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):
- Reading the PowerPoint Slides
- Too long, too much information
- Lack of interaction
- Lifeless presenter
- Room & technology problems
- Interaction & connection
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:
- The workshop needs to be designed for the client's agenda (and needs and interests and challenges), not the workskhop leader's.
- KISS: Keep It Simple. Less is more. And too much will kill you.
- Start with the outcome you want them to take away and build back from there.