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Key Elements of a Successful Workshop

Motivation, new knowledge, and refined skills are just a few of the benefits received from a successful workshop. But without proper preparation and a focus on the right elements, your workshop may fall short of both you and your participant’s expectations.

Andy Whitmore, a Performance Consultant for SDI Clarity and an experienced workshop facilitator, will give a few elements of a successful workshop along with some examples from a recent workshop he facilitated: 8 Steps to Problem Solving.

Learning starts before the workshop

When putting on a workshop, it’s good to require participants to complete some kind of prework beforehand. This encourages them to start thinking about the content before the actual session, which builds interest and prepares them to participate. Utilizing prework allows more time to be spent on application and practice during the workshop, increasing both the efficiency and effectiveness of the event.

Prework for the 8 Step Problem Solving Workshop included related reading and an activity in which attendees were required to identify a problem in their organization with supporting data. The activity and solutions were eventually discussed and worked through during the actual workshop, but this prepared everyone to come in with the materials and mindset they needed to properly solve their problems.

Blended learning styles are incorporated

Just because a workshop is instructor-led doesn’t mean the instructor should stand in front of the room reading off PowerPoints the whole time. In order for any workshop to hold the interest of participants, it should incorporate a diverse array of teaching methods as well as learning and practice activities. Instead of the typical teach and test method, consider adding in small group work and partial time on the job observing and practicing what they’ve just learned. By actively engaging the group, participants are much more likely to retain the information, be more successful on the job, and enjoy the process!

During the workshop participants learned to work through the first 4 steps from the prework reading, presentations, and sharing their findings with the entire class.  This provided the baseline for them to apply what they learned using their own problem and actual data.

Application is everything

If the workshop you’re looking to put on doesn’t make a clear connection between the knowledge and skills being taught and the actual application, it’s time to go back to the drawing board. The activities and materials being discussed should always be relatable and useful to those attending the workshop.

Since the problem solving workshop required attendees to reflect and work through their own individual problems as opposed to focusing on general example problems, there was a clear connection between the knowledge and skills discussed and how they can be applied back at work.

Coaching and feedback are crucial

Good workshops aren’t completely over after the final session has been completed. Time should always be set aside following the workshop to make sure participants are applying the knowledge and skills learned and are getting the support they need. Whether the whole class gathers for a post workshop debrief or individual coaching and feedback sessions are scheduled between the participants and their supervisor or mentor, the application of knowledge and skills needs to be reviewed and performance feedback should be given.

During the 8 Step Problem Solving Workshop, only four Steps were worked through during the actual session and the rest were saved for weekly individual coaching sessions. These follow-up sessions allowed for the remaining four steps to be discussed one-on-one, giving participants the attention and support they needed to completely solve the problem they originally brought to the workshop. After the last four steps were discussed, additional follow up sessions were scheduled on a 30, 60, and 90-day basis.

By taking the time to focus on incorporating these key elements into your workshop, participants will be more likely to retain the information and apply it when they get back on the job. Whether you’re looking to put on a workshop for leadership development, process mapping, or sales enablement, each element should be considered so that learners are able to get the most out of the experience. Need help putting together a workshop for your unique organization? Contact SDI Clarity!

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