I’ve been part of some fantastic workshops, ones that have the room buzzing, people engaging, ideas flowing, notes strewn around the room and an atmosphere of collective achievement.

Of course there are also workshops that conjure up images of a dreary room full of disinterested people, negative attitudes, poor outcomes and bad coffee.

I’m going tell you how to avoid running one of these workshops, ever again.

Great workshops bring people together in a way that makes ideas shine and helps organisations or teams reach their goals. You might, for example, need to develop a plan or strategy, or are seeking guidance on a project.

What makes a great workshop?

  1. Getting the right people together. A great mix of people will ensure the ideas are varied, interesting and flowing. You might for example have senior leaders, a selection of other staff, and external stakeholders.
  2. Using a space that is inviting. Don’t hold a workshop in a back room with no windows. Find a space that is bright, airy and spacious. Hire an external room if you need to.
  3. Have a purpose for the workshop and explain this clearly at the beginning. Knowing what the objectives are will ensure everyone is on track and ready to go. Also provide an agenda and guidelines on how the workshop will be run.
  4. Ensure plenty of space to work, and give people paper, sticky notes, pens, textas, stickers, visual aids and anything that will make sharing ideas easier. Provide space to capture ideas where everyone can see them.
  5. Engage a facilitator who can get people motivated and excited to be part of the workshop. A good facilitator will use techniques that make the process easy and engaging.
  6. Use technology if suitable. You might for example use a tool that allows people to make comments or suggestions through their smart phone, where everyone can see them projected in real time. You might do live polling to show where sentiment lies.
  7. Follow up on the outcomes of the workshop and ask for feedback. Let participants know how their input has been used.
  8. Lastly, provide decent coffee (and throw in some delicious snacks to keep the masses happy)!