IT’s NOT THE WORKSHOP, IT’s YOU: How to maximize your benefits

It's not the workshop

By: Shanoy Coombs

I started writing this post a while back and initially intended to cover the more negative aspects of workshops along the lines of “Why workshops don’t work in your favour” but now I’m sitting at the Social and Behaviour Change Communication summit here in Bali, Indonesia, soaking up so much knowledge and strategizing my next behaviour change moves that it shifted my tone.

Frankly, my initial trepidation and negative undertone was brought on by a few workshops that I had attended previously and sometimes left asking “Now what?” In fact, outside of my own skepticism, I’ve also interacted with other persons who have sometimes viewed workshops as “good for a time” or one of those “At least I get a break from the office” sort of affairs.

Now today, reformed, energized and ready to be more of a do gooder and change maker, I am more of a believer and want you to know that It’s not the workshop, It’s you! Quite a brazen conclusion but I’ve deliberately left off the “some workshops” and here’s why:

 

DO YOUR RESEARCH: Chances are, your bad workshop experience is linked to what you felt did not cover key areas you were interested in or were not engaging enough.  Having coordinated and attended more than a few workshops over the past decade, I’ve discovered that a major way to avoid this pitfall is to thoroughly research the workshop, its objectives, the presenters and how they align to what your or your organization’s goals are. Sure your Human Resources Manager may have been handed a flier that pitched the session as “Highly effective for building strategic communication” but as the practitioner, your probe may reveal that the topics are ones you may already have been exposed to or the approach is one which may add no real value to your current post.

 

HAVE A GAME PLAN: Workshops, like conferences, summits et al can provide an it's not the workshop, it's you!excellent opportunity for meeting your personal and organizational goal, if you are strategic in your doing.  Does the workshop or conference provide a list of speakers? Sponsors? Attendees? Are there specific persons you would love to connect with, unique best practices you are targeting?  Write or type these down, Your pre- workshop preparation is as important if not more important than your actual presence.  Plan ahead and maximize the value of being there

 

SCHEDULE AND PRIORITIZE: If you were to only do 2 sessions from any conference or workshop, which would it be? Seek to access workshop or conference materials ahead of sessions and carefully prioritize which are more impactful for your goals or your end game.  I learnt this pretty early in but needed the reminder more than ever while at the Social and Behaviour Change communication summit while looking at agendas with close to 1200 attendees competing to book skills building workshops and fit into  a diverse range of presentations, multiple “Interest sessions” running at the same time and almost everything being in line with my end game.  It helped when I utilized the summit  app and news and updates/ daily digest features to schedule sessions in order of “must dos” and alternates.

NETWORK:  So maybe in your previous undertakings, there were some workshops or sessions that fell below the mark, but even with the non ideal circumstances, the who you connect with can be the ultimate value for what you want to achieve.  Be sure to include your “must meets” in your GAME Plan outlined at 2 above.  Outside of that say hi a lot, ask what country are you from, exchange business cards, talk about your work, listen to others when they share about their work and forge the meaningful connections you came to make.

FOLLOW UP: Ultimately, what you take away from any workshop, conference or summit will rest with what you do with the takeaways.  Are your previous conferences packages lying in a desk drawer or store room somewhere? What of the notes that we assume you would have been smart enough to take? And what about those business cards? In the end, I’ve found it more practical and worthwhile to review workshop, conference or summit notes at the end of each day and make an accompanying note about who I wanted to email, connect with or receive additional information from.  This strategic bit by bit approach is particularly important if you have a long journey and a full work desk on your way back home.

SHARE WHAT YOU LEARNT: Even if your organization or team does not mandate that you provide a workshop summary, do one anyway! By sharing what you have learnt, it helps you to organize the insights you have picked up and keeps them fresh in your mind.  You can even be creative with sharing this information.  Are there other team members who didn’t attend the workshop or conference but could benefit from the information? Have a quick one on one or small group chat.  Is there a community group? organization or institution that could benefit from some of the best practices, global examples and more that you have picked up? Reach out to them and schedule a mini session to share same.  Do you blog? Personal testimonials are sometimes the most effective way to go.  Share things from your perspective.  What worked? What didn’t? What did you learn? How will you apply what you have learnt?

Having read the quick tips above, you may have picked up on a key variable, all the tips require some action on your part. With this in mind, you should get a better appreciation of how what could once be thought of as a bad situation can be just the turning point you need.  So go on out, Meet, greet and be merry, remember workshops (conferences, summits and meetings) are more likely to work when you do.

Are you at the #SBCCSummit? or have tips from previous conferences and workshops? What are some of your most impactful moves to make the sessions work for you? Comment below or let me know @Inspirashan on twitter.

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============================================================================Shanoy Coombs is a Development Communication Consultant in the Latin America and Caribbean region.  Are you Social? Connect with Shanoy  on twitter via @InspiraShan and learn more about her work via the projects page

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