Although facilitating a workshop sounds incredibly simple it is actually something that you need to invest time in planning, or the whole workshop can simply run out of control.
Planning can take time and can seem as if you are being too focussed on the detail, but it is vital that you do it, because the workshop has to be productive and as the facilitator, it is your role to ensure that you get the most out of people attending the workshop or it could simply be a waste of time.
First of all it is important to define the objectives. What do you want the workshop to achieve? What are the goals that need to be met? What is the scope of the workshop?
Failure to define the objectives will possibly result in the workshop failing, so carefully define what the objectives are and then start thinking about how you will meet them.
Meeting The Objectives
When looking at how you can meet the objectives that you have defined, it is critical that you think creatively about how they can be met.
Is it important to have a brainstorming session? How will you ensure that all the people attending the workshop will contribute? How will you ensure that you do not allow the workshop to get out of control, especially if there are some delegates who are quite opinionated and forceful characters?
Promoting interaction is a fundamental aspect of facilitating a workshop and this is when you need to think creatively about getting people to be involved and be interactive in a way that they are comfortable with.
Craft An Agenda
In order to make the workshop successful you also need to think about the timeslots that each different activity will require. It is important to stick to the times that are agreed, especially after coffee breaks or lunch breaks, when people can be reluctant to come back and resume the workshop.
Although the agenda is a guiding hand to ensure that you meet the objectives that are set down, there are times when things can and often do go awry. Sometimes this can be down to practical issues, for example, the coffees and teas are late in being delivered, or sometimes it can be because a brainstorming session breaks down, because people are so immersed in what they are doing and the room is buzzing with creative energy. If this is the case, then it can be important to simply go with the flow and then when it seems appropriate, steer things back on course. Do not simply cut off a really creative moment simply because the agenda dictates that it is lunchtime. Instead, carry on and if necessary, cut the lunch hour by 15 minutes or so.
Get the Venue Right
Make sure that whatever venue you have chosen for your workshop is set up properly. Organise all the equipment and the stuff that you need to ensure the day goes smoothly. Do not simply assume that flipcharts or laptops will appear; you need to organise them!
Set Down The Rules
On the day, when the participants arrive, remember that you are in charge and that you have to set down the ‘house rules’. You need to make sure that you tell people how they can evacuate in the event of a fire, inform them to switch off their mobiles; if you don’t then there could be a lot of distractions, but you also need to tell them if you want them to act in a certain way.
If, for example, you want people to simply ‘butt in’ and interrupt speaker’s then tell them that this is acceptable, but if you want them to wait and indicate a desire to speak, then tell them that is the acceptable way to gain attention. Do not assume that people will act how you think they will, so ensure that they know what is and what is not, acceptable.
But with every aspect of the workshop now covered, rest assured that it will be a roaring success!