160. Addressing needs and wants of workshop participants

Mega Bank Butwal

Do you know what the participants need and what they want? And do you cater to their needs and wants? Or, do you stick to your workshop beliefs, that you are there for their needs, not for their wants.

On October 14 2017, I had an opportunity to conduct a workshop in Butwal city for the 30 operation heads of Mega Bank branches. They had asked a day-long session on ways to improve their organizational communication so that they can be more productive at workplace.

For the next eight hours, we had discussions, activities, tea-breaks, individual and group works, lectures, videos, lunch break, presentations, and reflections. And, the written feedback.

A few minutes after the session ended, a participant came up to me, shook my hand and said, “I have fallen asleep in every other trainings, but today I could not. Thank you for this amazing session.”

And right after him, another one came up and said, “It was a good session but you should also provide handouts and materials.”

And a little later, as I flipped through the feedback forms, one particular comment made me really confused and amused at the same time. “Worst presentation ever. There was nothing to note down from the slides.”

I have come across all sorts of workshop participants with different needs, wants, and agendas. Some come in with positive mindset, some with negative, and some with personal issues. Some want to participate, some want to be not seen, some want to confront. All these add variation in the workshop. Motivation and challenge as well.

And, they’ve given all sorts of feedback too. Usually, we at the Empowerment Academy end our sessions with a “321 Reflection”. The participants write and share three things they remember from the session, two things they would want to share with their friends, and one thing they would implement right away. Sometimes, we also ask them to fill out a generic feedback form for workshops commissioned by their organization.

[The credit for 321 Reflection goes to the amazing Tracey Tokuhama-Espinosa.]

And in all these years of facilitating workshops, I’ve never seen a comment so intriguing in a WTF way. “Worst presentation ever. There was nothing to note down from the slides.”

Anyways, three general observations that I would like to share:

a. Workshop participants love collecting handouts and lesson materials. I think they would like to have some sort of reference material for the future.

b. They would love to get the presentation files too. In reality, our slides rarely have any bullets points because we use them not as the main content but simply as aid. We still share/email them the pdf version of the slides.

c. A few participants love writing down notes and reflections on their own. But they would want to copy from the slides. Most of them like taking pictures of the slides with their cell phones.

And here I am in a perfect dilemma: should I cater to the needs and wants of the participants, or should I stick to my workshop beliefs. One of such beliefs is participants need to write to remember, and remember to write (Hello, John Medina.) I believe when you give photocopies of the slides and worksheets, participants tend to get rather lazy.

If you are a workshop facilitator or a teacher-trainer, please share your observations about the participants. And, what you generally do about their needs and wants.



159. Pre-workshop and Post-workshop Jitters. Is it good to be nervous?

Nepal Police

(Photo: A 3-day workshop on presentation skills at the Communication Directorate, Nepal Police Headquarters, Naxal.)

I usually have pre-workshop and post-workshop jitters, and feel this swirl of nervousness rushing through my veins for about 190 seconds. Especially, when I couldn’t interact with the participants before the session.

After all these year? You might ask.

Yes. After all these years as a teacher and trainer. Being slightly nervous and being aware of the feeling. That has always saved me from being cocky and from screwing up badly.

I know the conventional advice trainers and coach give:
Look confident. Be confident. Establish your credibility.
Show them who is the authority in the room. Project your personality. Start strong.
You are the one in control.

Never worked for me.
And never would I suggest this to others.

The only thing I would suggest – a very vague one though: Be authentic. Look vulnerable. And start with a smile.

And, that’s the way we (Abhisekh and I) started the workshop on presentation skills for Nepal Police officers. That we were super nervous would be an understatement. But after a few minutes, as we got into our rhythm, we felt the familiar connection one human can have with another one. The only belief we had was the belief that we would eventually enjoy it, that they would enjoy it. Cos’ even police officers need to feel safe before they start participating.

So, if you are stepping out into the world of training and workshops, step out with a smile and some nervousness.

Good luck.

Nepal Police 2

(Photo: A mandatory selfie before we wrapped up on the first day.)