At TESA, we believe a workshop can’t be considered democratic or participatory—let alone successful—unless it is engaging, dynamic, and energizing.
And of course, when it’s appropriate, we want our workshops to be fun, too.
To help you make your next workshop dynamic and engaging, I brainstormed with my coworkers to come up with a list of tips that we thought was indispensable. Below are five of the pointers I believe no workshop facilitator should overlook.
Whether you are in a school setting, organizing space, or workplace all of these pointers will apply, and what’s best is that they are easy to implement.
#1: Work with your participants and hosts to create structure and content that matches the participants’ understanding, subject matter, and context. Find out what the participants want to learn, and how it is important to their lives.
#2: Alternate the teaching styles you use. Start with an all-group activity, then transition to small group activities and discussions, followed by individual reflections, and then return to a participant facilitated all-group discussion. This is but one example.
#3: Remember that technology is a resource, not a replacement. In other words, just because you can make a glitzy presentation or use a snazzy electronic polling system doesn’t mean it will be more engaging or that participants will better learn the material. Nothing can replace human energy and human interaction, so that should always be your focus.
#4: Be flexible and create a variety of options for participants throughout the workshop. This might be manifested as creating a range of different scenarios or objectives for a group activity, or by creating a handful of “choose your own adventure” sections of the workshop where you engage participants and flesh out a section of the workshop together.
#5: Perhaps the most important tip is to bring the energy and excitement that you want to see out of the participants! If you are low energy, slow, disinterested, off your game, or not engaged with the participants’ context and experiences, you should expect the same from them. Certainly, it can be exhausting, but when you enter the workshop space, you have to leave any uncertainties at the door and bring your best. You can throw steps 1-4 out the door if you aren’t ready to embody the energy required to facilitate and participate.
I hope these pointers help you when you are approaching your next workshop. I could probably write a list of tips for each of the above sections, so view the above as a foundation from which you can build on.
There is never a one-size-fits-all when it comes to curriculum development, so the best we can do is position ourselves to allow the participants the freedom and information to thrive.
What feedback do you often find yourself giving to workshop presenters? What tips would you add?