This is Part Two in a four part series in planning, facilitating, and evaluating a workshop, designed to assist you if you’re new to the world of workshop facilitation or want to find more ways to improve what you’re already doing.
In Part One, we focused on essential things to consider before planning your workshop. For Part Two, let’s discuss workshop flow and how best to structure your workshop for maximum impact. Many of the considerations from Part One will be sprinkled throughout Part Two, so be sure to check out Part One.
Before We Begin…
You need to know the topic of your workshop, how you want to get your information across, and as much about your participants as possible. Here are some important questions to think about. Knowing the answers to these questions beforehand will guide you in breaking down your workshop:
Are you facilitating a broad overview of a topic, or are you facilitating a workshop on a particular aspect of it?
Are you expected to focus more on skills building or behavioral change?
Are you facilitating a workshop for volunteers, service providers, or people who are directly impacted by the service or work?
Is attendance mandatory or do the participants have more control over their attendance (i.e., at a conference?)
Are you presenting a new concept that the participants may have some knowledge on, or will the participants be at a more advanced level?
Now that you have the answer to these questions, let’s look at the following scenario, and turn it into a workshop: You are facilitating a workshop on a college campus. Based on statistical data provided by the campus’ health services center, more first-year students are being tested for HIV, yet the percentages of HIV testing are lower for female first-year students.
Remember WWWWWWH? Using the example above, let’s focus on the WHO, WHY, and WHAT:
*WHO: Female first-year college students
*WHAT: HIV testing
*WHY: The percentages of HIV testing are lower among female first-year students
Our topic: HIV testing among first-year female college students
Now that we have our topic, let’s look at how we can develop this into a workshop. Below is a workshop breakdown template that I’ve been using for some time now. Let’s explore it while thinking about our topic. Having a workshop breakdown template comes in handy and can guide you in focusing more on developing your content, and less on figuring out what to do:
Workshop Breakdown Template
Introduction: Begin by introducing yourself, any organizational/school/community affiliations you have, and why you’re facilitating this workshop. This should be less than a minute, but no more than 90 seconds. This is the time to share why you’re there as well as your familiarity and/or personal connection with the topic. Did becoming a health peer educator in college and volunteering to help with rapid HIV testing on campus inspire you to facilitate this workshop? Did you know any female peers who were afraid to get tested on campus, or who were tested but never went back for their results, thus inspiring you to help increase HIV testing on college campuses for female students? Sharing why you’re invested in the topic shows participants how much you care, and it can also get them thinking about the subject matter as well.
Agenda Overview: Share with the participants what’s going to take place during the workshop, including the timeframe. You can write the agenda on a black board or on easel paper. You can also mention any breaks that will be taken; however, I recommend that you verbally tell participants that a break will be given. Listing the time of the break along with the rest of the timeframe may be distracting. Sharing the agenda should take less than a minute.
Ice Breaker: Ice breakers are good way for participants to introduce themselves to you and to each other. They shouldn’t be elaborate, but you should try to make them as lively as possible, especially for participants who are mandated to be at your workshop. You should connect the ice breaker to your topic. A sample ice breaker for our topic can be sharing your name and why you feel female college students on campus are not getting tested for HIV. This can get the participants thinking early and sets the expectation for their participation in the day’s workshop. The amount of time needed to complete the ice breaker will depend on the number of participants, but make sure that you gently move everyone along if you see that participants are sharing a little too much. You want to make sure that there’s time for the main activity.
Safe Space/Group agreements: Group agreements set the tone for the workshop and for how you and participants will treat each other during the workshop. They give the participants a sense of ownership of the workshop by identifying what they need from each other in order to feel comfortable participating in the workshop. Depending on the participants, I call this section either “group agreements” or “Safe Space”. If the topic is something that may generate deeply personal feelings within the group, calling this section Safe Space will let the participants know that their time with you will be valued and confidential. You can start off by listing an agreement, and then see what the participants come up with, and if the participants verve away from the agreements, you can gently remind them of the agreements they came up with. As with the ice breaker, the amount of time needed to come up with agreements depends on how much the participants are willing to share. Some examples include:
One mic (Only one person speaks at a time, both in the larger group and in small groups so that everyone is heard.)
What’s said here, stays here, but what’s learned here, leaves here (Confidentiality is important, and you want participants to feel that they are in a space where they can speak freely without being concerned about other participants sharing the information outside of the space, which is important for a topic of HIV testing. However, any information from you or the other participants that gives a “a-ha” moment (for our topics, it can be ways to encourage more female first year students on campus to get tested and to go back for their results) can be encouraged to be brought back to their peers and to their community.)
“Don’t yuck my yum” (A participant in one of my recent workshops shared this agreement. “Don’t yuck my yum” for her means to avoid putting down someone’s opinion or preference. Disagreements are ok when they’re presented in a respectable manner.)
