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A workshop is the best way to focus on one issue at a time, such as developing a way to solve a particular problem, whereas a meeting generally covers multiple topics.
Have you ever needed to run an important workshop, only to have it become a team meeting instead? When teams get together, it often seems inevitable that many different issues will come up. So how do you make sure your workshops stay on track and solidly out of meeting territory? Here is a quick checklist to help you ensure your workshop is successful.
The first step is to make sure your workshop is carefully thought out, with one clear topic or theme. Make certain that you know exactly what it is you want your workshop to explore.
Once you have your theme, communicate it clearly to everybody who will be attending. If possible, you should distribute an agenda in advance, making sure all the agenda items are directly related to the overall theme. The clearer your participants are on the goals of the workshop, the less likely they will bring up other issues that are on their mind.
After having established and communicated your theme, make sure you stick to it! As you plan your workshop activities and breakout sessions, double check that their focus stays true to your theme. While it may seem harmless to have one off-topic session, that could give your participants the cue that it is alright to bring other matters to the table, derailing your workshop entirely.
The next step towards stopping your workshop from turning into a meeting is to set and communicate clear goals. Be sure about exactly what you want to achieve. As a workshop is about one particular problem rather than multiple issues, when you set your workshop goals, make certain that they are directly related to your chosen theme. Again, much like setting and communicating a theme, your goals should also be communicated to your participants prior to the workshop.
Now that you have ticked off a focused theme and workshop-appropriate goals, it is time to create a strong workshop agenda. Having a solid structure in place will keep everyone on track and remind your participants of why they are there.
Make sure you create an agenda filled with activities that will help you reach your goals. Communicate the program to your participants and make sure they stay on task! Keep the program flowing smoothly and don’t allow opportunities for anybody to hijack the focus.
Your last step in keeping your workshop from morphing into a meeting is engagement! Workshops should be hands on and exploratory. When your participants are fully engaged in a discussion or activity on one topic, any other issues are far from their minds!
With proper preparation and adherance to these five steps, you will be well on your way to a successful workshop - that meeting can wait for another day.
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