Workshop Essentials – One year on and going strong

As we seem to be hurtling fast towards the end of the year, I find that I am already starting to reflect on what I’ve been up to these past 12 months. A lot has happened, but one very important thing sticks out – the fact that Workshop Essentials is one year old!

first birthday

November 2015 was when I held my first workshop, attended by a group of 8 people at the Easton Business Centre. While I have designed and delivered many different workshops in my time, this was the first time I had created an open workshop; one that people had to sign up to come to. The majority of my workshops are in house and the participants (usually staff members) are all organised for me by the client. I had no idea if anyone would come, whether I had the skills to market my workshops or whether enough people wanted to learn how to do a workshop in the first place. But like many of these things, you just have to give it a go and see what happens…….

The workshop itself was born out of conversations with a number of different people, mostly small business owners about the best ways to do workshops. Commonly there would be questions about ice breakers and activities, as well as confidence in putting a workshop together, and how to keep people interested. So, my informal research told me that yes, there were people out there wanting to learn about workshops. While I would happily talk workshop all day, it’s much easier to show you. If you want to learn a new ice breaker you might as well see it in action. If you want to know how to get a great discussion going it’s more memorable if you have been part of one. And if it’s about confidence then a good place to start is arming yourself with the right knowledge in the first place.

So, the idea to hold a workshop, on how to do workshops moved from being a niggling idea at the back of my brain, into a reality.

I have now run 4 of these workshops, so let’s see how they are going:

Who came?

While I aimed this at small business owners (as this is where my conversations started), I found that they actually only made up about 70% of the participants. The businesses they came from were: styling, nutrition, coaching, social media, PR, marketing, interior design, health and wellbeing, business process improvement, law, web design and IT.

But I also had several people from charities, representing: refugees, dementia research, back to work and unemployment, and families in need.

As well as some public sector workers.

So – my evaluation tells me that there are in fact a broad cross section of people wanting to know about workshops. Although the most heavily represented sector so far has most definitely been social media and marketing and digital/IT work.

I have kept the numbers to 10 people as I think this strikes a good balance between getting a good participatory buzz, and allowing time for me to give everyone 1:1 attention on their workshop plans.

What did people think?

I have been fortunate to have consistently great feedback from my workshops, which is definitely something I feel proud of! Let’s face it, if the feedback has been rubbish I would’ve stopped long ago. If you’d like to view some testimonials, there are some here and here and a little sample below:

“Helene delivered a fabulous workshop on how to hold a workshop. I learned so much as a beginner. Helene is easy to talk to and very knowledgeable too” Katy Batt, Realistic Holistic

I would like to let you into a secret though – it’s not 100% positive, there were areas for improvement. The first time I put on the workshop I ran out of time, or rather I rushed the workshop along to fit all the content in. One of the participants felt a bit overwhelmed and I realised that while I wanted to tell everyone all that I know, there just isn’t enough time in half a day.

Lesson learnt: I cut out some of the workshop that I thought was interesting, but not essential (like the title of the workshop suggests!). It all fits together beautifully now but it is a good example of something I tell people all the time – don’t put too much content in, less is more…..I did consider creating a whole day, but instead created a Part II (The Workshop Toolkit) to do in conjunction with Workshop Essentials, or as a stand alone half day in itself.

What did the participants learn?

Of course not everyone who came on my workshop was a complete beginner, some of the participants had put on workshops already, they just wanted to do them better. But here are some examples of what people have said they’ve taken on board and what they have done with it:

Confidence to deal with difficult people: One of the participants told me a short while ago that she had had a “difficult person” to deal with at an event. Having been on the workshop, she coped fine having followed my advice. Dealing with “awkward customers” is something we discuss on the workshop.

Learning to be “reactive”: I think that doing a participatory workshop is taking a bit of a leap into the unknown at first because you don’t know what questions will come from the participants, and you don’t know where discussions will go. Of course it’s easier to be in complete control of the situation and just deliver information to people. But it’s not nearly as effective. Although I hadn’t quite seen it in those terms, one of my participants described this as being “reactive” or being able to react to what might come at you from your participants. If you know your subject, and you create a robust workshop you will be able to react well.

Ending the workshop (and next steps): One important topic we cover is ending your workshop. Ending of course is important to tie everything together in a nice tidy package for your participants to go home with. So they feel things have finished properly. But it’s also important for those “next steps”. You need to ensure that accountability and commitment and the “effect of the workshop” continues well after the workshop has ended. This has been a key learning point for a couple of the people who have attended my workshops.

next steps

Getting on with actually putting on a workshop in the first place: Most of the people who come on the workshop are content specialists. They know very well what they are talking about, they have a wealth of knowledge. But converting that knowledge into a particular format, like a workshop can feel like a huge challenge, especially if you’ve never done it before. I wanted the workshop to enable people to bring their ideas and work through them to see how possible they could be. Several people have said that coming along has enabled them to get their ideas together and get on with it!

