S

If you want to know more about how to actually put these tips and more into practise, then book onto one of my workshops now!

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