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.

Training, facilitation and pink arrows!

So, here’s the news for today – I’m not a trainer. I am a facilitator. That’s not to say that I haven’t done lots of training in the past. In fact I spent three years training lots of lovely people in Nepal as a VSO volunteer. I absolutely loved it, which is probably why I ended up staying for three years not two!  Most of the training I did was around language development, a whole plethora of communication skills,  and disability. VSO trained me immensely well to take the leap from Speech and Language Therapist, to trainer in anything vaguely related (and lots that wasn’t). The training skills I learnt to use were participatory, as in they got the people being trained by me (the participants) properly involved.

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