The Workshop Survival Guide

The Workshop Survival Guide

Author
Rob Fitzpatrick, Devin Hunt
Year
2019
image

Review

This book follows Rob Fitzpatrick’s classic formula. All value, no fluff. Reading this book is like downloading years of workshop facilitation experience, it’s certainly a shortcut to creating better workshops.

For me 80% of the value is in the workshop skeleton framework. Don’t start with slides, think about what you want people to learn, think about the best way to teach that, mix up formats to keep energy levels high.

A must read if you spend anytime facilitating or want to in future.

You Might Also Like:

image

Key Takeaways

The 20% that gave me 80% of the value.

  • Take responsibility for the energy and attention of the audience
    • Don’t expect the audience to pay attention
    • Design the session in a way which continually renews and refreshes them
  • The crux of a brilliant workshop lies in what you do beforehand
  • Maintain goodwill with regular “a‑ha” moments
    • For goodwill to remain high, you must quickly and consistently deliver value
    • If you violate the contract by asking too much before returning sufficient value you will lose them
  • Creating a good Skeleton is the single most important step in designing an effective, high-energy workshop
  • Define your audience.
    • Defining an audience is essential for deciding what to include and what to cut
    • Who is attending? What do they want to learn? How experienced are they?
    • Outmanoeuvre any issues on the day in advance through proactively announcing who the event is not for
  • Breaks are so important put them into your workshop schedule first. Then you’ll know what schedule chunks you’ll need to fill
    • 60-90 minutes of workshop between breaks is the sweet spot
  • Decide on the concrete Learning Outcomes and takeaways
    • Learning Outcomes are the sharp, specific, high-value takeaways that the audience has shown up for
    • To succeed at teaching something, you must be willing to exclude everything else
    • Add supporting arguments to each Learning Outcome to highlight key ideas or talking points
      • To figure out these sub-points ask … What else do they need to know, believe, or be able to do in order for them to properly absorb the main Learning Outcome?
    • Have one Learning Outcome for every 30-45 mins of workshop
  • Complete your Workshop Skeleton by inserting your Learning Outcomes into your Schedule Chunks
  • Remix and cut content until everything fits into the Chunks
  • Pick the best Teaching Formats to maintain education, energy, and attention:
    • Vary teaching formats at least every 20 minutes to keep the audience feeling fresh
    • Select Teaching Formats that match what is being taught
      • Lectures are great for delivering “book” knowledge and addressing takeaways from exercises
      • Small group & pair discussions allow audiences to engage with topics from lectures
      • “Try it now” exercises allow new skills to be practiced
      • Scenario challenges develop critical thinking and decision-making.
      • Question & answer sections add flexibility to your schedule
    • Find and fix long segments of one format.
    • Work across the whole workshop in a series of passes and focus on how the whole thing is fitting together before you go deep
  • Before getting stuck in style and layout, create the most essential slides:
    • A slide deck only needs to contain the absolute essentials — less is more in a workshop
    • Essential slides include summarising Learning Outcomes and supporting arguments; exercise prompts; and important resource lists
    • Flavour slides are fun, nice-to-have visual that enhance examples, storytelling, and personality
  • The best time to get feedback on your potential workshop is just after you have a skeleton but before you’ve done all the work
  • During your workshop:
    • If you’re going to start late, tell people Intros should be short; the value is in your content, not you
    • Stop standing behind the podium
    • Finish group formation before assigning a task; manually fix uneven groups and stranded individuals
    • During an exercise, walk the room to listen in on students working When asking a student to share, have them stand and speak toward the crowd
    • You can control a crowd by going individual
    • To silence a distracted crowd, just start talking (in circles) or ask a student volunteer to share (borrowing goodwill)
    • Nobody in the audience wants to be hostile or disengaged, so there’s usually a good reason which you can discover (and resolve) if you search for it
    • Protect your breaks by hiding out of sight
    • Finishing on time is extremely valuable, and often worth cutting content to achieve
    • Most “bad luck” can be solved via either better preparation or by bringing along a co-teacher, expert guest, or helper
    • When bad luck strikes anyway, shrug it off and find a way to continue teaching
image

Deep Summary

Longer form notes, typically condensed, reworded and de-duplicated.

