April 16, 2014 fm

Are You A Powerful Workshop Leader?

Photo Credit: aiesecgermany via Compfight cc

In November 2013, I led a workshop on the success factors for effective workshops. 80+ participants came up with a whole range of success factors. One group of factors focused on the workshop leader, the other group on the workshop format. This post dedicates 26 questions to the success factor “workshop leader”.


1 Are you authentic?

Be sincere and vulnerable. Share failures and weaknesses, mistakes, dreams and passions. Especially, your vulnerability and openness boost your level of authenticity. But I cannot say that… Yes, you can! Authenticity = Sincerity + Vulnerability. Without authenticity all other 25 questions are irrelevant.

2 Are you an example?

Be the first one to arrive; be the last one to leave. Also – in a workshop you make people work; that’s the essence. But – the one in charge of the follow-up is you, the workshop leader. Lead by example; wrap up the meeting by saying that you’ll take care of the follow-up. And then deliver on time… of course.

3 Are you visionary?

Tell your workshop participants where you want to go. Share a vision of the outcome. It’ll make it easier for them to follow your string of thoughts.

4 Are you inspiring?

Inspiration starts with an “I”. Share personal failures, broken dreams, pride and achievements (see authenticity). Your lessons learned inspire others.

5 Are you motivational?

Be decisive, determined, solution-oriented. Don’t show a single trace of doubt or uncertainty. It’s this attitude, which moves people to action.

6 Are you an activator?

Have you ever witnessed the start of a Formula One race live? Be the horsepower that activates people.

7 Do you have drive?

Definition (Merriam-Webster): a need of achievement. Drive to achieve!

8 Are you enthusiastic?

Throw sparkles of excitement at them! Imagine Benjamin Zander leading a workshop…

9 Are you stimulating?

At times, the energy level goes down in a workshop. It’s your job to bring back the energy. Make them do things out of the box. Make them sing, dance and laugh. Do anything to re-engage them.

10 Are you humorous?

Humor = pattern. Self-deprecation, saying the unexpected, exaggeration, irony, fall of the alpha dog. Light up the workshop ambience with laughter and good vibes.

11 Are you empowering?

Even when it hurts your ego, delegate the power of content generation to your workshop team.

12 Are you determined?

No doubt allowed! Answer critical questions like, Why should we do this?, with clarity, vocal volume and – definitely – direct eye contact.

13 Are you a delegator?

The great thing about being a workshop leader is that you don’t have to work. But – you have to make THEM work. You are a delegator of tasks. Delegation needs conviction. Conviction needs energy. Conviction needs determined gestures and a powerful voice.

14 Are you present?

Style, smile, energy – your triumvirate of charismatic presence. As a workshop leader, don’t live in the past; don’t live in the future. Be present; be there for your team – 100%!

15 Are you committed?

Show great interest in whatever your workshop participants do or say. Be committed!

16 Are you a facilitator?

Definition (Merriam-Webster): one that facilitates; especially : one that helps to bring about an outcome (as learning, productivity, or communication) by providing indirect or unobtrusive assistance, guidance, or supervision. As a workshop leader you are NOT a speaker. You are NOT the protagonist. Facilitate!

17 Are you a moderator?

When there is a discussion, manage the speaking slots.

18 Are you clear?

Explain every single step with absolute clarity. Speak to them, as if they were six years old. Loud and clear, step by step. The demand for clarity correlates with the number of participants. Bigger groups need even more clarity.

19 Are you knowledgeable?

Ethos (credibility) requires expertise. Know your workshop topic!

20 Do you share?

At any given moment, share your knowledge, know-how and expertise to improve the quality of the workshop outcome.

21 Are you a connector?

Use 1-to-1 dialogs with workshop participants. Look for common ground (hobbies, passions, professional background, …). A workshop group is like an audience in public speaking. At the beginning they are skeptical by definition. Reduce that skepticism by connecting with them also on a personal level.

22 Are you a listener?

We have two ears and one mouth. As a workshop leader you should have four ears and half of your mouth tucked.

23 Are you empathetic?

The star of a workshop is not the workshop leader. It’s the team. Put yourself in their shoes. Find ways to build bridges of empathy. Ask them questions that start with, “How do you feel…?” Be empathetic at all times!

24 Are you supportive?

Detect needs and doubt; go right into it and support workshop participants on an individual level. Whoever needs support – be the one to hold that hand.

25 Are you consensual?

As a workshop leader, sometimes, you must act as a mediator. Be prepared to expect the unexpected. You might face disagreement between workshop teams. Build consensus.

26 Are you prepared?

What you see of an iceberg is the peak. Your preparation lies below the surface. For a workshop the success factor number is called preparation. Visual aids, envelopes, flash cards, sand watches, flipcharts, projector, heating, noise reduction, room setup, … You have a lot of work to do. Be prepared!

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