You have planned and prepared your workshop, and now it's time to hold it. Exciting!
The success of the workshop depends on how well you have prepared but also on how well you facilitate the workshop itself.
As the facilitator of the workshop, your task is to help the group achieve the goals of the session. The more efficiently you facilitate, the greater the chance that the workshop will be successful.
Follow these steps to facilitate as a pro.
1. Include everyone
Divide the participants
We have all sat in meetings or workshops where a few participants talk and everyone else listens. It is not only an inefficient way to use colleagues' time, we risk missing thoughts, ideas and opinions. How can you most easily get everyone to contribute from the start?
If you are a larger group, split the group. Consider the following:
- When can people work individually, discuss in small groups before joining the large group again?
- When can you ask everyone to share their thoughts via a chat or a tool like Mentimeter (see below) so that everyone does something at the same time?
The goal is for as many people as possible to be active and engaged as much of the time as possible.
Keep the group focused
It is very possible that topics and questions that come up may cause the workshop to derail or develop in a different direction than you intended. Maybe some participant talks too much about a certain topic and starts to dominate the conversation.
To counteract this, take the floor and draw the participant's attention to the fact that what he says is certainly interesting and important but does not fit within today's session. Park the topic by putting it on a list of things to bring up at a later time. This means that the participant probably feels seen and heard, while the workshop can continue as planned.
2. Time and clarity
Keep the time
When you lead a meeting or workshop, you run a race against the clock. It is easy for time to slip away and you suddenly discover that time is soon over while you are only halfway through what you have planned.
Part of your job as a facilitator is to make sure you keep to the time, so that the group can complete the workshop and achieve its goals. Use a timer on your phone or even better a clock that all participants can see. Update participants regularly on how much of the time remains. It helps participants keep the right pace.
Clear instructions, both verbal and figurative
When you participate in a workshop, there is a lot going on and a lot to take in. It is easy for participants not to listen attentively to instructions or forget what you have asked them to do. This is especially true at digital workshops where it is close to different types of distractions.
A good way to handle this is to keep the instructions as simple and clear as possible. Do not talk too much - keep the instructions short and clear. If the instructions contain a number of steps, consider summarizing them briefly.
It is of value to both show and read out the instructions. Have the instructions on a picture in your presentation or write them down, so that the participants can easily produce them later. If you have a template or link to share, wait with it until after you have given the instructions. Otherwise, there is a risk that participants will look at what you have shared instead of listening to what you say.
3. Good tool to use
There are many great tools that you can use to make your meetings or workshops more efficient and collaborative. Here are some of the best:
Mentimeter - create polls, questions and answers, word clouds and quizzes that the participants can get involved in. It is a good tool for gathering thoughts, ideas, or opinions, or examining what the participants want to prioritize. And it works well both at online meetings and at physical meetings. https://www.mentimeter.com/
Miro - if you organize more complex workshops, especially online, Miro is a good digital whiteboard, which allows lots of participants to collaborate at the same time. It's full of features so you can do almost anything you want, but it also works well for simpler exercises. https://miro.com/
Shared documents - instead of using Miro, you can use shared documents, such as Word or PowerPoint on SharePoint in Office365 so that everyone can contribute and collaborate at the same time. This can be a really useful tool for gathering participants' materials in one place.
Teams - Teams have several useful functions for workshops, such as reactions (to encourage other communication is speech) and raise your hand (to show when you have something to say). You can also use the chat function for everything from check-in and check-out to collecting comments, thoughts or questions.
After the workshop, go to the next step: 4. What happens now?