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Designing your workshop agenda? Have impact and avoid death by presentation

Clients often come to us with a workshop design considered and agenda partially drafted.

There are a lot of presenters’ they say sheepishly. ‘Whilst we have everyone in the room, we want to make the most out of the time together’, ‘how do we ensure the participants don’t get bored?’.

The purpose of the workshop becomes diluted and the desire to ‘make the most’ out of the time together overshadows the need to utilise the time meaningfully for both the project team and the participants.

The role of the facilitator is not simply to introduce and thank each speaker, and if time permits, facilitate a Q&A discussion at the conclusions of the presentation. Instead, we believe our role as the facilitator is to work closely with you to forensically consider all aspects of the workshop design including agenda and content; session planning and process; and of course, participant experience.

Workshop design | Create an impactful workshop agenda


1. Agenda and content

Key questions to resolve:

  1. What is the specific purpose and overall narrative of the workshop?
  2. Who must speak? what should they say? why is this important?
  3. How will these presentations flow and inform the rest of the agenda?

How Strategic Facilitators can assist you to:

  • Nail down the purpose of your event, ensuring it is sufficiently granular, and addressing your most pressing issue/s
  • Construct the agenda ensuring that each session builds on the last, and that the overall structure will result in you achieving your objective
  • Brief the host to set up the day, develop expectations and set the tone
  • Agree what key content and messages are required from each presenter and determine what could, for example, be sent as pre-reading, or given as a supplement at the conclusion of the workshop
  • Brief speakers on the workshop purpose and overall narrative, and specifically on the timing of presentations and slide craft guidelines (quality of slides, logic)
  • Consider alternative apertures for parts of the content (e.g. webinars) to ensure the right people have access to the right content


2. Session planning and processes

Key questions to resolve:

  1. Considering your workshop size and participants, what are the best/preferred methods to engage workshop participants?
  2. How can the workshop design and session plans be best structured to:
    a) heighten participants’ experience?
    b) encourage robust discussions?
    c) generate the best possible outcomes?

How Strategic Facilitators can assist you to:

  • Deeply consider the inputs, processes and desired outputs/deliverables for each session
  • Create a balanced agenda that avoids ‘death by presentation’ and vary session plans to keep participant interest and energy high (e.g. speakers, panel discussions, break outs, group activities, webinars, world café walk arounds, etc.)
  • Develop a set of well articulated key questions for each session to ensure you achieve your desired outcome/s
  • Determine what tools and templates are required to guide conversations and capture participant inputs; ensuring contributions are valued


3. Participant experience

Key questions to resolve:

  1. What is ‘in it’ for workshop participants? What does each participant want as a result of this workshop?
  2. How can we ensure workshop participants are engaged before, during and after the event?
  3. How do we want workshop participants to think and feel at the conclusion of the workshop? What would we like participants to say if they were asked to describe the event?
  4. How will we know the workshop has been successful?

How Strategic Facilitators can assist you to:

  • Prepare and engage participants in advance of the workshop
  • Share why we are gathering (the purpose) and why that is important (desired outcomes)
  • Consider how to connect the participants (with each other) and the value in doing so
  • Consider using a mix of low-fi and hi-fi engagement tools such as ‘Zeetings’ to keep energy levels high

So next time you are in the market for a facilitator, raise your expectations, and then raise them again. Write a checklist of what is important to your organisation. Think about the objectives you are trying to achieve – and ask interested facilitators about the workshop design and the distinctive contribution they will make. And get them to outline how they will facilitate your day to make it relevant, valuable and ultimately ‘great’!


Want to know more? 

For more information on how our facilitators can help you with your next Board, Executive Team or staff workshop, meeting or offsite, please contact Lauren Spiteri on lauren.spiteri@strategicfacilitators.com.au or phone our office on 03 9428 8817.

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© 2019 Strategic Facilitators by Right Lane Consulting