Learn the Art & Science of Workshop Facilitation

Delivering workshops is like learning how to fly a plane.  The more experience or “air time” you get, the better you get.  Workshop delivery is both an art & science and it is the “art” that differentiates a good facilitator from a great facilitator.

Here are some tips to keep in mind and common pitfalls to avoid when delivering your workshop

Tips for Delivering Workshops

Experience tells you what to do; confidence allows you to do it”    ~ Stan Smith

Be Yourself

  • What’s your style?  What are your strengths? What do people most admire in you?  These are the very qualities that make you unique and they are the same qualities that make people want to be with you.  Do not try and be someone else when you are presenting.  It will show through and you will lose trust and credibility.
  • How does your style show up when you present? Ask for specific feedback from individuals on your style and be sure your style is adding to the value of the workshop.  It is important to be yourself, but if how you are coming across is impacting what the participants are getting in a negative way, it is important to understand and explore that.
  • Show your humanity. People just want to see that you are human just like them.  It eases their comfort in the workshop and invites participation, exploration and lots of learning.
  • Use humor. If it suits you and it is not canned or forced, humor lightens up the energy in the room and allows your participants to relax.  Laughing is one of the best ways to break the ice!

Build Relationships with your Attendees

  • Welcome your participants and thank them for their time. Be genuine and courteous and provide a warm welcome.
  • Be confident. When you kick-off your session and state your objectives and expectations for the workshop, you create a first impression right away.  Be confident and clear about what will be covered and let the group know you are in control.
  • Get curious about who is in front of you. When you are genuinely curious about your attendees, it shows.  Curiosity is a great way for rapid relationship building.
  • Each of us has something to teach and something to learn. Take on this perspective and you will create a fun, experience your attendees will remember.

Ask, Don’t Tell – Pull v. Push Mentality

Confidence, like art, never comes from having all the answers; it comes from being open to all the questions”     ~ Earl Gray Stevens

  • Utilize effective listening. Listening is truly the key to facilitating.  It is not in what you say, it is in how you listen that deepens the learning for your attendees and keeps their attention.
  • Keep an open mind (doesn’t mean you have an empty head). Nobody gets to be wrong.  Stay flexible in your approach and know that some participants may question your content, process and delivery.   Be prepared to listen with an open mind and respond with curiosity.
  • Reconnect with the impact you want to have. How do you want to impact your attendees?  When you feel off balance, or you are no longer present with the group, stop and reconnect with the purpose you are there and the difference you want to make with them.
  • Ask powerful open-ended questions. Questions that start with a “How” or “What” are extremely powerful and a great way to create interaction and enable your attendees to think for themselves.  They will remain engaged.

Listening and Asking Powerful Questions is the key to success! 

Common Pitfalls to Avoid when Facilitating Workshops

  • Not taking the time to practice in advance. PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE!! In order to sharpen your workshop facilitation skills, it is critical to practice in advance, whether it is in front of a mirror, in your living room with your kids, or to a small pilot group of friends who are willing to act as attendees. What is critical when you practice is that you speak the words you want to say.  Practicing my reciting the words in your head does not have the same effect.  When you practice several times in advance, by the time you actually deliver it, it will feel like old hat because it’s not the first time you have delivered it.  Practice makes progress.
  • Getting “hooked” by your participants. There will be times when your participants will experience challenges in the workshop or raise issues that you yourself have experienced and in them raising them, it may trigger those times in you that were not pleasant.  Be sure to practice self-management here and as soon as you feel yourself getting “sucked-in”, stop and reconnect with them.  It’s not about you, it’s about helping them.
  • Inexperience in handling difficult behavior. Managing difficult participants comes with the territory.  Expect there may be some who are difficult.  Be sure not to allow them to take over the conversation.  For more info see Workshop Facilitation under Our Courses.

Key Takeaway Points

  • Be Yourself! Don’t try to act like someone you are not.  It will come through and you will begin to lose credibility very fast.  People want to see another human being, flaws and all with a little humor attached. J
  • PRACTICE! We cannot stress this enough. Workshop facilitation is more of an art than a science. Given that, gaining more experience is the name of the game.  Practice several times before you deliver your workshop, even if it’s in front of a mirror or with no else in the room.
  • Seek support and ask for help. You do not have to do this alone.  Seek out the support you need! You may be pleasantly surprised with all the people who want to help you.  See more info on Workshop Coaching under Our Courses.
  • Have fun and follow your energy & passion!! Go with where you aliveness is and you won’t be lead astray!  Remember, people want to learn from people who are passionate and energized about their topic.