Workshops and team meetings are valuable ways to build team alignment and unity, and—when designed well—they deliver a hefty ROI. Future State Client Portfolio Director Zoe Dunning has been leading results-oriented workshops for more than 15 years. Here are some of her tips for designing successful workshops that benefit everyone on your team.
1. The Right People, the Right Place: The first and probably the most important consideration is to be sure you have the right people at the event. You want to have decision-makers who can make decisions right then and there. Also make sure there is a broad representation of all stakeholders so you know the feedback you’re gathering is truly comprehensive,
Another consideration is where you host the event. Even though doing it offsite may cost more from a facility perspective, you usually get better results because people aren’t getting distracted by jumping back to their offices or running into other people they work with who can catch them in the hall.
2. Prepare, and Prepare Your People: Doing a few key things before the event can help ensure it’s set up for success. First, connect the right people from your organization with the event facilitator to advise in the design of the workshop. There’s a better likelihood of achieving your outcomes if you provide upfront time and input on the workshop design.
Second, consider the use of pre-reads. Short prerequisite material can help make sure everyone comes in with a common understanding so you can use the time discussing solutions and ideas, rather than educating everyone. The pre-read should take no more than a half-hour to read.
3. Remember Accessibility and Diversity: First, recognize we all learn differently. Some of us are visual learners, some are audio learners, some learn by doing. And most of us do best with a mixture. So you need to incorporate multiple ways of engaging and training people. You can’t just speak it. You need visuals – preferably posters on walls, or a graphic recorder, definitely not death by PowerPoint. You will also have people who need to practice it, do an exercise, to embed the understanding.
Also consider that some people are introverts and some are extroverts. Make sure exercises aren’t all just group discussions; build in time for individual reflections on questions, let people share ideas in small breakout groups. Pose a question just before a break or lunch so they can think on it, not just react. A good workshop provides varied opportunities for people to contribute in different ways.
Finally, be aware of who’s in the room. Cultural perspectives differ. Some cultures have different norms around cold-calling or team dynamics. Ask questions. Also if you have a truly global team and people are traveling internationally, take into account jet lag and attention span, and be sensitive to that; don’t start at 8 am and end at 6 pm on day one, no matter how much work needs to be accomplished. You’ll only get 50% of the team’s attention.