Part 1: Workshop Design Essentials

  • Every workshop lives or dies by two factors:
    • What the audience learns
    • How the audience feels (i.e. energy and attention)
  • Take responsibility for the energy and attention of the audience
    • Don’t expect the audience to pay attention
    • Design the session in a way which continually renews and refreshes them
    • Boosting their energy → boosts their ability to pay attention → which makes it easier for them to learn
  • Coordinate what you’re teaching with how you teach it
    • You aren’t limited to lecture style. Pick a style of teaching and types of exercises best suited to the topic at hand.
  • The crux of a brilliant workshop lies in what you do beforehand
    • Designing it well upfront does most of the heavy lifting for you, and facilitation becomes naturally easy
  • Maintain goodwill with regular “a‑ha” moments
    • For goodwill to remain high, you must quickly and consistently deliver value
    • Think of goodwill as a consumable (and renewable) resource
      • it is lost when you make the audience sit through boring stuff or participate in low-value exercises
      • it is gained whenever you deliver a nugget of value (like an “a‑ha” moment or takeaway)
    • The workshop contract: the audience temporarily grants you their attention → in the belief you’ll transmute it into something new and valuable
      • If you violate the contract by asking too much before returning sufficient value you will lose them
    • The essential requirement of teaching is to deliver learning outcomes
      • Learning outcomes are… specific bits of knowledge, skill, or insight that your audience takes away
      • They’re the difference between what someone knows (and can do) when they arrive compared to what they know (and can do) when they leave.
    • The best way to frequently deliver value is by zooming out and looking at your workshop skeleton
  • Don’t start with the slides. Start with the Workshop Skeleton
    • The workshop skeleton is the day’s raw structure and purpose
      • It is easy to create, easy to iterate, and offers a high-level view of all the stuff that matters
      • It doesn’t include slides and speaker notes, they’re a distraction at this stage
  • Workshop Skeleton Components:
    1. Audience Profile: Who it’s for
    2. Schedule Chunks: When they get their coffee breaks
    3. Learning Outcomes: What they’ll take away
  • The Audience Profile: Who’s in the room? Figure out who it’s for
    • An audience profile helps you decide which Learning Outcomes will be relevant for the people in the room
    • The audience can be either (you decide) a choice or a constraint (you’re hired)
    • Defining an audience is essential for deciding what to include and what to cut
    • Questions that can help…
      • Who are they?
      • How experienced are they?
      • Why are they bothering to show up?
      • What are their concerns and objections?
    • If you’re designing a session for an existing group, get the organiser to tell you
      • What sort of people are going to be attending?
      • How much experience do they already have with the topic?
      • What are they hoping to get out of the day?
      • Is there anything they’re likely to be skeptical or concerned about?
      • From your perspective, what would make the session a big win?
      • And to re-confirm, is it still correct that we’re looking at 50-70 attendees and a 90-minute running time?
    • If you’re facing a varied audience, search for a unifying thread which ties them together.
      • a common challenge, goal, worldview, or problem which unites them?
      • find a few important insights, takeaways, skills, or tools which will be high-impact for most everyone there
      • Outmanoeuvre the whole issue in advance through proactively announcing who the event is not for
  • Scheduling Chunks
    • Add the breaks before designing the content. Workshop longer than 90 minutes? Breaks are important!
    • Breaks replenish energy, 15 mins for coffee or 60mins for lunch after every 60-90 minutes of content
    • Starting with breaks simplifies the planning → dividing a big stretch of time into several little ones, each of which can be attacked independently
      • Smaller chunks force you to define precisely how much time you intend to spend on each Learning Outcome
    • Always aim to finish early if the workshop is longer than a couple hours (everyone hates an overrun, nobody minds an early finish)
  • Sharpen your Learning Outcomes
    • To succeed at teaching something, you must be willing to exclude everything else
    • Provide your audience with a small, curated set of sharp, useful takeaways which meaningfully improve their lives.
    • Curate → decide what’s important and what’s out
    • Example Learning Outcomes
    • Topic
      Too Vague
      Great Learning Outcomes
      Sales
      Negotiation
      How to deescalate a tense negotiation when you're in deep
      Sales
      Proposals
      The three requirements of every great sales proposal
    • Start with … Who is in the audience? Why have they shown up? What are they hoping to learn?”
    • Once you know your learning outcome, delete everything that doesn’t support it
    • Have one Learning Outcome for every 30-45 mins of workshop
      • 30 mins might feel like too long to spend on one (big) idea
        • But it can go quickly, if you structure it like this…
          • 10 mins intro lecture
          • 10 mins exercise or discussion
          • 5 mins follow-up
          • 5 mins of Q&A
        • If you want to run more than a single exercise, you’re almost certainly going to be brushing up closer to 45 minutes than to 30
      • How many learning outcomes you’ll fit into longer sessions with breaks
      • 90 minutes
        3 Learning Outcome
        Half Day
        6 Learning Outcomes
        Full Day
        12 Learning Outcomes
      • With longer workshops spend more time per Learning Outcome as opposed to trying to squeeze in more of them
  • Each Learning Outcome is a cluster of related ideas
    • A cluster of closely-related ideas, which need to be worked through and taught before the main takeaway can click into place
    • The Learning Outcome is like a thesis for a high school essay, it needs to be built up and delivered with supporting or key ideas or building blocks
      • These talking points are the mini-takeaways on your path toward the big one.
      • To figure out these sub-points ask … What else do they need to know, believe, or be able to do in order for them to properly absorb the main Learning Outcome?
      • hone them until they offer a concrete lesson-learned
      Example Outline for a Workshop