Discussion:This part of the workshop allows you to share your knowledge on the topic, as well as generate dialogue among the participants. In this section, a group activity is something to consider in order to assess the views of the participants and see where their thinking is on the topic. Examples of group activities can include watching a short video on the topic and having a discussion around it, passing out relevant handouts, or doing something that is more interactive. A group activity I like to do is “Three Corners”, where I share statements related to the topic, and the participants decide if the statement is something they personally agree with. Here are some sample statements:
Female college students may not get tested for HIV because they are infected with HIV at lower rates compared to male college students. (What is the participant’s current knowledge about the topic?)
You can tell if someone is infected with HIV just by looking at their physical appearance. (What is a reason for why female college students may not seek HIV testing?)
I feel comfortable going to my school’s health services center to speak with a nurse about getting tested for HIV. (What can Health Services do to increase the percentages of female students who come in to get tested? Do students know that HIV testing is offered on campus?)
Main Activity: This is the bulk of the workshop, and should encourage participants to come up with creative ways to address the topic. The activity can be done individually or in small groups. An example of an activity for our topic can be to plan the ideal event to encourage female first-year college students to get tested for HIV on campus. This can range from bringing the director of Health Service to first-year dorms to discuss how HIV testing is important for HIV prevention, to even rapid HIV testing that ties into a reward: the first 50-100 female first-year college students who get a rapid HIV test and return for the results will receive a $500 gift certificate to the campus bookstore (We all know how expensive those class book can be).
(Keep in mind that we all learn differently. Some people learn better when they see what you’re talking about. Some learn better when they can hear the information spoken to them and they can relay it back. Others learn best when they can physically touch something. Therefore, consider developing your main activity and discussions around visual learning, kinesthetic (hands-on) learning, and audio learning. This way, everyone is able to absorb the information in a way that works best for them.)
Process & Reflection: Bring the participants back together to discuss observations made during the Main Activity and identify issues and solutions to the topic. The groups can share their solutions from the Main Activity for feedback, and participants can also share what they’ve learned during the process of creating their event in the Main Activity example, as well as what they’ve learned as a whole during the workshop. Give some guiding questions to the participants who they can be encouraged to seek more solutions:
How can we take what we’ve learned today back to our community?
What concept or idea stood out to you? What did you learn today that you didn’t know before? How can you apply it for yourself?
Is what we discussed today relevant to your community? If not, how can we make it more reflective of your community?
What services or programs can be created or enhanced to generate positive outcomes for your community?
Closing: Go back over the agenda and overall purpose of workshop as well as give the participants a chance to discuss what they got out of the workshop and what they will take with them. Give relevant feedback on solutions to the topic, as well as recommendations that the participants can take back to their communities. This is also a good time to pass out handouts, resources, and other information that can aid in their learning.
Now that we’re done planning our workshop, let’s look at the remaining W’s in WWWWWWH: When and Where. Here’s a list of items I make sure are in place prior to my workshop starting:
*The space is accessible enough so that if participants want to walk around, they are able to, and if a participant needs more assistance, they’re able to get it. *Arrange chairs and tables how you want them. If you’re doing a more interactive workshop, it’s best to make sure that the chairs and tables don’t restrict movement.
*All tangible resources, handouts, and PowerPoint slides are copied ahead of time. Make additional copies if you’re not sure how many participants you’ll have. It’s always best to have more copies than participants in case an influx of participants show up.
*Before starting the Discussion portion of the workshop, inform participants of where the bathrooms are, that there will be a short break during the workshop, and to turn off or vibrate all electronic devices.
*If easel paper is provided, make sure there are markers available. You can use the easel paper to write out the agenda, your contact information, the parking lot/bike rack, as well as all relevant notes that come up during the workshop. Easel paper can also be given out during the Main Activity.
*If you need a computer, overhead projector, TV, etc, make your request known ahead of time to the agency or company providing the space.
*Have extra pens, pencils, and markers on hand for the participants. Also, if you want to use name tags, have those available as well.
*Once you know how much time you’re allotted, make sure to keep time of each portion of the workshop, especially during the main activity. You can refer back to your agenda to let participants know how much time is allotted for each portion of the workshop. Let participants know when they have 15, 10, and 5 minutes left.
*Always arrive to your venue early enough so that you can set up. My rule of thumb is to arrive at least 90 minutes before. That’s enough time for me to set up and to mentally prepare myself before participants arrive.
Get ready for Part Three…
I hope you’ve found this workshop breakdown helpful. If you want more in-depth knowledge on creating a workshop (or if you are interested in inviting me to facilitate a workshop for you), read more about my consulting services and contact me to see how we can work together. In Part Three, I will share my best practices on becoming the best facilitator.