Five elements for workshop preparation: How to make your workshop a success

Successful workshops require thorough preparation. Here are five important elements that you should consider.

24 Mar 2023

If you want to ensure that your workshops are successful, thorough preparation is essential. Here you can find out which five elements you should consider.

You might know the situation: You started the workshop well, your introduction was brilliant, the participants were hanging on your every word. Then the first group exercise - and the surprise: Some of the participants join in the group exercise briefly but then quickly turn to current work topics. Phrases like "We don't have time for a workshop." or "I don't know what my role should be." are heard. You are in a dilemma, realizing that important information about the team or the team dynamics was missing. Or even whether a workshop is the right method for the team's concerns. The key is preparation. And comprehensive discussions with the client. An optimal preparation includes – in addition to pure workshop planning – five elements that you should ideally clarify and explore through a comprehensive interview:

  • Expectations

  • The deliverables

  • The environment

  • The participants

  • The stumbling blocks

Expectations: Look behind the scenes of the stage set

One of the most important factors in preparation is understanding the client's expectations. What does he want to achieve with the workshop? Does he, for example, want to bring about a change in behavior? Change structures? Reorganize the department? Are there perhaps also unspoken secondary expectations for the workshop, such as: Giving the team the feeling it is involved in decision-making processes. Here, too, ask specific questions and try to look behind the scenes, as we often only see the stage set – or the theater.

The deliverables - or what results the client expects

Closely linked to the expectations and therefore also central in the preparation is the definition of the deliverables: Find out in advance what the customer wants to take away from the workshop and what specific results he expects. By clearly defining the deliverables, you can ensure that the workshop is successful for all participants and that the client is satisfied.

The environment of your client - or where the shoe really pinches

Every team, department, and individual is part of a system, a whole network of people, teams, and departments – whatever. This creates dependencies and decisions are rarely made autonomously and quickly. Research on the client is all the more important: What struggles is he or she involved in? From what position? What challenges does he face in the market and who are the competitors? Question your client and find out where the customer stands and how you can really help him.

The participants: a group of variables

And then the participants come into play: Who has which role in the workshop? What are the participants' own goals? What does the client know about the group dynamics? About their relationship with others in the workshop? Try to find out as much as possible about the group. It will noticeably facilitate working with the people, as they are the major variables in your workshop.

"Red Flags": the stumbling blocks of the workshop

And this is exactly where the last point comes in: the stumbling blocks and obstacles in the workshop. These include the aforementioned interpersonal issues, antipathies, competition, and profiling. It is important to pay attention to these so-called "red flags" and, if necessary, take appropriate countermeasures in advance (e.g., with the appropriate grouping for exercises and assignments). This ensures that the participants feel comfortable and can work on the topics discussed.


All of this sounds like a lot of work before you even begin planning the actual workshop. But we can say from experience: The effort is worthwhile. All parties will benefit. The customer will feel understood and advised, you will know all the important circumstances, and the participants will participate with more commitment and preparation.

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