A framework for creating effective workshops
The Workshop Creation Playbook
How can you create a workshop, from scratch, that will blow away your team with less than 60 minutes of preparation time?
The Workshop Creation Playbook is a proven recipe you can follow to create your own workshops - that work every time.
So let's go.
Last week, we talked about the five levels of autonomy when it comes to distributed work, and how the winning companies today have figured out better
ways of working together.
The Workshop Wednesday community
This week I'll walk you through a Workshop Wednesday template, which you can copy today to create your own workshops.
And don't worry if you have never done this before, it's easier than you think.
This template is a combination of best practices that I've built up through the years, and one of the biggest inspirations for the structure of the template is this book, "The Workshops Survival Guide" by Rob Fitzpatrick and Devin Hunt, how to design and teach workshops that work every time.
If you've read the book then you will recognize the first part, it's about designing workshops, that's covered in the template.
And the second part is about facilitation and teaching.
I'm not sponsored by these guys, but you can find the link
to the book down below, and you can read it.
For this video however I'm gonna walk through the Workshop Wednesday template and you can follow along.
The 8 steps
- Create an Audience Profile
- Schedule Time Chunks
- Define Learning Outcomes
- Create Workshop Outline
- Gather Feedback
- Decide on Workshop Skeleton
- Match Workshop Formats
- Set up Slides or Digital Whiteboard
We're gonna create a workshop about working remote.
With these eight steps you can prepare any workshop from a one-hour workshop until multi-day workshop like a Design Sprint.
You can create high-energy and result-driven workshops within the hour, and once you get the hang of it, you often need less.
The template is available as a Google Docs format, which you can also download as a PDF.
In this video we're gonna walk through step-by-step, we're gonna create our own workshop about working remote.
But what you can see is that there are seven steps before you set up any slides or your digital whiteboard like Miro and MURAL.
And that's because it's hard to look at the big picture
while staring at a single slide.
Creating slides is a time sponge, maybe you recognize this because it will absorb
every second you have, and it could also be possible that you don't even
need the slides at all.
So we're gonna save that for the last.
But what you see is that
every step is timeboxed, so for this step you only
need two to five minutes.
And because of that, you will focus on the overall design of your workshop.
And that will save you a huge amount of time in the meeting itself, because you've designed it in such a way that it's high-energy and result-driven.
1. Create an Audience Profile
Okay, audience profile, let's start with this first step.
And this is an important step because if you don't know the needs of the people in the room, you can't design a great workshop.
So who's in the audience? How experienced are they? Why are they bothering to show up? And what are their
concerns and objections? For this video we're gonna create a workshop about working remote.
So let's say we are talking
about knowledge workers who are forced to work from home, they are in level two or three of the five levels of distributed work.
So they are recreating the office, or they have a lot of Zoom meetings.
And why are they bothering to show up? Well they don't want to be
in Zoom meetings all day, and they want more peace of mind when it comes to working from home.
Their concerns and objections could be that it's hard to work together without having a meeting, it's hard to see if someone is productive if you can't see them, and they miss maybe the social element and the smalltalk when working from home.
If you're unsure about
any of these questions, then just send a simple message to one of the people who is involved and ask them what they think.
Taking breaks is one of
the most underused tools when it comes to productivity.
2. Schedule Time Chunks
So in step two, we're gonna start with planning in the breaks beforehand, and this way you keep the energy levels high and you are more productive as a result.
Normally you need a break every 60 to 90 minutes when working in a group setting, and when working remote you even need more breaks.
So 10 minutes for every hour.
So for the workshop, in our example, we could go for a check-in at 10.30, a five-minute check-in, we do the first part of the workshop, then we add a break around 11, we do the second part, we do a five-minute check-out, and we end the workshop at the 12 o'clock.
So this is the global structure of our workshop, we didn't decide yet on what we're gonna do in this part, but we added the breaks and this way we can make sure that we can keep everyone's attention.
Okay, this is a tough, but essential part of designing your workshop.
You see, it's even in this text so it must be true.
3. Define Learning Outcomes
In step three we're gonna define learning outcomes.
And you have to think beforehand what you wanna achieve in your workshop.
You need to have focused and sharp learning outcomes because this way you prevent information overload and endless discussions.
And a simple way to do that is to first make a draft of your learning outcomes and then rewrite them and make them more focused and measurable.
So for our workshop our draft learning outcomes for working remote could be the levels of autonomy with distributed work, alternatives to meetings, and to replace one meeting.
And if you make them more specific, you can get a better grasp of how much time they will take you, because if you have to identify what level of autonomy you are in, then you first have to understand what you've just heard, and then you have to apply it yourself.
That takes more time than just listening to something.
You can apply three alternative to meetings.
That means you have to practice skills, so you probably need a chunk of time for that.
And I decided to split this one up into two bullet points, two learning outcomes, because then it's more clear and more actionable about what you're gonna do in that step.
In a later video, we will deep dive into topics on how you can make this easier for yourself, for example, with Bloom's taxonomy.
But for now, just try to make it more concrete and make it more sharp yourself.
4. Create Workshop Outline
In step four we're gonna add supportive arguments to the learning outcomes and create a workshop outline.
