Workshop facilitation is a powerful tool to help teams tackle difficult problems and come up with solutions. These tips will help if you are running your first workshop or simply want some ways to enhance your facilitation.
The role of a workshop facilitator is to be an objective person to help provide direction for a session. It takes time and energy to make workshops meaningful and memorable.
Understanding your participants
Before heading into a workshop try and gauge who your audience is and how they typically operate day-to-day. This will help you plan effective exercises. It is also useful to create exercises which will resonate with different learning types. Allow those who learn best via ‘reading and writing’ to jot things down and have pictures and diagrams for those who are more visual learners.
Establish rules at the start of the session
It is important to manage expectations, and set ground rules at the beginning of the session, to ensure everyone is on the same page.
Understanding the team dynamic
Before running a workshop, ask what the team dynamics are like. For example, ask questions about whether they know one another, is there a high turn over of employees, do they work face to face, is there any conflict within the team…etc. Also keep in mind that your client may not fully tell you or be aware of the relationships between individuals. Nevertheless, it is worth asking to help you design and deliver a strong workshop.
A key part of being a facilitator is that you an objective party. Having said this, it is difficult to strike a balance between being heavily engaged with whats going on but also withholding your personal opinions on the matter. Use open ended questions to enable others to fully express their thinking on the topics at hand.
Create an inclusive space
Encourage active listening. Create a space where everyone feels they can offer comments. We love using Lego Serious Play (LSP), it enables individuals to think about their answers, build their models and relay their thoughts to a group. Consequently, everyone speaks and discussions do not get dominated by the loudest person in the room. To find out more about Lego Serious Play workshops click here.
Break people into smaller groups
It can often be intimidating for people to speak up in a large group. Try splitting people up into smaller groups or pairs to get them talking. One energiser we sometimes use at the start of a workshop is a one-on-one interview.
Aims of the workshop
Set a direction for the session and let the team answer what they are working on and what they want and expect to achieve from the session.
There is sometimes tension between people in workshops, especially as difficult topics may be brought up. This can be challenging to manage. One way to deal with this is to acknowledge whats is happening in the room. From this point then determine if it is worth getting into it, if not then side line it and take a break before entering into something different.
Plan the structure of your workshop
Having a plan in place will take some of the stress out of facilitating. Determine what the meeting is intended for and design exercises to enable the group to delve into meaningful discussions. As you continue to facilitate, you will grasp how much time specific things take. However, don’t panic if your timings off, be flexible and adjust. We love using Sessionlab to plan out our workshops.
Build in time to reflect
We are often too busy running from one meeting to the next and don’t reflect on what happened in the session. It is important to reflect to cement learnings in your mind and mentally establish what your next actions are. Try building in two minutes at the end of your workshop to let participants reflect.
If you are running an in-person workshop ask for a big room and use the space. Get people moving about to keep the energy of the group. Another tip is to use sticky notes and stick visuals on the wall to track your thinking.
Make adjustments for a hybrid environment
Running hybrid workshops can be very challenging. It is vital that you have the right technology to ensure everyone can fully participate. To learn more about how to run hybrid meetings/workshops, click here.