Participatory workshops are not spectator sports. Participatory workshops are engaging, dynamic and are productive. At the end of the day there is something to show for all that time spent. Progress & value.
It is no wonder some people loath workshops. Sitting in a room for hours on end with a bunch of people not of your own choosing , classroom style, can be pure hell. The problem is that workshops often cater to the opinionated loud mouths who have read the book on assertiveness and have taken it to heart. They are the ones who want to stand at the front and be in charge or heckle from the back. In a workshop no one should be in charge. Moderate or guide, yes but that is different. At the end of the workshop this can result in negative feedback from some one who did not get their say and feels disgruntled.
Consider running workshops aimed at involving everyone and taking a more considered view. Look for innovative ideas to get people engaged. Participatory workshops involve people and get them actively involved to foster real collaboration.
The principals are simple:
Seeing is believing, show rather than tell
If you must tell use stories, metaphors and anecdotes
Influencing instead of arguing or debating
Transparency to foster open discussions
Everyone has an equal say
Everyone is here for a reason
Suggestions are welcome and people are encouraged to speak up
We want questions as we seek to understand
We do not judge
I use everything from white boarding to sketch pads and make extensive use of sticky notes. Later after a of couple initial workshops I may use clickable simulations and flows to project onto the white board and invite people to draw on top of it or fill in the blanks.
You can also consider projectors to project templates onto a white board from a tool like Axure to provide a talking point with a clickable simulation and capture feedback real time. Get people up drawing and filling in the blanks. Have people take turns presenting their ideas and thoughts and ensure everyone has a say. In workshops interactive tools can be used to great effect once enough initial information has been to bring the user journeys to life. Modifications can be made on screen during “think out loud walk-throughs”.
Activities for a positive outcome:
Plan the activities and get the materials – post it notes, white boarding
Create a “parking lot” to note ideas and issues not on the agenda for another time to keep the flow
Ask “what if” questions to get feedback from people who maybe less vocal
Break large groups up into smaller groups and assign tasks
Have other people take turns presenting
Have a goal and define what good looks like at the start
Allow people to take breaks to check messages
Capture the information and playback at the end to demonstrate what was accomplished
Feedback actions and plan the follow up activities
Ensure the right people are in the room – no spectators
Choose a comfortable and welcoming room
Establish clear goals and boundaries
Do not forget the biscuits 😉
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