How to facilitate a successful workshop?

When facilitating a workshop it is important to prepare yourself thoroughly. You want to have the workshop running as smooth as possible.

To help you reach that goal, we would like to share with you 5 tips on how to do that, based on our experiences.

1. Implement time constraints

Treat the workshop like a project. One with clear goals, deliverables and deadlines. It does not matter if it is a 1-day workshop or a 3-day workshop, it should always follow a set structure. Once you decide on the content of the workshop, you can split it into multiple sections and allocate to each of them, a certain amount of time.

This is not only beneficial to you, because you have a guide for the whole workshop, but it is essential for participants to know when and what is happening. This way they always know when it is for example time to focus, how long they have to complete a task and when they can take a break.

2. Be a diverse facilitator (or have someone to assist you)

As a facilitator, you might try to wear different hats at the same time. You might try to be a coach, timekeeper or an expert. This approach can work, but we would recommend to have an assistant. While you focus on the content and the role of an expert, someone else checks the time, assists the participants or plays the role of IT support. By having someone assisting you, you do not get distracted and you can deliver the best possible experience for the participants.

3. Find the right balance

You do not want your workshop to feel like it is monotonous. You want it to be interactive and engaging. When planning the content, make sure you include individual assignments as well as group work. This will provide some variety during the course of the day and it will be a welcome change in the tempo for the participants.

4. Spread the high and lows across the workshop

Do not reveal all your cards at the beginning of the game.

When planning the workshop, make sure you feature variety of interesting activities that will keep people engaged. But do not overload the participants. You should not bundle up all tasks to be done after each other or plan all the group work on one day. Remember about diversity in the schedule. Plan in the calm moments interchangeably with activities that require actions from the participants. This will help you to keep the participants interested. But it will also allow for enough down time to absorb and digest new information.

5. Expect the unexpected

Sometimes, or more like always, things will not go as planned. Whether it is a participant that arrives late, a task that does not resonate with people or materials that are missing. You need to improvise and carry on. For some situations you might have a plan B ready, but over some you simply have no control. Be open to the challenges and do not be afraid to experiment when it comes to the solutions. Who knows, maybe you will discover something that will become a permanent part of your workshop repertoire.

These are some of the tips and tricks that we learned through practice, over the years. If you don’t follow those yet, try to implement them and observe what the results are.

Keep in mind that each workshop and group of people are different. Stay flexible, adapt and learn from your experiences.

November 2022