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How to facilitate an interactive workshop

Use this simple formula to facilitate an impressive interactive workshop

Use this simple formula to facilitate an impressive interactive workshop

So you want to teach your audience a new skill, but you don’t want to come across as the know-it-all, bossy and distant speaker – you want it to be fun, right?

Got it. There’s a way you can do it, and I’ve got a formula for it.

I learned this formula through trial and error while I was lecturing at a community college. I wanted to find a way to get the message across, because I felt that what I was teaching was really useful in the real world (public speaking), but I also knew that, coming into it, students were dreading public speaking. So, I had to make it fun and interactive so that they would both enjoy it and remember way more than they would otherwise.


facilitate impresive interactive workshopI ended up combining the skills I already was teaching with the college’s philosophy of teach, show, let them try. And this is what I came up with. It’s simple, but effective. Check it out!






Of course, we always want to start out with an opener. The goal here is to prime the audience. Just like you might have a pre-speech ritual to help you warm up, they’ll need some time to prep themselves for speaking and interacting with each other and with you. Give them the chance to do that here.


Start out small by encouraging them to shout back or raise their hand or even just nod in agreement. Ask simple questions that have a simple “yes” answer. They’ll start getting into it and begin to warm up their vocal chords.


You could also give them a chance to interact with the people around them briefly by just introducing themselves. This way they have a friend moving forward!


Step 1


After you prime the audience, you’ll want to jump right into your first step in your process – the first thing they’ll need to do if they’re learning this new task. A mistake I sometimes see here is that speakers will give too much unnecessary info before going into this step. But, usually, we don’t need all the background stuff or the history of this process – just jump right in with step 1!


Tip: For this step, just summarize your step in one, clear sentence. Example: Step 1, do this.




This is where you tell the audience what to do. Give them any tips they need, or special instructions. If they need to understand any theory to get this step right, explain it here.


Show them


Pick an example or two that you can quickly and easily show them. Think about using additional media for this – maybe a video would work best, or just a picture. Whatever you need to demonstrate this step, use it. Remember, your goal is clarity.


Let them try


Here is where the “interaction” comes in. Let them actually work on this themselves. This is also a great time to answer any questions they might have. Because they are actually trying it right after you explain it (rather than a few days later), they’ll know right away what they understand and what they don’t understand and this gives them a better shot at figuring it out, applying it, and asking relevant questions right there on the spot.



Follow steps 2-4 until you cover all of your steps. Make sure to keep your steps at 5 or under, otherwise it starts to get too overwhelming for the audience – too much to remember later.


This might take a little tweaking on your part. Maybe you typically break it down into 7 steps, so you’ll have to reorganize here to get just 5.




Finally, finish up the workshop with some closing remarks. Keep it short and focused. All you really need to do is review the why, and the major steps. If you’d like, you can take questions and then finish up with your closing remarks.


That’s it! That’s the simple formula for creating interactive workshops. (Tweet it. You know you love it. 🙂


Your turn – have you run a successful interactive workshop before? Give us your tips for running a smooth and successful workshop in the comments below! I’d love to hear!


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About the Author Sandy Donovan

Sandy empowers the young and talented to increase their power and influence by improving their ability to be heard and be clear. She does this by providing access to rigorously tested research in the communication, psychology, and marketing fields.