      Stress-Free Wedding Planning

      1. The budget spreadsheet is your new best friend
        • The most common ways weddings go over budget
        • Fixed expenses (venue, dress) vs. per-guest expenses (food, booze)
        • How to use your spreadsheet as a project management super-tool
      2. Turn your big day into a no-stress checklist
        • How the humble checklist keeps hospitals running
        • The challenge with weddings: too many cooks in the kitchen
        • How to create and use your three crucial checklists
      3. How to delegate without going crazy
        • The trouble with “free” help from family and friends
        • How to keep an eye on everything without turning into a micromanager
  • The outline shows what your workshop is really about → a set of clear takeaways
  • It’s quick to create, quick to iterate, and hugely simplifies the task of delivering a wonderful workshop.
  • You can follow the outline to create a deck
  • It takes just an hour to get to an outline.
    • Pause to gather feedback from a client, organiser, or potential audience-member
    • This is the best time to get feedback → after you have a plan but before you’ve done all the work
      • Ask… Do any topics jump out as something you’d really like to learn? Do any seem boring or irrelevant? And is anything missing?
      • You can even use the feedback as part of your marketing or promotion material
  • Promote with precision → else you end up with people in the room who don’t actually want to learn what you’re teaching
  • Workshop Outline + Schedule Chunks = Workshop Skeleton
    • An Audience Profile → informs your choice of learning outcomes
    • A set of Schedule Chunks
    • An outline of Learning Outcomes and supporting arguments
  • Pause to take a quick look and see if it passes a sanity check. Does it seem roughly plausible? Or are we trying to teach something too complex in too little time?
    • Cutting something can be hard, but it’s best done now
    • You don’t need to know the specifics of your exercises yet
  • You can visualise your workshop skeleton on a timeline:
  • image
  • Much of becoming a better facilitator isn’t actually about getting “better”, but rather about doing stuff ahead of time which makes your life easier on the day-of.
  • Creating a good Skeleton is the single most important step in designing an effective, high-energy workshop

