Workshop Planning (V): Time Estimates

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This article is part of the series on workshop planning. Check out the whole series!

Part IV.2 <<< >>> Part VI

After we established a vertical structure in the last post, let’s focus on working out the horizontal dimension. Each of the defined phases needs certain attributes. How detailed you are in your planning depends on you: Do whatever makes you feel confident when you stand in front of your participants.

I would always recommend to work out more details in phases that are new to you – explaining and leading something unknown is a big challenge, and you’ll thank your past-self for everything that you have written down!

Planning the phases and writing it down has the nice side effect of getting used to your structure. The more often you go through it, the more instinctively your brain will know what comes next. This will help you to stay goal-oriented during the workshop, even if you go off-topic for a moment (which is perfectly normal and can even add character to your workshop!). So, without further ado, let’s go through the attributes for your phases.

Working Phases

Each of the phases should have the same attributes defined, which means that these build the horizontal layer in your plan.

Time Estimate

There are two ways of using this column. Either you write down the amount of minutes this phase will probably last, or you go via the real time. If your warm-up phase will take 10 minutes, write down either 10 mins. or from 2.00 pm – 2.10 pm – this depends on your liking. If you like to look at the time and know exactly whether you’re behind or too quick with your plan, go for the time. If you’re more the type to start a clock at the beginning of each phase, knowing the minutes will suffice.

Your plan will now look like this:

The overall time frame

Before we start distributing our times, let’s look at the plan as a whole. The topic would be great for a whole day (i.e., 8 hours in total), but it can also be done in half a day. This workshop is not necessarily one for managers who may be used to attending workshops regularly. It can be done with any team you have and is especially suited for the so-called front-line employees. A challenge for many teams is to find the time for a whole day off. Having the workshop during the week means that daily production possibly stays uncovered for a whole day, which might not be possible. Having it on a Saturday may pose extra stress on your employees with children, which you might want to avoid. Taking care of the critical business and vanishing from production for half a day is much more doable! So, let’s assume that you will have 4 hours to cover this topic.

Enough time to breathe

Do not plan 4 hours of work in total – you will get stressed! First, think about the break you’re going to take. Yes, you will need one – after 90-120 minutes, there will be several reasons for a break:

  • If you have smokers on your team, they’ll crave a cigarette.
  • The oxygen in basically any room is completely gone by then – so open up the windows or doors and give the room a refill! (And keep windows opened during the workshop times as well, if that is possible).
  • Everyone may feel the need to walk around a bit or stretch.
  • Everyone’s brain will need a short break – be it outside, or on the smartphone, or talking privately to colleagues.

Usually, I would advise for 20-30 minutes of break in a 4-hour workshop. I also like to plan smaller breaks (5 minutes) inbetween some phases if time allows. If your workshop is at lunchtime: Plan a team lunch! Make the break longer, but use it as a nice opportunity for everyone to get together.

It makes sense to include breaks into your workshop plan. This way, you’ll have a visual reminder that they are important.

Distributing the times

Your total time frame of 4 hours with a break of 30 minutes leaves you with 3.5 hours to distribute. Here’s a possible distribution:

  • Phase 1: 20 minutes
  • Phase 2: 30 minutes
  • Phase 3: 20 minutes
  • Phase 4: 30 minutes
  • Phase 5: 45 minutes
  • Phase 6: 20 minutes

You may have noticed that 45 minutes are missing from this plan. Here’s how they are distributed:

  • 10 minutes: Warm-up exercise
  • 10 minutes: After-break warm-up
  • 15 minutes: Feedback at workshop closing
  • 10 minutes: Additional breaks to be distributed

These are universal phases that can (and should) be added to every workshop. The feedback phase at the end is on the longer side; I like to plan it this way out of a very simple reason. It has a built-in buffer. As this is the very last thing you’ll do in your workshop, it is very likely that you will be in overtime at this point. Planning a buffer is therefore highly recommended.

After adding your time estimates, your plan will now look like this:

I would recommend to always start with the time estimates. Everything else will depend on how much time you have – so having this number as a basis is really helpful and will prevent you from investing time in something that you cannot do due to time constraints in the end.

Don’t forget to visit the Guides & Downloads Page for an editable workshop template, as well as some exercise ideas!

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