Over the last few years I’ve attended several workshops covering a wide span of objectives. Leading from the front sometimes and warming the benches at the far back at other occasions.
Never led one though.
At Teach for India, where I’m now consulting on a crowd funding project (yes I can finally give you the name!) I need to organise a goal setting workshop. This Friday.
And as I’m working towards creating the ‘deck’, all I can think about is how different (and challenging) it is from preparing for a regular meeting.
Here are a few key learnings I’ve had while preparing for this, which will hopefully help you all as you work towards steering your own workshops.
- Moderators need to be at their social best: Right from the ice-breaker to the ideation huddles, successful workshop moderators need to be extremely social. Think hyper-active chatty aunty. Because you have to get the others to open up. So make that a hyperactive charming chatty aunty. People have got to feel great and start giving inputs if the best solution is to be arrived at. And the role of the moderator is to get people to open up, share and feel valued.
- Social by design: Not just the moderator, each (or most) segment must be designed with a democratic perspective; where the outcome is contingent on the well-thought inputs of several people. Not only does this more exciting than a regular meeting, but allows people to sub-consciously align to one stream of thought.
- Allow time to think: 2 day workshops are often crunched into 2 hour chats and that changes the texture of the outcome. While one can’t always win against clashing schedules; there must be a conscious attempt to allow for breathers where people can just mull over thoughts, chew the cud, ruminate over the reality – you know what I’m saying. Purely from a quality of thought perspective, it allows people to digest multiple streams of ideas or come up with new ones.
- Getting the right people in the room: Everyone loves a workshop. Mostly because it usually comes with the promise of pizza. But you can’t have everyone in the room. Not just because it is unreasonable to buy pizza for 45 people (have you ordered Dominos lately?!!) but also because the noise is bound to drown the real thoughts. Not everyone is equally invested in the cause or equally responsible for it. Find the people who matter most and whose lives are most impacted by the outcome of this decision and get them there.
- Define constraints: You have to define the box to allow people to jump outside it. When you outline the boundaries of thought – you create an urge to think hard and cross over to the other side.
- Rein in the discussions: Everyone gets disqualified if the horses start running outside the track. The moderator must focus and bring back the wanderers.
- Leave with a conclusion/next steps: Definitely close the discussion and define the next steps for all participants so that actionable steps can be taken once you all leave the room.
- Reserve Judgement: Don’t judge. Not in the large part of the workshop. Let people ideate, think freely and feel great about their ideas. These can all be distilled collectively to discover the most resonating ideas.
Now let me get back to preparing for the workshop and make sure I capture all of the above. Will keep you posted on how it all went.