Vary the Teaching Formats to improve energy, attention, and learning

  • Teaching Formats are what you use to actually deliver your content
    • The format should “match” whatever you’re currently teaching
      • Different types of lessons are best delivered through different styles of teaching.
        • You wouldn’t try and teach yoga with a lecture
        • Matching the format increases the chances folks will successfully learn from you
    • The format should switch at least every 20 minutes
      • variation boosts energy levels and attention
      • forces you outside of your teaching comfort zone
  • You want the activity to be well-suited to the takeaway under discussion, and for the activities to work together toward the primary Learning Outcome.
    • Pair hands-on experiments, pair discussions, and brief bits of lecture to string it all together and deliver missing theoretical concepts
      • Format Fatigue: staying with the same Teaching Format will drain the audience
      • You can’t fix it by cranking up your own performance as a teacher. It won’t work.
      • Students actually experience the workshop’s underlying design, and that’s where you must work to influence their energy and attention.
    • Format changes don’t need to be big to be effective. E.g. you could switch from working in small groups to working in pairs
  • The Five Essential Teaching Formats
    1. Lectures → for delivering “book knowledge” and extracting takeaways from exercises
    2. Small group & pair discussions → for wrestling with ambiguous options and personal implications
    3. Try it now practice → for building hands-on skills
    4. Scenario challenges → for building wisdom, evaluation, judgement, and decision-making
    5. Question & answer → for catching major objections/confusion and adding flex into schedule
  • Format 1: Lectures have their place
    • For times when you need everyone to stop talking, pay attention, and listen to you deliver some crucial piece of knowledge
    • Lectures are good when
      • Focused on delivering knowledge-heavy pieces of a Learning Outcome (pure book knowledge, theory, examples, and stories)
      • Supporting upcoming exercises by establishing theoretical foundations
      • Supporting just-finished exercises by extracting and discussing the lessons-learned and takeaways
    • They last for 5-20 minutes and
    • Arrange your lecture segments, such that they alternate with more engaging types of exercises
    • Lectures are bad when they last too long and when they attempt to teach topics and takeaways for which they are poorly-suited
    • Pair every piece of a lecture with an exercise on the same topics that’s more interactive
    • E.g…. Lecture → group discussion on implications → more lecture → try it now
    • You can still use lecture segments as the core vehicle of knowledge delivery
    • For topics that are more practical → reverse the pattern, and only occasionally have a small lecture to add the theory, anecdotes, or examples
    • Don’t lose sight of your Learning Outcomes and waffle along on tangents
    • If you have deep expertise you are especially vulnerable to the tangent trap
    • Start with the main Learning Outcomes, add a few key supporting arguments, and delete anything which doesn’t directly support those points
    • As rule of thumb, limit yourself to three main points per 20 minute section
      • 5 sections: intro, outro, 3 three-part section in the middle with a premise
      • Create enough guidance to stay on tack, without becoming detail obsessed
  • Format 2: Small group & pair discussions
    • Small group discussion is the ultimate teaching format
    • Used properly it’s engaging, inclusive, widely applicable, encourages debate, is easy to run, and lets the attendees get to know each other in an educational non-awkward way
    • Getting good at designing and running discussions is the key to getting good at workshops
    • They are easy to screw up. Asking people to turn to your neighbour and discuss seems harmless but is impossibly vague
    • Instruct your participants clearly and specifically with a prompt: what are they supposed to be talking about? Write it on a slide and make it visible. Figure out interesting and relevant prompts in advance. Ask a pointed clear question, BUT where the answer to the prompt should be ambiguous and/or personal
    • Group discussion is best when folks are wrestling with and hearing multiple perspectives on tough issues with no factual right, no single path, or even a clear way to evaluate the available options.
    • The prompt should relate to and support your learning outcomes
    • Every learning outcome will have some sort of opportunity for discussion and reflection
    • Make the discussion component brief (2-5 minutes), but the overall exercise will still end up consuming 10-15 minutes
      • 1 min of getting into groups
      • 2 min of saying hello and settling
      • 1 min of explaining the promt
      • 2-5 min of discussion
      • 5-10min of class wide discussion (get someone to share takeaways, chime in with your own thoughts)
    • If the discussion topic is too large for five minutes, it is probably too vague, and should be broken down
      • Attendees get wildly off-track if they’re given too much time
    • Pairs force everyone to participate, but you get less exposure to multiple ideas.
      • Pairs are therefore better suited where you want attendees to work through a problem or come up with an idea
    • Small group and pair discussions are game changing. Use them! As long as you’ve spent the time to design good prompts (clear question, ambiguous answers)
    • For each Learning Outcomes or key ideas, try to come up with at least one good discussion prompt.
  • Format 3: Q&A is for flexibility, not interactivity
    • Always have some Q&A (question & answer) in every workshop
    • The flaw is that the least confident students won’t speak up.
    • It hurts energy levels rather than helps them, it is slow and only interactive for the person asking the question.
    • It can be hijacked by people wanting to self-promote and showboat. These problems get worse the larger the audience
    • Q&A’s have problems, but you should include them because….
      • It allows the crowd to catch you if your teaching has missed the mark
      • Although you can’t count on a confused individual to speak up, you can always count on somebody within a confused class to do so
      • Put them in so you can delete them when you’re running late
        • You can shrink a Q&A section to 5 minutes or grow it to 20 minutes without anyone noticing
        • This flexibility allows you to stay on schedule and on time
        • The Q&A acts as a flexible schedule spring in your otherwise rigid format
        • They are your secret to finishing exactly on time
        • Have a 15 minute spring in every 90-minute chunk of your schedule.
          • At 30 mins per Learning Outcome, that’s just 5 minutes of Q&A per takeaway
        • Do shorter Q&As after each Learning Outcome.
        • Be specific and encourage them to ask questions which are relevant to exactly what you just talked about
        • These also help reduce Format Fatigue and increase energy levels
      • Polling the class with Dot Votes
        • Turn questions like …. “What else do you want to learn?” or “What would you like to spend more time on?” into dot votes or post ups
          • Post-Up: ask the audience a question, and everyone responds by writing something down on a sticky note. They then come forward and stick it on the wall. E.g. What’s the big question that you’ want to have answered? Write it down and then come up here and stick it on the wall. You don’t need to wait until I call on you, just come on up whenever you’re done writing.”
          • The Post-Up can give you a mind-reading super-power, you’ll know exactly what you need to cover to make this session a huge win for everyone in the room
          • You can use the wall to see if you’ve missed anything at the end, then use some Q&A time to cover it
          • What were you hoping you’d learn? Which we didn’t have a chance to cover?” “When you go home and try to put this into practice, what are you most worried about not being able to do?” “Any questions? Everyone has to write down at least one, so take a minute to think through what you’re still keen to hear about.”
        • Next time you’re tempted to schedule 20 minutes of Q&A, try something different by spending the first few minutes of it on a quick Post-Up
  • Format 4: “Try it now” for practicing hands-on skills
    • ‘Try it now’ is powerful and underused.
    • Use it when you introduce a concept which is even slightly skill-based. Even the most theoretical topic will depend on a few practical sub-skills
    • Give attendees a small task which allows them to immediately put it into practice in a safe, controlled environment
    • Use enough supportive restrictions that they can’t get too far off track
      • Create a task which is neither too easy nor too hard; erring too far in either direction will prevent learning.
      • Weave assistance into the exercise itself, guide attendees through an otherwise undoable task by adding clear intermediary tasks.
      • For example…
        Too Broad
        Just Right
        Write down the description of your perfect customer 5 minutes
        Where does your perfect customer hang out? In person and online? 90 Seconds
        Is your perfect customer already aware of the problem which you are solving, or will you need to educate them about it? Where do they go to learn about it, if anywhere? 90 Seconds
        If they know about the problem how are they dealing with it right now? if they don’t how is it affecting them? 120 Seconds
      • the step-by-step structure simplifies timekeeping and facilitation too
        • it also allows you to inject little bits of instruction, commentary, guidance, and discussion between each of the sub-steps
    • Try it now is similar to facilitate to the small group discussion: form groups, assign a task, watch and listen to them work, and then run a class-wide discussion about what just happened.
      • 5 minutes of practice can easily fill 10-15 minutes of classroom time
    • You can do a major recurring exercise within your workshop, or a quick, 2-5 minute micro-exercise.
    • You can also do a few repetitions → with each one they’ll become more proficient, and you can reduce the level of assistance to keep them in that sweet spot of difficulty
    • The goal is to get them comfortable to do it themselves when they leave
  • Format 5: Scenario challenges for critical thinking, evaluation, judgement, and decision-making
    • The difference between try it now and scenario challenge:
    • Try it now
      tell everyone what they need to do
      builds skill
      Scenario Challenge
      ask them to figure out what they ought to do
      builds judgement
    • You can’t teach experience or good judgment, but you can provide opportunities for students to gain that experience, and to reflect upon it
    • The very simplest version of a scenario challenge is a prompt to decide, “What would you do if ______?”. This small group task would then be followed by class-wide discussion.
    • Or you could share a complex scenario, and progress through several stages of challenges like this example…
      • Scenario: Here’s a menu marked up with the profit margins of each dish, the preparation time, and their popularity. The restaurant is losing money.
        • Challenge 1: Evaluation: What’s the problem with the current menu? Identify the biggest issues in your groups, and then we’ll talk about it as a class.
        • Challenge 2: Decision: Given the above, what would you do to fix the menu and improve the restaurant’s long-term profitability? Again, work in groups and then we’ll discuss as a class.

