Workshop Planning (XIII): Fine-Tuning Your Plan

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

Part XII.2 <<<

Yes, we’re already at fine-tuning! After we’ve now filled all of our columns and know what to do, there’s only a few things left:

  • Choose an adequate initial warm-up, and one warm-up for after the break
  • Choose a feedback exercise
  • Check what you have to before the workshop starts.

Warm-ups

As an initial warm-up, I want to choose an exercise that (a) gets everybody into the right mood, and (b) maybe has a teambuilding effect to it. The right mood means to prepare everyone for the phases to come, in which they should discuss, be open with each other, and find creative solutions. I like initial exercises where everybody has to stand up and walk around a bit. This helps fighting possible sleepiness (occurring at any time of day). An exercise that crosses off all my requested points is the game Would you rather…? which I can recommend for any group constellation.

With warm-ups, it’s important to reflect on the characteristics of your group. There are some which require a bit of training, or which have a higher psychological barrier to them. While the first usually applies for more complex exercises, the latter often is involved with more extroverted games where you have to shout, jump, or – oh boy – sing. You want your group to have a good feeling at the end of the warm-up phase, you want to give them a bit of extra motivation for the workshop. Do not underestimate how much stress you might cause when you ask someone who does not want to be loud to jump or shout or sing. They will maybe do it (because they like you, or because they don’t want to be the partypooper), but it will damage their motivation. That is the reason why I would always recommend you to choose an easy warm-up where the main act is to talk or sign something – this is where most people feel more comfortable than with jumping and singing.

A typical goal for an after-break warm-up is to avoid the food coma or any lethargy that might have fallen onto the group. Choose an exercise where everybody has to stand up and preferably walk around the room a bit. A great exercise is Get up if… – the psychological threshold is low (as long as the topics you choose are not too juicy!) and it’s usually much fun to find similarities within the group that were formerly unknown.

You can also adapt this game to match your purposes quite easy if you adapt some of the topics. For instance, if your workshop is about working with a new tool, you can easily add some cards which address this topic: Get up if you already worked with tool X, if you like tool X, if you had issues with tool X, …

Additional Inspiration

While it’s fun to think of your own games, there can never be enough inspiration. The internet is full of helpful and fun warm-up games (especially for agile workshops or agile working structures – including those search words in your research sometimes helps to refine the results), and there also are great books about it. My favorite book right now is 66 +1 Warm-ups: that will make you an unforgettable coach by Pauline Tonhauser. There are lots of great games in it, and the descriptions are brief and well understandable. Please note that I am not making any money of you clicking that link – it’s really just a book that I like very much.

Feedback Exercises

As mentioned in an earlier post, I usually plan two feedback exercises: A longer one if we have enough time, and a short one if we are in a rush. I don’t want to skip feedback completely, however, going into overtime more than a very few minutes is also not an option. There is so much to say on feedback that I will not go into the details right now of why feedback is so valuable for you and how you can get the maximum out of your feedback phases – but there certainly will be other blog posts around this topic.

As a longer feedback exercise, you can hand out feedback forms and ask everybody to write their answers. If you do so, make sure to always ask for reasons, ideas for improvement or wishes for future workshops. It will not help you at all if you ask whether someone likes the workshop, they answer with no and that’s it. Try to apply (simple) scales if you ask for an estimate. This will make the results more comparable. Think of the following scenario: You ask the question How did you like the workshop, and receive the answers It was good, I liked it, Everything was fine, It was as expected. What can you derive from those answers? It’s very hard to know how they compare to each other and whether I liked it is on the same level of satisfaction as It was good. If you ask the same question and ask them to rate their satisfaction from 1 = not satisfied to 4 = completely satisfied, you will get an idea of the general mood in the room. Additionally, you can add a text field afterwards and ask them to give their recommendations, wishes and ideas for the future.

This is also a form of feedback that can easily be converted to a remote meeting. All the big players like Google or Microsoft have options to create online forms, which you can use instead of a piece of paper and a pen.

As a very short form of feedback, I often use the format I like, I wish. I love to do this with a little ball that I throw to one participant, and after they are finished, they throw it to the next one. This adds a little fun to the exercise and also brings the attention to the group – because nobody knows who will be next. Usually, you will not yield many results from this exercise due to the time constraint. Additionally, there are few people who will openly say that they’re completely unsatisfied in front of the whole group – so if you have the feeling that there might be somebody who didn’t like anything during the workshop, I would recommend to talk to them in a one-on-one, preferably on the next day (when you both have slept inbetween and reviewed the workshop in your heads).

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

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