The key to properly structured workshops is matching content with process.
Using a clear framework will help to improve your team building sessions. To structure a workshop effectively the right process needs to be matched to the content you are dealing with.
This article is part of our short series on structured facilitation approaches. It’s based on the idea that structured facilitation can be categorised into three strands relating to content, process and skills:
Here we concentrate on the process of a structured workshop. Having an understanding of process enables the workshop facilitator to get much more from meetings. A sound, structured process ensures that both facilitator and team members are free to get on with the real business of the workshop.
It should also be remembered that different content may require different processes. For example, a workshop aimed at idea generation will require a different process to one that is aimed at group decision-making.
What are they?
Short-ish educational/training sessions, either stand-alone or part of a programme series.
Usually delivered to small groups of people with common interest or to a team.
Often involve high degree of group interaction and engagement.
Conducted by team leaders, staff developers, trainers/instructors, often with specialist knowledge in the subject matter.
Can be used for induction, ongoing staff development, introduction of new ideas/concepts, to facilitate major change in an organisation.
Aims: be specific about what you want to achieve and why.
Resources: think about location and access; room setting (small tables to encourage interaction, etc); equipment and material requirements such as handouts, interactive aids, presentation equipment. Confirm what will be provided in the venue, especially IT equipment. (Bring everything you need unless you are absolutely confident of the venue!)
Audience: think about who are you delivering to; the number of participants; their knowledge; abilities; experience; expectations; limitations.
Communication: ensure participants receive prior information about the workshop’s title and aims; location; timings; anything they are expected to prepare in advance.
Planning: prepare the workshop schedule; pre-workshop; introduction; main body (with variety of delivery mechanisms and activities); ensure this is in a logical sequence with most important skills or information at beginning; building on each topic as appropriate; conclusion; follow-up.
Time: think about when the session will be held (and possible impact on the audience!); time available (especially in relation to what you want to achieve and how that might impact how you deliver the session); timings for each element of the agenda and delivery structure.
Feedback: Include a method for finding out what participants thought about the session; ideally combine a scaled response (e.g. from poor to excellent) plus a free-form comment section. Use this to improve future workshops.
Introduction: to yourself and any co-presenters; to the session; outline of aims and agenda; indication of how the session will work; possibly participant introductions if they are new to each other.
Agenda: show the audience the order of the topics to be covered; ensure this is logical and developmental, and explain that to the audience.
Body of session: follow the agenda; make the order of activities logical and explain what you are doing and why as you go along; most important skills or information are discussed early; introduce and build on each topic as necessary; build up to more difficult concepts or explanatory aspects at the end; try to vary the method of delivery or activities; ensure these match the workshop tone, content, audience and expected outcomes; build in sufficient time for activities and feedback, if needed.
Conclusion: sum up agenda items and review what has been done; give audience opportunity to express their conclusions, especially important where they have developed ideas or answers to issues/problems; final link between workshop aims and what has been done; link to how audience can use or further develop from the session.
Feedback: administer pre-prepared feedback mechanism, a form or online evaluation tool.
Follow-up: send out any supplementary material if it was offered (further resources, links, activities); perhaps put together a summary of the workshop for distribution to the audience; ensure you evaluate and and act on the feedback results.
Arrive early to ensure you are well prepared and relaxed yourself.
Ambience – make room welcoming with layout, lighting, music, meet and greet, easy to understand process on entry.
Keep track of time.
Know what you want to do, what you want them to do, what you want them to learn or think about.
Encourage interaction and engagement.
Be prepared for contingencies.
Be flexible – react to audience as needed.
Get feedback and improve.
Structured workshops – getting the process right
By process we mean the structure and steps used to achieve the desired outcomes of team meetings and workshops. Where teams are concerned, having the right process is especially important in three common areas:
Continuous improvement of services/products, systems and processes. You can find out more about strength-based approaches to change in our change management series, and we outline a classic model in our article: change management models.
It can often be the case that any of the above processes may take more than one meeting or workshop. This is particularly so when you may need the team to go away and work on elements of the meeting before progressing to the next stage. For example, each of these areas may also involve structured workshops focused on such things as idea generation or training and skills development.
Discussing the content of a meeting is essential but using a clear process, one that involves and engages the team, takes well-developed process skills. Read more about how to develop these skills in Workshop Facilitation Skills.
Tools to help your workshop facilitation skills
If you want to get better at leading team development, this article is a good place to start. But if you want to take your team leadership to the next level, here is a great set of tools to get you on your way.
For example, you might want to facilitate a meeting which encourages your team to build a shared understanding of what teamwork means in your specific context. That is, what it means to your team and more widely, to your organisation.
To do this though, words are often not enough. Building teamwork is also about what you do, starting with that shared understanding of teamwork, and agreeing together what you value.
That’s exactly what our “teamwork definition” tool is designed to do. You’ll find this tool, plus a wealth of other resources for team leaders in our colossal Team Building Bundle.
Containing 240 pages and 50 tools, these are the 8 key guides we recommend to help you do more than define teamwork, build it!