      The first task is about evaluating the situation, identifying what matters, and demonstrating insight about the situation itself. Pausing for a class-wide discussion at this point will help recover any groups who are stuck in a dead-end while also allowing you to chime in with some relevant insights of your own.

    • Longer scenario challenges are super engaging if designed well and can easily act as the backbone for an entire 45-90 minute section of your workshop
      • Students won’t get format fatigue as you’re shifting between explanation, group work, and class discussion.
      • Simple scenarios can fit on a slide. Complex ones will generally a handout for teams to review at their own pace
    • Scenario challenges take a while to design but are re-suable.
    • Facilitation is easy and rewarding
    • Good challenges are extremely high-energy and fun for attendees
  • Add exercises and build your detailed schedule
    • Use your workshop outline skeleton as a base for exercise design.
      • Each takeaway in your skeleton be taught by or supported with an exercise in one of the non-lecture teaching formats
      • You need to pick the best teaching format for each takeaway, fill in some facilitation details and then design the full prompt and any supporting materials
      • Work across the whole workshop in a series of passes and focus on how the whole thing is fitting together before you go deep
      • Start by identify takeaways that must be in a certain teaching format
        • Knowledge → taught by lecture (and small group discussions)
        • Skill → taught by try it now
        • Judgement/decision-making → taught by scenario challenges (or try it now)
      • Think it needs to be a lecture? Turn into a small discussion by thinking about…
        • What are the personal implications, applications, or questions around this piece of knowledge?
        • Is there a meaty and interesting discussion to be had around the implications of the knowledge to the people in the room?
      • Then redraw your schedule. Sketch the timeline and mark where your exercises might fall.
      • Allow 5-15 minutes per exercise (consider facilitation extras like a stand and share, adding your own commentary or giving people time to say hello)
      • Find and fix long segments of one format.
        • Switch up the format
        • Split with a break
        • Insert an exercise you don’t strictly need of a different format
      • Add Q&A and other supporting activities. Aim for 15mins per 90mins of workshop
        • Get a Post Up or a Dot Vote onto the schedule
    • Continue adjusting the schedule and exercises until you’re happy with the shape
  • This detailed schedule is the the 100% finished Workshop Skeleton
    • You can get a sense of what the workshop will feel like
    • Remember:
      • The teaching format must match the Learning Outcomes
      • Ensure there’s lots of format variation
  • Once you’ve agreed your teaching format, move through the checklist facilitation details:
  • Prompt or Task
    Discuss this case study, think about X, and decide on Y
    Group Size
    Working in pairs
    Task time limit
    5 minutes
    Facilitation extras
    Followed by a stand & share and class discussion
    Supporting materials
    case study delivered as a paper handout
    Total exercise time
    15 minutes (introduce, run, stand and share, and discus)
  • Finally: make the slides that guide the workshop participants and tell them what to do