Other things that people said were the “best bits” of the workshop were:

A framework/structure to plan a workshop

The handout/workbook

Importance of interactivity and ways to engage people

Hearing other people’s ideas

Each time I do Workshop Essentials it’s new and exciting. I have new participants come to join in and find out how to do amazing workshops, and in turn I get to hear all about their workshop plans. As a self confessed workshop geek, this is all rather thrilling! I love it when people have those lightbulb moments, when people “get it” and when people laugh. If there is laughter, then I know they are enjoying it. If there are questions, I know I’ve got their attention. If there are discussions, I know there are ideas igniting. You can feel when you get a workshop right and I love that feeling.

It would be remiss of me not to mention some of the workshops that are being held by my “graduates”, here are a couple I’d like to mention:

Carly Lightbrown and Claire Stone have their Eat Happy workshop next week.

Shereen Pasha has her Business Bootcamp coming up next month, with Becs Miller as a guest speaker

What next?

Of course I am all set to put another batch of workshop enthusiasts through their paces, so if that sounds like you you then please don’t miss out. I have both my Workshop Essentials and The Workshop Toolkit taking place on 12th January 2017.

I am always thinking of new things to add to my workshops, so watch this space…..

 

How do you use Questions?

When you ask a question you want the answer, don’t you*? Of course, otherwise you wouldn’t have bothered to ask the question in the first place. But it’s not always as simple as that…..

It is true that when we ask questions we are usually looking to obtain information about something,  “what time does the workshop start?” might be a good example. We don’t know something so we ask to find out, simple. But there are many other reasons we ask questions and they serve a variety of purposes besides just providing information.

Questions

We may be hiding an instruction in a question “do you want to put the kettle on?” actually means – I’d like you to put the kettle on! We might ask a question to make out feelings known about something “Is it my turn to do the photocopying again?”. Or perhaps to help us feel a certain way. The “does this look okay?” type question may actually be a request for validation rather than information, but you do want a reply. And of course there are rhetorical questions you might ask where you don’t really expect information, or even a reply. They are often used to make a point, or even to answer another question. “What does he think he looks like?” or “Who cares?” might be some good examples.

We use a plethora of different questions types to frame our conversations and give them extra meaning. Most of the time we do this without thinking about it and it’s part of our social use of language; the way we use language to communicate. In this sense our questions are more about the process of asking a question, than the actual question itself.

Questions can often lead to discussions, whether intended or not. Sometimes when we need the information we need to have a discussion to get to it – after all not all questions are simple and you may need more than one. A back and forth exchange of question and answers could be the mechanism for getting what you need. Sometimes it is purely about the conversation itself and questions are a good way to get a conversation going. We often do this when we are trying to engage with someone and get their attention. Of course, we need to make sure that we do listen to the answers otherwise the discussion will be rather short lived!

workshop conversations and questions

In the workshops I do, questions are often designed to start conversations, to keep discussions going and to generate more information. I use them to:

  • Engage people and break the ice
  • Maintain engagement and keep conversations flowing
  • Guide conversations and help them move in a particular direction
  • Help the group to solve problems
  • Elicit new ideas and to stimulate thought
  • Brainstorm
  • Tease out information that people often don’t realise they have
  • Debate a situation or particular topic
  • Help manage group dynamics

And a whole lot more. They are an important facilitation technique. Sometimes I plan these ahead and may use a particular method, such as the ICA’s Focused Conversation approach. Sometimes I plan one or two questions and bring in others as the workshop progresses. Much of the time it is about drawing on a bank of tried and tested question types as and when they are necessary. And sometimes, I rely on my flexibility and experience as a facilitator and bring them in when I need them with out the pre-planning.

I love a good question. It’s not always because I need information. But it is usually because I want a reply and I most definitely love a good conversation. So, my opening question for you is:

How do YOU use questions?

For more information about how you can use questions in workshops and a whole lot more check out my latest Workshop Essentials workshop now.

*Incidentally, for the grammar geeks amongst you, this particular question is known as a “tag” question.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Wonders of Workshops

workshop group

To do a workshop, there’s a trick

Discovering how people tick.

You’ll want to be part of the group,

You need to feel you’re in the loop.

If you just stand there, blab and spout

And talk and talk around, about,

One direction information

With minimal participation.

Then you’re not making half the most

Of what you should be, as the host.

Your job’s to energise, excite

Get people buzzing left and right!

Involve the group that’s there with you

Create dynamics, include them too.

Engagement is the key you see,

It’s not just them, it’s us and we.

Discussions causing inspiration

Ideas abound and thought creation.

And questions about how to do,

And sharing a new point of view.

