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7 ways to engage participants in a workshop

Digital Marketing workshop engagement
Summary: These are some of the learning I picked up from different workshops that I have conducted, the longest one being a straight 5 days one.

I was not much of a training or workshop guy except in situations where I used this to implement any process , system or strategy in my consulting assignments. And in some occasions being called to management schools like IIM, Lucknow to conduct workshop/guest lectures on a specific topic. 

2016 was different. I got associated with Manipal Global Education as the subject matter expert in the area of digital marketing . Not only I had to design courses in online marketing but also conducted digital marketing workshops for corporate like Titan . An interesting opportunity came in form of designing digital marketing workshop for Google’s Digital Unlocked initiative at the fag end of the 2016. It got even more challenging as I was asked to train a group of trainers. These trainers in turn will enable small and medium businesses in India to take the right step towards using digital channels to build awareness and generate business from their target audience. That became a trigger to write this blog .

As you see the title – this is not a blog on any topic related to digital marketing. But it is about how to make your training more effective by engaging the participants in the workshop. With the 5 day format in the Digital Unlocked program it gave me a good ground to test these ideas . And I have distilled some of the key points that can have an universal application whoever may be the workshop participants- students, business owners, employees and even trainers.

1. Set the expectation right in the beginning and follow it…….

Often participants are not clear why they are attending a workshop. Often they are nominated with little heads up on the content and structure. Even if they are clear , it is still important to communicate what to expect from the workshop. This also gives an opportunity to take up some of the points which can be drawn from the main topics that you are going to cover. But keep in mind you will never be able to meet all (individual) expectations!

2. Know your audience

“Ok you” is an impersonal way to communicate. Introduce some ice breaking session and games to know not only the names but also their backgrounds. I usually deploy a game (see below) to get acquainted with the participants , also they get to know each other (if they are strangers)

3. Allow them ‘an ear’

Your participants come from various backgrounds. And they may have different levels of knowledge in your topic. Entertain questions and point of view (but control it , otherwise time management becomes a big issue) . Often their perspectives gives me fresh ideas to connect with the audience. And by showing your interest in their questions and points of view you are make them interested in whatever you are talking about. Simple hygiene in any interpersonal communication isn’t it?

4. Set the right tone and pace

You must open with a high energy and show enthusiasm. First impression matters. Use a pleasant and articulate voice. Vary the pace of delivery (but keep in mind the time) depending on the audience understanding. And uses pauses for impact! Simplify and expand the ‘jargons’- better give examples to relate. Example – when I explain Programmatic Advertisement to the uninitiated audience I use the example of stock trading. And they relate.

5. Be conscious of your body language. 

More than 50% of the communication happen non-verbally. Be conscious about it . It may take some practice though. The way you move around (don’t hop around) , the hand gestures, eye contact with audience, and distracting habits like adjusting your accessories or scratching your nose and hair- all  these contribute to the efficacy of your workshop delivery. There are multiple ways to fix these (may be a blog topic in future) . Just remember to look at your audience and see if they are not connecting to your non-verbal communication.

6. Don’t read from the slides

As I mentioned maintain a constant and even eye contact with the audience . You may glance at the slides now and then to take cues , but don’t ‘read out’ . If you know your subject – I guess that is a easy thing to follow.

7. Manage the graveyard shift

Post lunch (or any other snack time) is always a challenge for the trainer. Participant sometimes feel drowsy and it is not uncommon to see some of them doze off. Remember our student days- we also use to do the same   . One of the best way is to engage them with a game which has some physical activity (like a treasure hunt) or some active mental activity (like the game where I tell the participants to tell their name and speak about their hobbies , friends etc and the subsequent participants need to remember and repeat, along with their own details). Such mental and/or physical activities dissipates any chance of slumber in the graveyard shift.

Well there are more tips and tricks to make it interesting especially in the way the topics are explained. But that’s for a another blog.

Would love to hear about your strategies and tactics in engaging the audience . And some of the light moments you had with the audience. All ears!

Pic credit- Ultimate Reminders

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