On Making Slides

  • Most people spend too long, making too many slides, with too many talking points, and have to rush through
  • Reduce slides to the essentials
  • Use them to help facilitation → hit major points, stay on schedule, pause for exercises)
  • Use them to help attendees → spot major takeaways, remember exercise instructions, reduce stress around note taking
  • Essential slides:
    1. Summaries of learning outcomes and supporting arguments
      • Move your learning outcomes into slides
      • Keep it simple
      • Show one when concluding each talking point or takeaway from your Skeleton
      • A chance to pause, summarise, and check for confusion
      • They make a good backdrop to focused micro Q&As
      • They force you to explicitly state your message
      • Make it clear what the attendees are supposed to learn
      Exercise prompts (instruction, rules, discussion topics)
      • Include at least one prompt slide for every exercise
      • Form groups before showing the slide
      • Prompts must fit on a slide, but be clear enough to avoid any confusion
      • They require skilful copywriting and iteration
      • If the prompt is too complex to fit on a slide then you need to simplify or split the task. Alternatively, use a paper handout.
      Resource lists (recommended books, your contact info)
      • Attendees love resource lists: recommended books, blogs, tools, where to learn more
      • They’ll take notes and pictures of them
      • . While lengthy lists may require a paper handout, shorter ones can fit on a slide. A resource list is rarely required for your workshop to succeed, but it’s a nice way to wrap things up and acts as a high-value takeaway. (Location 970)
    2. If your topic demands it: Visual examples for visual topics (fashion, architecture)
  • Don’t put everything you’ll say on the slide.
  • Don’t make them beautiful until all of the essential content is there
Example # of slides for a 2-hour workshop with 4 major Learning Outcomes…
  • 15 summary slides for the crucial takeaways
    • 4 for my main Learning Outcomes
    • 11 for additional key ideas and supporting arguments
  • 15 slides for exercise prompts
    • 9 for small group tasks
    • 2 for individual work
    • 4 for full-room discussions
  • 3 slides listing resources
    • 1 with suggested reading
    • 2 with my contact details (standard intro/outro slides)
  • Building the essential slides should take less than an hour. If not you…
    • haven’t put together a real Skeleton
    • or you’re fiddling with style and layout. Both are huge time traps
  • Once you’re happy with your Skeleton and have built the essential slides, you can spend as much (or as little) time as you like making them beautiful, personal, and fun
  • Don’t feel obligated to include an image on every slide (stock photography won’t help)
  • Titles should contain the message, not the topic
    • This stops you introducing every new slide instead of just getting to the point

Summary of Part 1 (By the author)

  • Start by defining your Audience Profile (who):
    • Describes who is attending the workshop
    • How experienced they are
    • Why they are bothering to show up
    • Any concerns or objections the audience may have
  • Next, insert breaks to divide the available time into Schedule Chunks (when):
    • Draft your schedule quickly by first allocating your coffee and lunch breaks
    • 60-90 minutes of workshop between breaks is the sweet spot
  • Given those constraints, decide on the concrete Learning Outcomes and takeaways (what):
    • Learning Outcomes are the sharp, specific, high-value takeaways that the audience has shown up for
    • Add supporting arguments to each Learning Outcome to highlight key ideas or talking points
  • Combine into a Workshop Skeleton:
    • Complete your Workshop Skeleton by inserting your Learning Outcomes into your Schedule Chunks
    • Remix and cut content until everything fits into the Chunks
  • Pick the best Teaching Formats to maintain education, energy, and attention:
    • Vary teaching formats at least every 20 minutes to keep the audience feeling fresh
    • Select Teaching Formats that match what is being taught — you can’t teach yoga with a lecture
    • Lectures are great for delivering “book” knowledge and addressing takeaways from exercises
    • Small group & pair discussions allow audiences to engage with topics from lectures
    • “Try it now” exercises allow new skills to be practiced
    • Scenario challenges develop critical thinking and decision-making.
    • Question & answer sections add flexibility to your schedule
  • Before getting stuck in style and layout, create the most essential slides:
    • A slide deck only needs to contain the absolute essentials — less is more in a workshop
    • Essential slides include summarising Learning Outcomes and supporting arguments; exercise prompts; and important resource lists
    • Flavour slides are fun, nice-to-have visual that enhance examples, storytelling, and personality
A few sessions later, this workshop had become hugely effective for the students, and second nature for me. Far from the stressful, overwhelming experience of fighting against the originally flawed design, these full days of teaching were even starting to become pleasant.

