7 conditions for a great facilitated workshop


May 31st, 2011

Everyone loves a good list, so I’m led to believe. This post falls into the category of ‘notes to self’ – or possibly ‘advice to potential clients’. Here goes:

1. Have a clear purpose for meeting. Be able to answer this question in a concrete, non-abstract way:”Why is it important for this group to meet at this time?”

2. Be clear about start and finish times and schedule long breaks. Have a structure, but don’t create a detailed agenda. An agenda is a hangover from another era and has a completely different purpose. Remember that you are facilitating a workshop, not chairing a meeting, and participants deserve to know why they are there, when to arrive and when they can leave. They don’t need a lot of extra detail.

Extra note to self: Take my own advice on this! I once knew a facilitator who didn’t own a suit and he would tell clients that if they needed him to wear a suit then they’d have to find another facilitator. So, if you need me to provide an agenda…

3. Choose activities that serve the purpose. You need to know a whole range of activities and processes to choose from, and feel comfortable and confident using them. This requires preparation and practice. Do lots. Of preparation and practice, that is.┬áThere’s no way of knowing in advance what’s the ‘best’ or ‘right’ activity. There’s no way of knowing at the time either. So relax and trust your skills as a facilitator and your intuition to know what will serve the group and the purpose.

4. Choose activities that make the best use of the people in the room. Take advantage of having people together in the one place. Do what you can’t do otherwise (see #5).

5. Focus on conversations and connecting. Remove anything that doesn’t help with conversations and connecting, such as tables. If you want to know more about why tables get in the way, read this. Trust that meaning will emerge, that people will engage their brains and you don’t have to do their work for them.

6. Be prepared to improvise. No matter how much planning or preparation you do, once you are in the room with a group of people, things happen. Be ready to improvise.

7. Get a great facilitator.

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