Practical ideas for facilitating workshops & people development

So what is it that makes you leave a workshop saying “Wow that was a fantastic workshop”?

For me it’s a combination of process and delivery with great attention to detail. It’s often the little things that make all the difference – just starting and finishing on time is so important, such a small detail which is often overlooked. People like us to value their time and sitting around waiting for those who are late isn’t valuing my time! Yes, I know, as the facilitator we want everyone to be there at the start of the workshop so we can go build the atmosphere …so we need techniques to deal with the late comers, or strategies to ensure everyone arrives on time. Timing is a whole topic of it’s own.

To get the discussion started I asked my facebook friends for their ideas about the Wow factor. All of their comments will great topics for future blogs and info for my book, so thanks for all of your input.

  • Humour and the experience of the presenter – not just reading powerpoint slides but using real life examples which bring the topic to life.
  • Appreciate, recognise and value the people in the room. Allow time for reflection.
  • Group work – the opportunity to reflect and explore things that work and things that don’t.
  • It’s always good to know that sometimes you are on the same path as others or the presenter which makes for a bit of a wow (like wow I am doing OK)
  • Networking and sharing with others new ideas  offers wow (how can I try that in my practice and will it work)
  • Personal stories
  • Fun, colour, play – I think these sorts of approaches can bring out the child and some very creative thinking can evolve, we drop some of our barriers to learning.
  • The tricky job of being able to manage the personalities and learning styles in the room.
  • A supportive and comfortable environment – that gives everyone the opportunity to leave the workshop feeling that they were listened to, participated and reflect in their own way.
  • There needs to be something new
  • “A double choc cheesecake with extra cream would do it for me not forgetting the strawberry on the side at smoko!”
Perhaps a key to our thinking about Wow in workshops might come from the Wow in other parts of our life… and our ability as the facilitator to bring this with us into our work…

Wow! ...Flying with my husband into the sunset in his small plane.

Comments on: "What gives workshops the WOW factor?" (4)

  1. Timing really is a vital issue – I look forward to your blog on that one. I attended a workshop last year with a trainer who had been very highly recommended to me. He asked us all for a two sentence introduction… and the introductions took until lunchtime, with most becoming akin to a one-on-one mini training session about very individual-specific issues. It was very boring and I was really disappointed (particularly as I had to leave early to catch a flight and so missed out on most of the actual content of the workshop!). Having the skills to manage this kind of situation and stop things spiralling out of control without offending anyone is really valuable. As a trainer, this presenter taught me one lesson I will never forget – and that is not to emulate him!

  2. Good post on workshop wow factors. Very validating. Learner centeredness is key. I’m not sure I’d mention learning styles given research in the past few years that disproves they exist in recent years (Harold Paschler et al from Stanford). The focus for most instructional designers/trainers should be various instructional methods to reach different preferences and engage learners with variety.

    • Thankyou for your thoughtful comments on learning styles. I will follow your lead and look into the research with interest.
      I agree with your comment about being learner centred and providing a variety of activities to suit different people. I have used Myers Briggs Personality Types and VARK as frameworks to think about how people learn differently. I find this provides me with the ability to design a wide range of activities to integrate different approaches. Rather than putting “people in boxes” I find the frameworks increase the learner centred approach.

  3. michael said:

    In no particular order;
    – enthusiastic participants with a range of backgrounds, skills & experience
    – enthusiastic presenter with life experience & credibility
    – process where all are vaued & all contribute
    – finger food without a 1,000 ingredients
    – good lollies
    – good time management & focus while maintaining fun & flexibility
    – things to fiddle with

    I lied, good lollies are very important & I’m sure you don’t know who I am

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