Okay, what does that mean? A workshop outline is something like this.
What are we gonna do in a workshop? We've got our learning outcomes over here and the supportive arguments help us to expand on what we're gonna do here.
So for example, if we wanna identify what level of autonomy they are in then they first...
I think it's good that they heard that recreating the office online burns you out so that they learn about the levels of autonomy, and what the benefits of asynchronous communication are.
Or for the alternative to meetings you can show three specific alternatives.
And what you see here is that you, almost directly that it translates into slides.
So this could be a slide, just literally stating this.
Or we could have a slide with the benefits of asynchronous communication.
Or it could be an exercise.
So this could be an exercise where people are gonna make their work transparent using Trello.
5. Gather Feedback
And step five is super simple, but almost nobody ever does it.
And that's to get a feedback about the workshop before doing the actual workshop, because this way you can learn if you're on the right track before investing a lot of time.
I've included an example message right here, just copy-paste it, put your workshop outline below and send the message.
6. Decide on Workshop Skeleton
In step six we're gonna decide on the workshop skeleton, and we're gonna do that by grabbing the time chunks and smashing it together with the workshop outline.
A great example of a workshop skeleton is this one from Sprint, Jake Knapp.
And in his checklist he shows everything from preparation, the supplies you need, to the exercises you're gonna do in the sprint.
And the schedules are I guess approximate.
So you start at 10 o'clock sharp, but then you got some wiggle room in the next exercises.
So that's well thought out and then also breaks are built in every 60 to 90 minutes.
And every exercise before the break ends on a high.
So this way it's also easy to keep the energy in the group.
The workshop skeleton from Sprint has been a career changer for me.
And since then, I've done more than 50 design sprints and counting.
And that's also why I started the Workshop Wednesday community to provide templates to workshop skeletons from this kind of level.
So let's get back to our workshop about remote work.
We have our time chunks and we're gonna smash them together with the workshop outline that we have.
And you can see I've already done a bit of the work here.
In workshop part one, before the break I added this learning outcome and then the other three learning outcomes I added them after the break.
And now I've done that, I could see that maybe it's a bit much in the part two of the workshop.
I know from experience that this step and this step takes around 10 minutes when done well.
So that means we only have 20 minutes for this part left.
So what I can do now is either decide to skip things, or I can decide to move a part of this before the break and make things flow better.
So that's the sanity check, do a sanity check on your workshop skeleton after adding the time chunks and then see if it's possible to achieve all your learning outcomes.
7. Match Workshop Formats
Okay, step seven, we're almost there, and luckily this is also one of my guilty pleasures, workshop formats.
I can browse the whole day looking for new kinds of workshop formats.
As a matter of fact, I used to start with the workshop formats first, and then went looking for outcomes I wanted to achieve with the workshop.
And this worked most of the times, it was not always as effective as it could have been.
And the times it didn't work, it was a complete failure resulting in low energy in the group, and a lot of endless discussion.
Having settled that, workshop formats are a great shortcut for being more productive.
And you can see them as building blocks, which you can stack upon each other.
You want to avoid a teaching yoga with a lecture setting by picking the right workshop formats for your learning outcomes.
And to maintain energy and focus you want to switch workshop formats every 20 minutes.
And do it in such a way that you don't repeat the workshop format every time.
So instead of doing three times the same exercise and then switching up, try to mix it and match it.
This will boost energy and refresh everyone's attention.
These five workshop formats will be sufficient for most of your workshops, lectures, small group discussions, try-it-now exercises, voting exercises, and working together, alone.
In another video, I will go more in depth about workshop formats, for now we're gonna apply the workshop formats to our workshop skeleton so that you can get a grasp of what it means.
So for the first one I've chosen for a lecture because this is something I'm gonna be telling.
Hopefully it's gonna be a compelling story, so it grabs the attention of the group.
It's gonna be setting the stage, so this is an important part.
And then I want to split up in small group discussions so that people can talk about what they just learned and they can describe the benefits themselves.
And then we gonna collect the benefits and we can put them on the wall.
For part two of the workshop I've decided to keep this after the break, with a together, alone workshop format.
Together, alone helps people to take some time to make things concrete by themselves, before sharing it to the group.
You have some silence time.
And we're gonna split up in two or three clusters where the people are gonna come up with ideas on how this can apply to their way of working.
And then we're gonna share it with each other.
So within 50 minutes you'll have an idea of what's the possibilities people shared with each other, so it's better applicable.
And then we're gonna move forward.
And in this way the workshop format helps in overcoming a challenge in the agenda.
8. Set up Slides or Digital Whiteboard
And this brings us to the last and final step of the Workshop Creation Playbook, and this is to set up your slides and whiteboard.
You already know what you wanna achieve in a workshop and how you're gonna do it, so it may be possible that you don't even need the slides at all.
However, if you're a bit like me, then you like the slides and you like the whiteboard, it gives you some kind of structure.
So in the coming weeks, I will be sharing templates in MURAL, in Google Slides, in Google Docs, which you can use for your own workshops.
If you like this video, then share it with a colleague. It really helps to spread the word.
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