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.



3 thoughts on “160. Addressing needs and wants of workshop participants

  1. This is a hard one.
    I teach in various business schools where participant ratings play a big role in professor evaluations. Most ratings are on a 5 point scale. Years ago my target was to get a 5.0 for a whole program. These days I realise that participants evaluate on a scale that has little to do with real learning… they are rating whether they like you and whether it felt like they learned something practical that they can use immediately. Often the best learning happens through frustration and your current mental models failing to work… which is not a nice feeling. I don’t aim for 5.0 anymore. A 5.0 is entertainment. A 4.2-4.5 means that it was hard enough that a few people suffered and didn’t enjoy it… and most probably learned more. I remember John Wooden being asked the question “how was your coaching this year?” and his answer “oh, we’ll have to wait about 30 years to find out” 😉

  2. Thank you Conor Sir. This is comforting to read.
    I have always struggled on how to push the students/participants slightly beyond their expectation and still make them happy at the end. I will be happy with a 4.3 🙂

  3. The few presentations and workshops I’ve been to, I found it useful that the speaker/facilitator would direct you to some reading material on a website (a lot of the times their own). It’s handy to have something to revisit after some time has passed and knowing that the website is there, I didn’t have to take a lot of notes and could focus more on the presentation/workshop.

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