Workshops: How to keep your participants motivated

It’s hard. Don’t get me wrong. Facilitating a workshop in itself can be very draining in itself as not only are.you trying to gather information /share knowledge but you’re also trying to make sure that people are in the right “mindset” to be able to be contribute productively to your workshop.

Over my years of facilitating workshops, I have tried a few different things to support workshop engagement and I wanted to share this knowledge via a blog.

  • Size of the workshop
    • This is a really simple one. I’ve found that workshops over a specific number can really cause too much noise and demotivate attendees as they do not feel listened to. Depending on the topic, consider breaking workshops up or not having more than 15-20 people in attendance at once
  • Games
    • I try to “warm up” the group with a few games. This can be throwing a stress ball around whilst sharing information or giving out sweets/candy whilst answering questions. This may take a few minutes out of your overall workshop time but it really does engage the audience
  • Keep an eye on your agenda
    • For workshops, I try to make sure that the allocated is right for the topic/audience. This includes not running over time and giving everyone a chance to participate. One of the easiest ways to demotivate a group is not listening or trying to rush things
  • Share examples
    • This is another way of helping people get into the mindset of the workshop itself. An example for Risk Workshops is giving a list of the known risks in your organisation or common project risks that you may have already available from your lessons learned repository
  • Be aware of the culture you’re working with
    • If you are working with multiple cultures in one workshop, you need to make sure that you’re facilitating how each culture loves to express themselves. Are they waiting for an opportunity to speak/be given the floor? Do they all interrupt each other? Be aware of who you will have in the room and what will work best.

Things to avoid:

Here’s a few things that you definitely should be avoiding if you want to keep a team motivated:

  • Rushing topics or the workshop
  • Stopping people from sharing knowledge
  • Not giving enough time to “process” all of the contributions
  • Disrespect towards attendees

What can you do to improve your facilitation skills?

If you can get some training in facilitation, that is ideal. Alternatively, you can practice in your team before you have wider/bigger workshops. I use my team to try out new “games”, way of including the participants before I take it to a wider audience to see if it works or if I need to remove it.

What about virtual workshops?

This is something that has really made its mark as a result of the Corona pandemic. More and more of us are being forced to hold virtual Workshops and are seeing how different it can be to encourage engagement. I cannot throw chocolate through a computer screen, nor can I rely on body language /non verbal communication. A few tips that I can give on this subject:

  • Don’t make Workshops too long.
    • I have split up several Workshops to give people enough time to work /go through the content being discussed
  • Split out agendas /people /groups
    • This touches on the point above. You need to look at what groups /topics work well together and what would be best to group together.
  • Cameras on!
    • Using video can be a real lifesaver during a workshop. You can see each other, see what’s going on, share content etc.
  • Consider facilitation software
    • There are a lot of online softwares available where you can share your screen /allow others to write on the board. This has been really collaborative and a great way for me to work with groups of people at once. I have used: Microsoft Teams, ConceptBoard for this purpose.

Conclusion:

Taking a closer look at how you manage workshops can be a really quick and easy win towards improving the quality of the content you have in your projects. Have you got any tips you swear by? Share them below!

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