Part Two: Facilitation Essentials

  • How to introduce yourself without making everyone hate you
    • Keep it short and add more personal details in the workshop when they can help the learning outcome
    • Aim for just enough credibility for the audience to give you the benefit of the doubt
    • Include only your name and one or two relevant details which suggest you have something worth saying
    • Craft your intro to cover the crowd’s most likely concern
  • Don’t treat your audience as bigger than it is
12 or less
Dinner Party
Give instruction but also sit alongside and talk to them in a normal, conversational tone.
12-20
Birthday Dinner
You’ll need to stand up and demand attention to make yourself heard. You can still have individual interactions Use clusters of cabaret seating, or get around a big boardroom table.
20-50
House Party
Can’t talk to everyone. But people can find you if they need to. Address in smaller groups or seize their attention as a group. Facilitation matters at this scale!
50+
Wedding
You need to be more structure. You need a stage and a microphone. You can’t get to everyone, so facilitation and execution are key.
  • Up to 30 attendees, crowd control is generally fastest and most effective if you treat distracted participants as individuals
  • When people are doing an activity walk through the room, visiting each group, watch them work, check on their progress, scan for problems, proactively unstick them.
  • Seating and group formation
    • Create “natural” groups, organise the grouping yourself and find a home for any isolated individuals
    • The best seating is cabaret (clusters of attendees around individual tables) with six people per table. Six allows you to rearrange them as pairs, triplets, or a full half-dozen without requiring anyone to switch seats.
    • The absolute worst arrangements are lecture auditoriums with fixed seating.
    • People hate being moved after they’ve already taken a seat, so do it on arrival
    • Be firm and be willing to stand your ground until everyone is sitting where you need them
    • Make sure stranded individuals have a home
    • Conceal what you’re asking them to do while giving one (polite) instruction at a time. Repeat yourself at each step until everyone has done it. It sounds a bit like a crazy person’s rant, but it works:
    • Rearrangement takes a couple minutes and affects your energy levels.
    • Rearranging groups each time you take a break. Fresh groups help lift the energy, vary the perspectives that folks are exposed to, and also to spread the damage wrought by hostile attendees and group dominators
    • When you notice a group dominator, just sit down with that group, gently-but-firmly cutting off the alpha and creating space for the contributions of the rest of the group.
      • the silent dominator is the secretary who controls what gets written down during exercises → encourage everyone to pick up a pen and write it down before talking about it
  • On venues… get natural light, limitless coffee, good snacks. Limit venue distractions (noisy coffee machine in the back of the room). Make sure you have the right materials. You need enough space, wall space, table space, and space to move around and rearrange people.
  • Getting more from your exercises
    • Walk the room during exercises
      • Check they’ve understood
      • Overhear ideas and prompt them later in stand and share
      • Gives shy folk a chance to ask you
    • Run a brief stand and share discussion afterwards
      • Hear from a subset of teams
      • Motivates people to work harder in other exercises
      • A chance to spread good ideas
      • How to sample two or three groups
        1. Pick a confident person to go first (get them to stand up and face the class)
        2. Then pick an individual or group that hasn’t spoken up but is alert and engaged
          1. Prime a volunteer if you need (during the walk around) so they know it’s coming
        3. Then open up: Who overheard something in their group that was interesting or different?
    • You can get people to speak about the experience of the process, not the details if they’re personal
    • Do a round of applause after each stand and share
  • Answering student questions
    • Eloquent answers come from preparing a list of stories
      • Rifle through them to see what’s relevant
      • You don’t have to be the protagonist, give attribution if you can
      • More sophisticated audiences are going to have read all the books, so they won’t be impressed with referencing those
    • Questions you choose not to answer
      • That’s a fair question, but a bit specific. Let’s chat afterwards, I don’t need to rush off.
      • That’s a great question, we’re going to talk about that later, remind me if we don’t answer it in enough detail later.
      • I’d love to keep going, but we need to charge onwards so we can get through everything on time.
      • I can see we see it differently which is fine, lets thrash it out after the class
    • Questions you can’t answer
      • I’ve never found a good answer here. One thing I’ve seen people do it…
      • I have no idea, and I really should, let me research that during the break and report back
      • I don’t know but I think I know someone who will. I’ll send you what I learn
  • How to recover the crowd after an exercise
    • Get going before everyone is paying attention. Talk over people, and they’re potentially going to keep ignoring you. People will realise they’re missing out and start tuning in
    • Or ask someone who is paying attention to “stand and share”, you gain the moral authority to firmly cut off anyone still talking over them. After all, they’re now being rude to one of their peers.
      • “Hey, everyone, Jessica has the stage, pay attention for a minute please.”
    • Using your own authority to bring attention back to yourself is a dangerous gambit
    • The mundane task of recovering your audience from a coffee break is one of the most complicated facilitation challenges you’ll ever face.
      • Make it clear when they need to get back, give them a 3 minute warning
      • Borrow someone’s credibility by singling someone out who is near to the break area and saying: “Hey, would you mind popping into the other room (or wherever the break area is) and letting them know we’ve started?”
      • Never single people out or harass them for being late
  • Overcoming hostility, skepticism, and troublemakers
    • You can almost always find a way to calm a hostile attendee, so long as you’re able to identify what’s gone wrong
    • Trouble
      Approach
      The audience doesn’t want to be there
      Acknowledge their concerns with an intro, skip straight to major value
      A person asking specific questions not relevant to others
      Suggest spending 1 on 1 time to solve the issues, get them to find you afterwards
      A person who doesn’t engage
      Figure out if they’re just spectating or they’re afraid.
      The person who knows it all already
      Put them on a pedestal, include them in the teaching as an expert, and ask for their opinion and experiences where possible
      Trouble-maker being disruptive
      Call an early coffee break, talk to them to understand their concerns. Suggest the workshop isn’t for them
      A group that doesn’t seem to be happy with something
      Talk to them during the break, human to human and try to understand their concerns / objections
  • I know you’re all are super busy. If you need to step out to answer an email or take a call or anything else, please feel free to do so. I won’t be offended.
  • When brought into teach a crowd of experts:
    • Acknowledge: You guys are obviously miles ahead of me in your lives/careers/businesses and have a ton of stuff going on that I wouldn’t even know where to start with…
    • Reframe: “...So I’m not here to try to solve all your problems or to tell you what to do.”
    • Scope down to an area where you can add clear value: “But I’ve been obsessing over the question of X, and I’m hoping that if you’ll let me share the theory/ skills/ thinking/ examples/etc., that you’ll be able to find a couple useful tools to bring back to your own worlds”
  • You look a bit suspicious about what I just said. Have you had different experiences, or maybe come across situations where this doesn’t work so well?
  • Staying on schedule:
    • Keep time by using two countdown clocks (one to time the section and one to time the exercise)
    • Announce late starts with clear expectations of new start time as soon as you know them
    • Recover time by cutting content
      • Reduce or remove Q&As
      • Cut out an anecdote
      • Delete an exercise
      • Or remove a learning outcome
    • Running late? Tell them, check for impact, be flexible about folks leaving, provide a safety net (send a write up) ask for permission
  • Manufacture charisma:
    • Charisma comes from projecting three qualities:
      • Power (authority, credibility)
      • Warmth (friendliness, openness)
      • Presence (the audience feels like you are undistracted and paying full attention to them)
    • Warmth and presence must be actively fostered. It’s easy though; all it takes is a clicker and a watch
      • Get a clicker and stand in front of your computer not of behind it
      • Stop using your phone as a clock and timer
      • Walk the room during exercises, get away from the stage and among the audience
      • Limit behaviours which come across as defensive or jumpy.
        • Listen to people asking a question, pause before responding
        • Reduce verbal and physical fidgets
  • Protect your own energy by hiding during breaks
    • Teaching all day is exhausting. Breaks should theoretically help you as much as they help your audience. Hide somewhere private
  • Get help. Different roles you should consider if you need them:
    • Co-teachers: An expert like you who can run a chunk of the workshop
      • Don’t undermine each other, appoint a lead for each section
      • Get them to take notes on your performance
    • Expert guests: Answer questions, tell stories, deliver lectures
      • Lend credibility
      • Have them compliment a learning outcome
    • Facilitation help: Walk the room, explain instructions, help you handle large crowds
    • Operational help: run off to deal with random things that can go wrong
  • When things go wrong:
    • The audience will mirror your panic, if you’re good with it, they’ll be good with it
    • Stall: Hey, this is unexpected. Let’s have a coffee break, and I’ll update you as soon as possible
    • Reduce expose to bad luck:
      • Travel on the day before you need to
      • Design and refine the workshop in advance
      • Bring your own adapters, plugs and cables (don’t need the internet)
      • Simplify the facilitation
      • Don’t trust venues to solve your problems
    • Run a retrospective after every workshop
      • Do it with your co-teacher or with yourself
      • Aim for a small number of clearly defined high impact changes
      • Over time the improvements will compound you’ll become consistent