A good direction, know you aims

Include some decent fun and games.

Tools, techniques, activities,

A proper process if you please.

It’s not so hard you’ll get the knack

And once you’re on that workshop track,

You start to get the buzz, you’ll see

Just how much fun it really can be.

So let’s get started, find your groove,

Take a first step, bust a move.

You can devise a workshop too,

Don’t just sit there, get up and do!

 

To find out more about my workshops on how to do your own workshop, click here!

Looking back to move forwards into 2016

It’s here again, that end of the year feeling. Whether a sinking or floating feeling it’s that time when many people are either looking back and reflecting, or eyeing the horizon and looking to what next. We are often encouraged to create a vision, a goal, plan and perhaps a strategy to move along and achieve new things for the coming year. This year will be the year of …………….? 2016 will be amazing, awesome and incredible! I resolve to do many fantastic things. Of course we need goals, and we need to embrace the newness that is embodied in a brand new year. We like to have a marker of some kind to denote that the old has finished and hail the new and exciting opportunities that are ahead.

Moving forwards

But we shouldn’t leave out the reflecting. If we don’t look back and learn, we won’t know which parts of 2015 are to be ditched, not repeated and left to one side. We won’t know what worked so well that we need to carry this on into 2016, to repeat, to grow and to strengthen.

The start of a new year shouldn’t be when we draw a line under last year, say goodbye and forget it, even if on the face of it it was the most hideous year ever. It should be the time when we cast an eye over what happened last year. To separate out the good things and work out how we can hang on to them or adapt and build on them, to help us with what we want to achieve next.

This is the kind of approach I take with many of the review workshops I do. When you complete a project or piece of work, it doesn’t make sense just to close it, file it away and forget about it. It makes much more sense to see if you can learn from it and put that knowledge and experience into the next piece of work.

So rather like these workshops, I like to think about:

What worked well?

For me starting up my own series of workshops has worked very well, and is something to be repeated and grown. I have all kinds of (hopefully) brilliant ideas for new workshops and thoughts on how to improve and expand the ones I’ve done. But I also know I need to do this one at a time, walking not running.

workshop collage

What didn’t work so well?

I would say that spreading myself too thin and trying to do too many different things has definitely not worked so well. I know I am not alone and that other “ideas people” also have difficultly taming their impulse to get going on far too many things at once. This year it will be out with the multitasking and in with the prioritising and focus!

AND

What have I learnt?

I have learnt to not assume what is known and understood by other people. When you are passionate and involved in something you do it is often hard to differentiate between the intrinsic, common sense, and universally understood, and the unusual, specialist and fascinating. We all have our different skill sets, experience and knowledge, and recognising that is important.

And lastly a funny memory…..

I do often talk about the importance of finding a good workshop venue. So thinking about the last workshop of 2015 that I did in a client’s office kitchen (strangely the best place in their office to work with a group) most definitely brings a smile to my face. Finding a good venue is important, but being adaptable even more so!

What are your moments of 2015, good and bad? And what have you learnt?

I wish you a wonderful 2016, full of ambition, promise and fulfilment and full of new experiences to take forward into the future…..

And if getting your workshops spot on is on your 2016 “to do” list then I invite you to take a look at my next workshop……..

Workshop Essentials for blog

 

 

 

Why should you hold a workshop?

As we have already established, I love a good workshop. I love giving workshops, and if they are done well, I love being a participant. I love sharing ideas, having discussions, learning while doing.

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Lots of people do workshops. It is a term that has become a bit of a catch all for those situations where you get a group of people together in the same space and work with them. I know people who do workshops on Social Media, Finance, Sales and Marketing, Business Development, Nutrition and Mindfulness to name but a few. Most of the people who do them are not trainers or facilitators in their own right. They are not necessarily people who work predominantly with groups for a living. They are people who are experts in their field, have a wealth of knowledge to share and have decided to do a workshop as part of their business offering. The topics are vast and the things you can learn amazing.

But it’s not easy doing a workshop. And it’s even harder to do a good workshop. It’s fairly nerve-wracking the first time, standing up in front of a group of people and telling them what you know, watching a lot of faces full of expectation looking to you for the answers. But once you get over that hurdle, it feels fairly do-able. After all, you are the expert.

The hard bit is doing it in a way that maintains a good audience of attentively listening, actively involved, motivated participants. Being creative enough with your worldly knowledge so it is accurately and effectively imparted to a group of paying guests is not something to embark upon lightly. You’ve broken through the “everyone’s listening to me” thing, now you have to keep all those eager faces from drifting away, not sticking to the programme, losing interest. That’s the killer, much worse that everyone looking at you!

So, nothing to worry about at all then. Perhaps I’m not selling it well enough, the idea of holding a workshop. The how, is most definitely something you need to work on. But the why, well that’s much easier…….Continue reading