A workshop is a training event with the aim of developing a specific skills or a number of skills within a team or a group of individuals.
Usually, a workshop lasts anywhere between 2 hours and 2 days. In some cases, for example when it comes to developing soft skills – which require more attention and time to solidify – a group may need to do a number of them spread over time.
A workshop is usually applied in a training context rather than coaching, being a form of interactive learning in which participants go through a series of exercises and activities. The type of learning one could expect during such an event is experiential, unlike other types of training methods in which participants merely are on the receiving end of information – i.e. frontal lectures or presentations.
Essentially, there are three parts to a workshop, whether it’s about leadership, teamwork or creativity:
- An introduction
- One or more training modules
- A conclusion
In this phase it’s all about getting the buy-in from participants. This may sound blunt, but participants need to trust a trainer sufficiently to give him or her trust and agree to work with that person. Unless that relationship has been established from moment one, the trainer will just be perceived as someone who thinks he or she is better than the group. That is, exactly the opposite of what you want to be.
A good introduction should include specific elements, such as:
- Who the trainer is
- What the group will do
- Why that is important
- Why they should trust the trainer
Most importantly, any workshop introduction must be personal, and it should aim to establish a relationship between trainer and trainees. Solid storytelling is a good way to bring all these elements together well.
This is the core of the workshop – i.e. where people will do most of their work and gain the skills they need or were promised. Obviously, how modules are assembled and structured varies hugely depending on the method or training technique used.
There are however a couple of concepts that should be kept in mind when designing workshop modules: grouping and stacking.
Grouping means concentrating a number of exercises (2-10) in a series to address one single concept. If your workshop module is on listening, for example, you want to bring in a few exercises that explain different sides of one skill next to each other, allowing participants to gain more from it. In other words, a module (or sub-module, if needed) should only address one concept.
In a workshop, stacking means calling back to a previous concept during another exercise. For example you could:
- call back the outcome of an exercise on listening within the same module
- call back the outcome of that same exercise on listening from another module, like communication.
Either way, this concept is used to reinforce concepts by repeating them and linking them to other ones. This will provide continuous exposure and context to participants and help them gain more from the workshop.
Wrap-up / Q&A
Ending a workshop should provide two things:
- a brief review of what the group has done
- ideas on how to apply the skills and concepts addressed in the workshop in the group’s professional life.
Organizations and groups choose to go through trainings and workshops to have practical and applicable skills, or find solutions to previous problems. This section should take then the skills and concepts addressed in the modules and give participants a way to apply them.
As a trainer, you are not always an expert in how your participants work and what their context looks like, therefore it’s always better to leave the discussion to participants and merely guide them on thinking about the practical applications of the workshop.