Summary of Part 2 (by the Author) Makes a great facilitation checklist

  • The week before:
    • Confirm audience profile and numbers with event organiser
    • Confirm the room setup with the organiser or venue
    • Confirm that stationary, supplies, and printouts are ordered and accounted for
  • Your workshop bag:
    • Clicker (and batteries)
    • Backup slides (on a USB stick and in the cloud)
    • Projector adaptors (for both VGA and HDMI)
    • Power adaptors
    • Classroom timer and exercise timer
    • Fresh whiteboard markers (just in case)
    • Bluetooth speaker (if using videos or music)
    • Stationary and supplies (if you’re the one bringing it)
  • The morning of:
    • Put a physical copy of your Workshop Skeleton in your pocket (including Learning Outcomes, section timings, and key exercises)
    • Upon arrival: Visually confirm the room setup (and make any emergency improvements)
    • Test the projector, clicker, wifi, power, and any other required equipment
    • Close any extraneous computer programs (especially those with unpredictable notifications like chat, email, and file-synching)
    • Mute your phone and, if using it as an exercise timer, change the settings so you won’t have to keep unlocking it to check the time
    • Confirm that coffee and/or food will be available when expected
  • During your workshop:
    • If you’re going to start late, tell people Intros should be short; the value is in your content, not you
    • Stop standing behind the podium (use a clicker and stand at the front of the stage) Stop glancing at your phone (use a watch or classroom timer)
    • Finish group formation before assigning a task; manually fix uneven groups and stranded individuals
    • During an exercise, walk the room to listen in on students working When asking a student to share, have them stand and speak toward the crowd
    • You can control a crowd by going individual
    • To silence a distracted crowd, just start talking (in circles) or ask a student volunteer to share (borrowing goodwill)
    • Nobody in the audience wants to be hostile or disengaged, so there’s usually a good reason which you can discover (and resolve) if you search for it
    • Protect your breaks by hiding out of sight
    • Finishing on time is extremely valuable, and often worth cutting content to achieve
    • Most “bad luck” can be solved via either better preparation or by bringing along a co-teacher, expert guest, or helper
    • When bad luck strikes anyway, shrug it off and find a way to continue teaching