How to Get Real Value from Your Workshops
One thing I’ve learned during many years in the language training business is that not all workshops are equal. A truly successful workshop requires careful planning, a skilled instructor, useful and engaging content, and a meaningful evaluation.

Because a workshop is short, the content should be tightly focused and useful.  Also, because a workshop is a lot of learning in one day, it needs to be engaging and use a variety of media and activity types.  

A poorly designed workshop can be a waste of time and money.  A well designed workshop can be a great opportunity for interactive learning, sharing ideas and improving skills.

 Before the workshop

Help your training provider tailor the workshop for you. The best workshops are tailored to the needs and situations of the participants.  Be sure to select a training provider who will adapt their program for you. Of course, you must provide details of your requirements before they can do that.  For example, if you are planning a business writing workshop for accountants, let your training provider know what kind of accounting issues they communicate about, and with whom.  Are they payroll accountants? Or cost accountants?  Do they support operations in Thailand or in other countries? Do they prepare regular reports? (Samples will be extremely helpful to your provider.) 

Don’t try to include everyone in the office (plus the driver).  We all want to get the most value for our limited training budget.  But the value of a workshop is not increased by cramming 25 participants of different skill levels and different job roles into one room.  When we do this, the value of the training for everyone will be reduced because some participants will be less ready than others to participate in the activities.  When you can, try to group participants by job role and limit group size to 15-20.  With English training especially, you need to consider language skill as well. 

Select the right room.  A good workshop will be interactive. Participants need to be able to stand up and move around the room, so make sure there is plenty of open space.  Also, participants will need to work in small groups of 3-4 persons, so lecture chairs or several small tables are better than one large table.  An engaging workshop will use a variety of media, so a projector and screen, along with a good sound system is essential.  Several flipcharts or portable white boards should be provided so different groups can share their work with everyone. Finally, a wifi internet connection opens up a whole new level of interactions, from collaborative writing to instant polling. If you don’t have the right facilities at your company, consider having the workshop off-site.

Pre-training assessment.  If it’s important for you to measure the impact of your training, then you will want to do a pre- and post-training assessment of the skills and knowledge covered in the workshop.  An ideal way to do this without using up valuable workshop time is to let participants do the evaluations online, both before and after training.  For example, in the Vantage PLUS series of workshops, participants are given access to our online LMS before the workshop. They are asked to complete a pre-training assessment.  Afterwards, they will complete additional online activities and a post-training assessment (described below).

 During the workshop

Great workshops are active.  Participants should never feel like they are sitting through a lecture.  The content should be divided into short modules (about 4-5 modules per day), and each module should end with participants actively applying what they’ve learned.

Great workshops engage the senses.  You don’t want participants staring down at a workbook all day.  Their attention should be on the instructor, on a dynamic visual presentation at the front of the room, or on each other.  Effective use of media is important to engagement.  For the ultimate engagement, use wifi to connect everyone for collaborative tasks and polls.

 After the workshop

Increase learning retention with follow-up activities.  A training manager once said to me after a successful workshop at her company, “That was great.  But I wonder how much of it they’ll remember a month from now.”  It’s a good question.  The short format of workshops doesn’t allow for the repetition and recall that is so important to make new learning “stick”.   A great way to solve that problem is with follow-up activities after the training session.  Vantage’s PLUS series of workshops takes care of this by providing a series of additional online revision and extension activities on our LMS, which participants are asked to complete over a period of 3-4 weeks after the workshop.  At the end of these activities, participants complete the post-training assessment online.  This score can be compared to the pre-training assessment to measure the impact of the training. This result, a month after the workshop, is a truer picture of your training impact than an evaluation on the day of the workshop when it’s still “fresh”.

 I hope these observations and tips are useful for you.  Please feel free to contact me for more information.


Sean Thomas

Business Development Mgr


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