There are numerous reasons why workshops are not well received. Either the lectures are similar to the frontal teaching of the past or a lack of interaction causes disinterest among the participants. An unsuitable environment can also be a reason why a workshop does not achieve what it aims to achieve.
Before preparing workshops for customers or colleagues, the organizers should first consider the meaning behind it. In the digital environment, insightful workshops are ultimately important in order to make everyday work easier for users. An intensive training program therefore helps to develop relevant topics and to run through practical cases.
When preparing a workshop, it helps to sit down at a table with the target group in advance – figuratively speaking. In this way, both sides can define their expectations. Content for an interactive workshop can also be derived from discussions with customers or colleagues.
The objective of the workshop should always be the focus and be clearly defined for everyone involved. Goals that are already included in the description ensure more transparency for the participants. In customer workshops, it can also help if the lead fills out a tender template in advance to identify pain points.
The general conditions should not be underestimated either. Workshop leaders can take a look at the meeting room in advance, organize the necessary material such as the method case, test the technology, allocate seats and ensure a good room climate. This shows professionalism and saves the speaker from almost anything unforeseeable.
Of course, the same applies to online workshops. Access to the software used should be easy for the participants. A precise schedule helps to guide those involved through the session. Ideally, the moderator will share the schedule in advance so that everyone knows when a contribution is required and can prepare accordingly.
Last but not least, a checklist for the preparation and follow-up of a workshop serves to ensure that nothing important is forgotten.
At the beginning of a workshop, a non-topic warm-up program is suitable to lighten the mood and clear the mind of the participants. These can be simple questions such as “Give us 20 possible uses for a shoebox”. A “GIF battle” is also an option for online workshops: five clichéd phrases are recorded on a visual exchange platform and the participants have to find a suitable image within a minute.
Short film excerpts or keynote speeches from the outside are good door openers to clarify the topic of the workshop. A pointed thesis can help trigger an exchange of views.
An interactive technique such as an audience response system allows for a casual survey within a workshop. The audience is asked a question and can answer with their own hardware. The results appear in real time via a projector on the screen. This can also be a good door opener to arouse the interest of all participants.
Especially when it comes to working with new customers, it can be an advantage if the workshop includes a personalized demo at the beginning to map the brand world. This shows that der:die Firmen:in has dealt extensively with the topic in advance. In addition, the participants feel that they have been picked up and identify with the lecture.
Good moderation is important in order to clearly define the schedule and find the right time for the transition. Sufficient breaks and time to strengthen yourself for another session are important to stimulate creativity again. During the workshop, the moderator focuses on interaction and makes sure that quieter team members also have their say. The use of visual elements should not be missing either. For example, an appealing storyboard can help to generate the attention of everyone involved.
During brainstorming, the group collects exciting ideas and different perspectives on a certain topic. Unrealistic and unfinished ideas may also be mentioned. In this way, the moderator can derive similarities and deviations in the mindsets of the discussants.
With so-called mind mapping, for example, all ideas can be collected and linked to one another. The rapid ideation approach, on the other hand, aims to collect as many ideas as possible in a certain amount of time and to prevent the participants from overthinking ideas because of the time pressure. There is also the possibility to write all ideas in a doc during the workshop and discuss them at the end. This so-called brain netting ensures that spontaneous ideas are not forgotten and the workshop flow is not interrupted.
For each type of workshop, it should be decided individually which working method is most suitable. The selection can be based, for example, on the number of participants, the objective of the workshop or the complexity of the topic. It is important to promote interactions so that ideas can develop.
A world café, for example, is suitable for large groups and works as follows: Groups of up to five participants are formed, who meet online or sit together at a table. A specific question is discussed in a specific time window and the results are noted. The groups are then reshuffled and one person remains seated at the table or in the digital room. This presents the new group with the latest discussion results before a new round begins.
The so-called goldfish bowl method (fishbowl) is ideal for groups of ten or more people. The speaking participants sit in the inner circle, which should not have more than seven seats. The passive participants sit in the outer circle. They are not allowed to comment on statements without being asked and they represent the audience. The active part, on the other hand, can be spoken mutually and each statement must relate to the previous statement. There is an option to invite a guest to the inner circle if that person would like to contribute to the discussion.
The open space method, on the other hand, is suitable for larger workshops, a heterogeneous group or a comprehensive topic. Everyone can throw in a topic, which is then discussed in a working group afterwards.
At the end of the event there should always be time for open questions and brief anonymous feedback. The latter will help not to repeat possible mistakes in the future. Finally, it is important to prepare the workshop content professionally and to share it with the group in a timely manner.
There is no secret recipe for the right workshop, but there are good starting points that workshop leaders can use as a guide. It is important to always keep the target group in mind and not lose sight of the topic. Good preparation, which contains goals and rules, helps enormously with later implementation. Framework conditions should be created for all those involved that promote their creativity and generate their attention.
The right tools help to produce well-founded insights. Many techniques can also be transferred to online meetings with the right tools. In the end, however, it is always up to the workshop leader to decide on the most suitable approach.