3.2. How to create a workshop

Collect information

Try to collect as much as possible information about the participants of your workshop. The more information you have the easier it will be for you to create a workshop which is tailored to the needs of the group and the happier the group will be with the workshop.

Possible questions that you can ask / Possible information that you should gather before the workshop

  • What is the age of the participants?
  • What is the gender mix of the group?
  • Do the participants know each other or do they meet for the first time?
  • Are there people with specific challenges, such as disabilities, in the group?
  • If you are doing the workshop in a school, ask about the atmosphere between the group. Are they well integrated or not?
  • Try to find out if the group or some of the participants have participated in a similar workshop before.
  • If the training is organized by an institution / organization (e.g. school, non-governmental organization), which invites you as a trainer, it is also worth to know how they recruit participants (did they volunteer or were nominated by someone), what do participants know about the training from the organizer, are they committed to perform any task after the training e.g. to inform about its effects other people in the organization?

Designing the workshop

Define the topic of the workshop

No matter if you define the topic of the workshop on your own or if someone told you to do a workshop on that given topic, please keep the following in mind:

Do the workshop only about a topic which you find interesting and know something about. Be confident about the topic you want to present. Why is that?

  • The level of confidence influences our non-verbal communication skills. We are able to control on what we are saying however it is very difficult to control our body language especially when you are not an experienced presenter.
  • Difficult situations may arise, through doubts and questions which the participants may have. Therefore it is important that your attitude is supporting what you were saying during the workshop.

Do workshops on topics for which you are prepared. During the workshop you should be the expert. Give yourself the time to prepare by reading some publications and/or books, searching the internet on that given topic. Make sure you know by heart what you want to do and say. If you are not sure about what you are trying to teach others, or if you are using notes all the time, you will lose your credibility in front of the participants.

Define the goal

In order to narrow the topic down and to be able to define the title as well as the content of the workshop we first need to define the goal of our workshop. Goals are the description on the results, which we want to reach by doing the workshop. They are description of what the participants of the workshop should know and be able to do after the workshop.

There are 3 main questions that you should ask yourself before starting to prepare the workshop:

  • Why? – Why is this training needed? What is it meant to achieve? What’s the purpose of it ? who is it for?
  • What? – What content do you need to make sure the training achieves what it it’s intended to?
  • How? – what methods are most appropriate for delivering the training?

In order to answer all three questions you need to:

Know information about the people you are going to train and their needs. Besides trying to find answers to the questions stated before which should help you define who they are, you can also ask yourself or them before the workshop the following questions:

  • Why do they need/want the training
  • What do they expect to get from the workshop
  • What they already know about the topic
  • What they want to do with what they have learned after the course

Define what you want them to think, feel at the end of the workshop. This is important as people need to have the right attitude to learn something, they need to be open and see the benefit of it. They must also want to implement what they have learned, otherwise nothing will change.

Based on the information you gather you need to write out the learning objectives and outcomes you want to cover by doing the workshop.

The learning objectives for a workshop cover what you want people to be able to do at the end of it.

Defining the learning objectives will help you to define the content. You will help you to decide on what you should leave and what you should take out. The objectives relate back to the training needs people have. Why do they need the training and what is the training meant to achieve?

You should make the objectives detailed, precise, specific and measurable.

Eg. Workshop on Volunteering

Broad objective:

The participants will learn what volunteering is and in which volunteering activates they can get engaged in.

Narrow down the objective:
Create one definition on what volunteering means
Identify 6 types of volunteering actives
Identify the one volunteering activity that fits them best

The learning outcomes are concerned with the ‘thinking and feeling’ part of designing the workshop.

As mentioned earlier, without the right attitude, learning will not take place at all, or, if it does, it will not be applied in the way you would like.

But how to plan the way people will feel during and after the workshop?

Think about how the people in front of you will be likely to feel at the beginning. How interested they might be and how energized and enthusiastic?

Now think on how you want them to feel. Do you want them to feel motivated to learn and to put it into practice, confident about their abilities, energized, supportive towards each other?

Based on the way you want them to feel choose the appropriate content for the workshop. For example, if you want the participants to bond and feel supportive towards each other as they might have to work on tasks together after the workshop where they use the gained knowledge than develop content for the workshop which allows them to get to know each other better, to work in teams and to experience some first common success.

Begin to design the content and methodology of your training only once you have worked out the detailed learning objectives ond the outcomes of the inpact the trainig will have on the state of mind of the learners.

Seven tips to design a workshop

  1. Remember to collect information about participants: how many people will attend the workshop? What are their expectations and needs? What do they already know about the workshop and its topic?
  2. Include exercises, games and other stimulating activities. Remember, a workshop is not a lecture!
  3. Think carefully how much time you have to spend on each activity. Don’t be too ambitious because you’ll be running out of time!
  4. Provide enough time for discussions after each exercise or activity. Remember, during workshop people express their emotions, so there should be enough space to capture them.
  5. Remember about providing feedback. It’s appreciated especially by young people. Make sure to allow participants to provide positive feedback to each other.
  6. Plan activities in the right order. Move from the easier content to the more difficult or more risky one.
  7. Stay flexible! Think about which content you can leave out in case time is scarce. Moreover, plan in 1-2 activities in case the group works faster than you have

Practical preparations

In order to make the workshop more enjoyable for the participants please keep in mind the following practicalities:

The workshop space should be comfortable, with plenty of natural light and air circulation, and a comfortable temperature. The space should be set up to encourage participation. By putting tables aside and putting chairs in a circle you allow everyone to see each other and there is no automatic hierarchy in the circle.

Check any equipment & materials that you or the participants will be using. Equipment that is not working properly can be very annoying and therefore influence if the workshop is running smoothly. Please also make sure that you have materials for everyone and that no one has to wait in line to use certain materials or equipment.

If the workshop is longer make sure to have food and drinks for the group or inform them in advance they need to bring something for themselves. When making food available please consider ethical concerns, food allergies and religious or cultural needs. Having a tea and coffee break slows a workshop down, so if you want it short and focused, don’t do any or just have during the workshop some cups and water available which everyone can take.

If the workshop is longer, plan in breaks accordingly, as people don’t learn effectively when they are tired, thirsty and hungry and leave the room all the time during the workshop to go to the toilet.

Consider the workshop time needed. Make sure to finish on time and do not let people leave in a hurry. Plan all important activities for the beginning of the workshop.

Preparing yourself

It is natural to be nervous before and during a workshop, and some adrenalin can be useful to keep you focused. However, you need to feel confident about the workshop as else this might influence your body language and therefore the way you are perceived by the participants.

Be prepared and anticipate. The first and most important step is to prepare your workshop well so you are happy about it. Moreover, make sure you are prepared for things that might go wrong, that you have some extra activities in mind which you could add in case you have too much time left, and know what to cut out in case you are running out of time. Rehearsing the workshop with some friends can help a lot or run through what you are going to say in the main sections (e.g. introduction, complicated activities, presentation) by yourself.

Relax. Do some breathing exercises. If you feel you are getting nervous take a couple of slow and deep breaths and feel your feet on the ground. Before the workshop or do anything else which can help you to relax, like e.g. listening to music.

Accept to make mistakes. To make mistakes and to reflect on them is an important part of becoming a better trainer. Be aware that participants will not be aware of most mistakes you make. Being confident does not mean that you have to be perfect!