Module 5: Conent For Your Session
For the content of your session, you need to have some materials ready. Using the example above, you might have some slides introducing various types of technological tools to introduce to your audience.
During the content, the goal is to focus on your topic of expertise and provide helpful, actionable solutions for your attendees. Give them something that will offer instant results they can see and feel. This is how to provide great takeaways for your participants.
You can use success stories or client case studies in order to illustrate concepts and how they can be effectively implemented.
Although you want to emphasize the value of the information you’re offering, be careful that your session doesn’t turn into a formal presentation. The focus is on learning, discussion, and immediacy of results.
If you’re doing a workshop as part of a promotion of your products and services, keep that portion short and at the end. However, you can still find opportunities to show the value you offer during your workshop.
After telling the participants how you’ve helped small businesses by teaching them tech tools, give your participants a survey they can use to help them decide which tools they should use. Then, focus on a few key tools and give them some tactics they can immediately use to gain leads. In other words, show participants how you can help vs. just telling them.
This not only offers useful information but also drops the hint that you have more valuable information to offer. The key is to keep any self-promotion short compared to the activities, which should be the meat of the content.
For the content portion of your session, you might be tempted to use a more presentation style approach based around the speaker. However, you should keep the focus on the participants and seek engagement from them wherever possible.
Personalize your content as much as possible. By the start of the session, you should know each individual participant to some degree.
For example, you might refer to something a particular participant has told you, such as, “Bob, you mentioned that you work in a sales training organization. From working with clients of yours, I’ve found this tool to be particularly effective because it helped them….[result achieved]. What tools have you used?” This brings each audience member into the session and keeps them tuned in.
During your introduction, feel out the participants and find out specific things they want to learn about or take away from the session. For example, you might mention to participants you chatted with: “You mentioned that you’re looking for a good project management tool. I’d love to hear your feedback on a free tool I’m about to introduce.”
A good way to engage your participants is to ask them questions. Try to ask open-ended questions that invite the participant to explain a situation or opinion. You might say something like, “During the introduction you mentioned that you’re struggling to set up marketing automation. What is your biggest challenge?”
Break your audience into pairs and have them discuss a question or problem. Then, have each pair share with the class and have a group discussion. You might say, “I’d like you to turn to the person sitting beside you and ask them for the single biggest challenge they have with their business right now. I’ll give you thirty seconds and then let’s discuss together.”
Although you’ll plan your content well in advance, keep it flexible so that you can engage your audience depending on what happens during the session. Leave time and room to be spontaneous.
This is the real meat of facilitation. This is where you assign your participants tasks and have them do the work themselves. You’ve presented the information they need to do the activity and now they’re ready to go off on your own.
No matter what the topic of your session, you’ll want some type of hands-on portion. This activity should be relevant to the session’s objectives. It should help them reach their objective, show them how to reach their objective, or get them started toward reaching that objective. In this way, the session’s content all ties in together.
In the example of the business consultant, we said that the objective was to have participants select tech tools and practice using them. So, your activity might involve having each participant use one of the tools you’ve presented and demonstrated, alone or with a partner. Then you would ask them to give feedback on what worked and didn’t work, where they ran into obstacles, etc.
Your activity can be done individually, in pairs, or in groups. Activities using the whole group are to be avoided because each individual participant will have little chance to participate directly. Breaking it up gives each person more chance to get involved and do their own work.
For a workshop’s main activity, it’s best to use pair work or group work rather than individual work. You can use individual work for quick answers to questions or simple tasks. For example, you might have each individual participant identify and articulate a goal which they would then share with a partner or with the group.
The advantage of pair work is that it gets people sharing ideas with each other in a low-pressure situation. It adds an element of fun with no risk. Plus, it evens out levels of motivation or skill. One weaker or quieter participant can work with a participant who is more actively involved.
You can use the same format as you did in the content example above in your activity. You can have pairs work together and share with the class, or take it one step further and have pairs share with other pairs. You can have each pair share with each other and get every participant talking to every other.
The other option is to have your participants break up into teams and then share with the entire group. This has the same advantages as pair work and works best for certain kinds of tasks. Often, the nature of the content covered dictates whether it’s better to use pairs or groups. For example, if you have presented content on tools for project management, marketing automation, and social media, you could break your group into three teams, one for each. Groups should include 3-5 participants.
You might also create rules for your groups to ensure that everyone is involved. For example, you can create a rule that each member must contribute at least one idea. Or you can assign a role for each member of the group (or have them choose), such as one person to demo the tool, one person to explain the tool, one person to explain why the group selected that tool, etc. This distributes the work equally among the members of the group.
In setting rules, make sure they're not too restrictive. You want to give your participants enough freedom to enjoy the activity and get the most out of it.
During the activity portion of the workshop, circulate around the room. Stop at each pair or group and listen. See if there is anything you can contribute to their discussion, be there for questions, and make sure that your participants are on-track. The activity isn’t break time for you and you shouldn’t be standing at the front of the room. Make yourself as available as possible.
Time management is important for the entire workshop, but it’s especially important here. Let your participants know how much time they have before the activity starts. You may also give them reminders during the activity, saying something like, “Okay, one more minute and then it’s time to wrap it up.” You might also choose to stretch out the activity if it’s going well. Maybe you can take time from another portion of the workshop since this is the most important part and it’s a shame to stop your participants if it’s going well.
At the end of your activity, allow time for each pair or group to share their findings. As the facilitator, try to make connections between pairs and groups. Keep the focus off yourself as the teacher or presenter.
For example, Group A may present their findings and these findings may contrast with those of Group B. After Group A presents, ask for Group B’s comments on how the results turned out differently. You can also ask each group open-ended questions to get them to talk and explore further.
At the end of your workshop, quickly wrap up. Summarize what was learned and keep it focused on your participants. For example, you could do a speed round where you have every participant share one thing that they learned, or one thing they can apply right away. Make sure that you finish by thanking everyone and if you’re doing a draw, do it during the wrap-up.
After your workshop, don’t forget to reach out to your participants and follow up with them. This is your opportunity to follow up with additional resources on the topic you presented, along with recommendations to help them get even greater results. A good way to do this is a “thank you” email with a link to resources, your newsletter, or products and services that can help them.
- What are some opportunities where you could facilitate a workshop? (Use the ideas from the module to pick one to focus on—meet ups, small business groups, conferences, professional groups in your community, conferences, sessions at a community college, etc).
- Use the structured template discussed in this module to create a workshop outline that includes opportunities for active discussion and engagement.