Have you ever attended a fantastic workshop where you left feeling motivated to take the next steps, only to wonder, a few weeks later, what happened to all of those great ideas everyone developed?
Although we pay a lot of attention to the design and facilitation of workshops, the workshop follow-up is often left as an afterthought. Even a great workshop will lose its impact if you don’t make the most of the momentum that was created on the day.
If you’re the person leading the workshop, it’s also your job to take care of the follow-up. Here are some tips to make sure you get the results you need:
1. Remember that the workshop is part of a bigger process
The day of the workshop is an important event – getting the right people along, making sure discussions are productive, and everyone gets involved – so naturally, we will spend a lot of time making sure it will be run effectively. But we should also bear in mind that a workshop is part of a bigger project to move it to the next stage. There will always be work to do afterwards to make sure the ideas and the discussion from the workshop lead to some kind of progress.
If you can see where your workshop fits in to the overall picture, it will be easier for you to plan your workshop follow-up to meet your goals.
2. Plan your follow-up when you design your workshop
From the moment you decide to run a workshop, consider what needs to happen after the workshop to help the bigger project. What are you going to do with the content from the workshop? For example, rather than just sharing the notes from the discussion with the participants, it might help the project to translate them into something more practical, like a report, presentation or visual representation of what you covered.
Having an idea of how you will use the content that you and participants create will help to give your workshop some focus. You can then use this to to design your exercises, activities and the overall workshop outline.
3. Block out time in your diary and set a deadline
One reason why workshop follow-up can be so challenging is that it’s difficult to allocate time to it once we get back to our daily work. Once the workshop is over, we take a big sigh of relief and get back to our busy diaries. But time needs to be spent on making progress. To get yourself in the right frame of mind for this, set yourself a deadline by which you’ll get back to attendees about the next steps. You can communicate this in the workshop so they know when to expect something from you.
Before the workshop takes place, block out a good chunk of time in your diary for when you will write-up the notes, analyse them and turn them into the more practical form that you identified earlier during your workshop design phase. As this may take a bit longer, it’s also a good idea to send out a quick “thank you” straight after the workshop, with the main discussion highlights, to keep your attendees in the loop.
4. Actions and next steps
End your workshop with an opportunity for everyone to reflect on and share their own next steps, to create a sense of commitment and direction. You can also take suggestions from them about what they think should happen next as they may have good ideas for how to keep the momentum going. Including your participants in your workshop follow-up plans will make it more likely that they’ll stay involved and motivated.
5. Keep communication going
When you’ve written up your workshop, as well as a great record of the discussion, it can also be used to keep the conversation going. Share it with your workshop attendees in an open format (like a Google Doc), and invite edits and comments. You can ask them a couple of open-ended questions that will encourage them to add any further ideas they may have had after the workshop.
To make the energy isn’t lost from a great workshop, think of it as three stages – before (preparation and design), during (facilitation) and after (the workshop follow-up) – and give them each equal importance.