Thursday, September 22, 2005

What makes a good workshop?

Last week I attended a workshop given by Spitfire Strategies to a number of us who provide workshops to their clients.

In addition to its marketing consulting services, Spitfire leads communications capacity building programs to grantees of some of the larger foundations, and their interest in providing these workshops was to make the workshops given inside those programs more consistent with each other.

Andy Goodman, known for his great work "When Bad Ads Happen to Good Causes" is now writing a soon-to-be published work called "When Bad Presentations Happen to Good Causes" (due out Dec 2005). He extended that research to see what he could find out about what people liked and didn't about workshops. Here's what he learned:

The Fatal Five (i.e., what participants hate THE MOST):

  1. Reading the PowerPoint Slides
  2. Too long, too much information
  3. Lack of interaction
  4. Lifeless presenter
  5. Room & technology problems

Most wanted

  • Clarity
  • Interaction & connection
  • Enthusiasm

Note that if you remove #1 and #5 from the "fatal five" (which Goodman says are completely preventable), that there is a 1:1 match between what participants most want and what they hate the most.

Andy shared a variety of stats and studies by others. A particularly humbling finding (for those of us who present and train) was from a 1978 study of 1300 students and 12 one-hour lectures. They found that attention span dropped dramatically after only fifteen minutes!

Goodman then went on to propose a particular format for a one-hour workshop (which could be extrapolated for workshops of differing lengths):

First off, have an understanding of where your participants are at the time they walk in the room.
Then have an understanding of where you want them to be at the end of the workshop. That's the desired outcome. Not for YOU, the trainer, but for THEM. What's in it for them? What benefits will they experience as a result of taking your workshop?

So if A is where they start, and B is the state they're in when they leave, break up the time between into these chunks:

  • Lightning Strike: a 1-2 minute "gotcha" to grab their attention and bring them into the room. This is particularly important because people tend to make a fixed decision about you in less than seven (that's 7!) seconds.
  • 15-20 minutes on the content that you're providing them (made relevant to their interests or concerns)
  • Interactivity for 10-15 minutes; could be an exercise they do on their own, in pairs, in small groups or all together.
  • 15-20 minutes more content
  • Summary 1-2 minutes.
  • Q & A 5-10 minutes
  • Lightning Strike: a 1-2 minute closing that reiterates the most powerful thing you want them to leave understanding.

When thinking about what to fill your workshop with, he reminded us of the different learning styles that exist, citing Howard Gardner's work on multiple intelligences. Andy said that therefore, it's ideal to incorporate into your workshop things that will appeal to all learning styles; namely:

  • Logical (quantitative): this is data for the MBTI "S" type, for those of us who love stats, facts and figures
  • Narrational: for those of us who learn best through storytelling
  • Foundational: for those who prefer the broad, the philosophical
  • Experiential: for those of us who learn by doing
  • Aesthetic: for those of us who need to touch things, or hear things. For example, a workshop about coalitions might use the sound of a symphony to describe how diverse instruments (people) can work together to create something of beauty (a successful community outcome).

My big takeaways from this workshop were:

  1. The workshop needs to be designed for the client's agenda (and needs and interests and challenges), not the workskhop leader's.
  2. KISS: Keep It Simple. Less is more. And too much will kill you.
  3. Start with the outcome you want them to take away and build back from there.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Where have I been?

I've been struggling with how to resume this blog in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. The posts I'd drafted before 30 August sat unattended, unfinished-- I simply felt they were irrelevant at that moment. And my own attention just could not remain focused on blogging...

In the meantime, so many blogs and lists shifted their attention, too. I have followed many and been moved once again by humanity's ability to show up and help in the face not only of the disaster but also the bureaucratic incompetence riddled throughout our political systems (perhaps because of it).

But I wanted "At the Intersection..." to remain focused on its mission. As I struggled to place my own work in the context of this latest tragedy, I have been moved by those individuals and organizations who have found a clearly defined intersection between their work and a response to Katrina.

For example:

  • OMBWatch has tied their concerns about domestic security and environmental issues into a response to the government's response (or lack thereof)...
  • Katrina's List is network-centric action in an open-source environment-- a collaborative effort by many individuals and organizations to build a central repository and volunteer effort to link all the various "people finder" efforts into one.
  • ASPCA's mission to prevent cruelty to animals extended to the abandoned pets of the gulf coast.
  • A lot of us have been critical of the Department of Homeland Security's response (?) to Katrina (and for good reason), but they supported Working
    Together When the Worst Happens
    , a now painfully relevant publication about nonprofit disaster preparedness produced in June 2005 by the Nonprofit Roundtable of Greater Washington.
  • Nonprofit Quarterly published a few "special edition" articles through it's e-newsletter shortly after Hurrican Katrina hit; It's Time to Mobilize calls for nonprofit organizations-- especially foundations and national infrastructure nonprofits-- to take specific steps to responding to and preventing future disasters.

Where have you found nonprofits and capacity builders creating interesting intersections between their work and the response to Katrina?