Working with people is what I value most. While working with people I gather the most insights, trigger the understanding of new patterns of behavior, learn about new perspectives and can reflect on my own motivation and opinions. However, working with people is what exhausts me, too. I'm getting better at it, but I usually need a time of reflection and meditation after an intense workshop situation.
Here is a collection of thoughts and priorities that I have collected and that should help me to become better in preparing and running workshops.
- You are the moderator. You are responsible for achieving results. You are responsible for the development of every single attendee. Make everybody become a better version of himself.
- Listen closely, don't judge, don't evaluate. There is always a reason for people behaving like they do.
- There are two things a group may require: Focus or pathfinding (openness). You have to permanently monitor these states. Does the group need more focus? Or does it need pathfinding? If they need pathfinding, use games and methods to open the minds, look beyond tellerrands, find more options and alternatives. If they need focus, narrow down options and discussion layers, remove ambiguity, lead to alignment and commitment, achieve small milestones of understanding.
- Know your toolset. Though preparation is a key factor, during the workshop you will need the spontaneous flexibility of a problem solver. Have your toolset ready when facing group situations that you have not planned for.
Sources of preparation
While preparing a workshop you have to consider the needs of the group. Listen closely to the briefing and try to understand in which state the group is in.
The Atlassian Playbook: Plays
A large resource with different exercises for all the different situations. Usually these plays are good for groups that need focus.
Another large list of games, plays & exercises to achieve mainly intermediate results to bring the group forward.
Usually meant to let you run a retrospective, the Retromat lets you find lots of single exercises to open your mind as well as to set focus. A beautiful resource that is also inspiring when preparing for a workshop.
The Hyperisland Toolbox
An extensive resource on exercises sorted by use cases and a very good filter engine that lets you select by categories, group size and time frame.
Usually you have to pay for resources and facilitation methods, but there are several free exercises as well.
An open library of facilitation exercises. Lots of activities sorted by use cases.
Design Method Toolkit
A large resource collection of exercises, games and facilitation methods aiming especially at agile teams.
Facilitation tools for meetings and workshops
This is actually a book. A great overview on what to do if you have to run a workshop. 45 pages full of advice and good-to-know sections.
Some minor habits may save the day. Use carefully.
- Plan enough breaks. It's easier to work through a scheduled break (with the commitment of the group) than to squeeze one in.
- Heavyweight workshop? Meditate the hour before the start.
- Clarify smartphone and media rules up front.