15 Considerations Giving Workshops

Even during small group exercises there are considerations for giving workshops.
Even during small group exercises there are considerations for giving workshops.

As you progress in your career, you may find yourself giving workshops on something you specialize in.  This is a great experience.  When you can teach a thing to someone else do you truly understand a thing. Here are some considerations for giving workshops.

1. Warm up by introducing yourself.  If it is a small group, then get everyone to introduce themselves and answer an icebreaker question. I am a big fan of getting everyone up to stretch.  Stretching, shaking the body, making silly noises and faces as a group help relax the atmosphere. Once you’ve made an ass out of yourself it’s easy to participate in group activities.

2. Practice validating comments and questions while maintaining control over the workshop to keep the focus the direction from being derailed. That means shutting your mouth, listening, and repeating back what you heard.  It also means acknowledging someone’s concerns respectfully without going down that rabbit hole.  Belive me, it takes practice.

3. Encourage engagement, giving the participants an active tactile experience that goes beyond a lecture and discussion. It solidifies and makes physical the ideas that come from discussions.

4. Help guide people through the experience. This helps remind them to do, to be active within the workshop, rather than standing around talking. Sometimes they’ve never done what you are asking them to do and it takes a bit more nudging.  Wander around and give attention to small groups and individuals that appear to need it.

5. When including prototyping in a short workshop focus on one technique at a time. Too many new ways to do a thing can scramble the minds of some folks.  Give them the exercise, let them try it quickly and move on to the next while explaining the benefits of the technique.

6. Stop No’s early on. All answers are valid. Practice the “yes, and..” of  improv.  When someone says “No” it shuts down the conversation early and invalidates participants.  By acknowledging what someone else is saying and building off of it, the conversation can evolve into some serious productivity.  As the workshop lead, it’s your job to deal with it.

7. Establish a mutual language with the audience. Start with layyman’s terms before moving into industry specific language. This can help prevent participates from feeling confused and possible talked down to.

8. Expect people to take you literally over everything you say. Prepare for it.

9. Practice Practice Practice!!!

10. Show respect and empathy for the culture you are working with. They may have different ways of doing things. Recognize this and acknowledge it. If it is new to you, tell them you are doing your best and ask for patience. That usually buys you some wiggle room.

11. Don’t defend yourself unless asked to. When others have comments, thank them rather than mansplain.

12. Be sure to state the intent of the workshop. If you are focusing on solving a problem, state that. If you are using a specific problem in the exercise to learn a technique or system, be sure it is clear to everyone that the point is to learn the process not actually solve the example.

13. Practice using a timer during small group practice. This will help keep you on track.  Time does funny things during small group exercises.

14. Be adaptable. Be ready to deal with changes and obstacles. Your time might get shortened. There may be a high maintenance participant. It may take a while to establish a common language. Be ready to shift and decide where to trim the fat.

I5. Be sure to give out contact info and say to contact if there are any questions or if someone just wants to reach out.


OK, now that you’ve been enlightened go out there and give a workshop and gain a better understanding of your craft.  Then write to me and tell me how it went and if any of this helped.