Conducting effective workshops is one of the constant challenges facing all trainers. We will try to look at the most effective ways to conduct workshops, ways that will make the workshops not only valuable for the attendees, but valuable and rewarding for trainers too.

In order to conduct training workshops effectively, we need to consider the following elements:
· Basic Principles of Adult Learning
· Arranging the Training Room Environment
· Effective use of Selected Training Tools
· Facilitating the Training

We will look at things that you can do in each of these areas to make your workshops more effective.

Basic Principles of Adult Learning

Before we can conduct any workshop training effectively, we need to know how adults learn, so that we can apply some very practical principles to our training.
People learn well, when they are motivated. Anything that you can do to motivate or encourage people to embrace the training will enhance its value. Some things that you can do are: stress the importance of training, emphasize the importance of on-going development, and emphasize the investment that the company is making in the trainees. Training needs to be motivational to be effective, it should not be like army boot camp.

Active trainee participation also enhances training effectiveness. Team activities, role plays, group exercises, all contribute to training. Remember, adults learn best by doing, so keep the slide lecture presentations to a minimum.

Structured, step by step practice is essential for effective learning. Build practice activities into every training session when possible. Practice sessions are especially effective in skills training.

Feedback on the results of training is critical. Feedback on how achieved performance compares to the standards of performance, is very important.

Recognition of the differences amongst trainees and customization of the training to fit the trainees needs, is the best approach. Well designed self study materials (CBT, videos, manuals, books), can be very effective, because trainees can use them at their own pace, and they take into account different trainee learning styles.

The chronological order in which the material is presented is very important. It is a good idea to present simpler easier topics, before moving on to more difficult topics. The best method of training also needs to be considered. As a general rule of thumb, self-study materials are better for knowledge, and skills are best taught through practice sessions, role-plays, and workshops.

Emphasizing how training can apply to other situations (ie, real world) is a critical element. Demonstrating this relationship, and how the training can be applied to everyday work situations, brings value to training.

Shaping behavior through recognition and rewards, reinforces training. Rewarding trainees for desired behavior along with positive feedback are essential to effective adult learning.

Arranging the Training Room Environment

Matching the training room to the type of training program, can increase overall training effectiveness. An example of this is, tables and chairs arranged in classroom style, conveys a message of formal training. Various round tables with chairs around them, convey an environment of teamwork and problem solving. Which environment do you prefer? Selection of the training room set up depends on a variety of factors, such as: the program objectives, number of participants, activities involved (team exercises, role plays, etc.).

The “Open Circle” configuration is a very effective one. Participants would be seated in a horseshoe pattern at various round tables in the room. This configuration allows the participants to face the front of the room, where the trainer is. This set up works very for between 8 and 60 participants.

Diagonally angled rectangular or square tables with participants facing the front of the room, is almost as good as the open circle configuration, it too can handle between 8 and 60 participants.

U-Shaped or V-Shaped configurations are also good, because they allow the trainer to move into the group to solicit more interaction, but they are both for smaller groups of 20 or less participants.

Square Configurations (Open or Closed) with participants sitting around on all four sides, are effective for 20 participants or less, and work well for group discussion and team development activities.

Rows of tables or rows of chairs, all facing the leader in the front of the room are good for formal presentations and large groups.

Whichever room set up or configuration that you decide on is up to you, but try to fit it to the program, the number of participants, and also how much space you have. It is a really important factor that can set the tone of the training.

Effective Use of Selected Training Tools

We will look at some training tools that can be used very effectively in workshop situations, flip charts, video projectors and computers (Power Point Presentations), overhead projectors, transparencies, video cassettes, role-plays, simulations, small team activities, games, etc.

I like to use as many different training tools as possible in workshops. In fact, I find that the more of them that you use, the more effective the training is. Different tools, different activities, all make for a session that has a lot of flow and movement, and thus avoids participant boredom.

Power Point has really changed the world for trainers and all business people alike. What a great tool, you can put together presentations on short notice and if you do them yourself, virtually at no cost. This is a great training tool that you can and should use, but use it wisely, and don’t make your workshop an entire Power Point slide lecture. The Power Point presentation is most effective when run through a video or LCD projector.

Another tool that becomes very personal and allows you to get close to your trainees, is flip charts. Flip charts are a great way to stress certain points, to demonstrate things graphically, and a great way to get people working in group and team activities. Make use of flip charts whenever you can.

Overhead transparencies and projectors are old tools that have been around for a long time, but they too have their place in today’s workshops. Overhead transparencies allow you to keep the room lit without turning down the lights, and they can be easily altered or changed. I particularly like overhead transparencies for meetings with small groups of people – 8 or less. I also like overhead transparencies for group or team work activities, where each group or team needs to present to the entire class.

The last tool that I am particularly fond of is videocassettes. I cannot imagine conducting any type of workshop without video. Video brings life to workshop training sessions. The ideal way is with custom designed videos for products, skills, etc., but there is a whole slew of off the shelf videos, many in different languages, that cover a wide range of topics. Take your video, some Power Point slides, flip charts with some group exercises, and you have an entire workshop.

Role- plays are one of the most effective tools in any workshop. Remember, adults learn best from doing, so what better way than role-plays. Role- plays provide a great opportunity to practice skills, knowledge and techniques. Role-plays are realistic, and bring the real world to you’re your training workshop. If you can video tape your role-plays, even better yet, since it provides good instant feedback. Role-plays are an important part of a workshop.

Simulations are another great tool that you can use, in workshops. Basically there are two types of simulations, paper and pencil, non computerized simulations, and computer based simulations. The paper and pencil simulations usually begin with a specific environment, such as a doctor’s office or a sales rep’s territory. Then problems based on the simulated environment are developed to help the participants practice skills. These simulations frequently contain large amounts of data in the form of a case study or “Data Book.” The participants usually work in small teams , groups of four to six people, to solve the situation. There is usually a “scoring system,” so that participants can get feedback on their decisions.

Computer based simulations are the latest craze, they work very well in a workshop environment. Since these simulations are computerized you are able to process large amounts of data very quickly and project business activities over a few years time span. The computer based simulations lend an air of objectivity to your training workshop activities, if you have the budget, use them.

The last workshop tool that I want to mention is games. Games are a lot of fun and everyone enjoys them. Games get a lot of participation from the group, and games make people laugh, and we all know that laughter is healthy. There are various books called “Games That Trainers Play,” there is also a book with games and activities that I highly recommend, its title is “75 Ways To Liven Up Training.” Slip in a game or fun activity into every workshop.

Facilitating the Training

Facilitating and running the training, is a critical part that you can play and control in every workshop. There are three basic things that you need to do, to run an effective workshop:
· Establish rapport with the group
· Use questions
· Know how to handle difficult participants

The best ways to establish rapport with the groups, is to learn their names, make eye contact, and encourage participation. Create a non-threatening environment, let everyone speak their piece, while keeping an eye on time.

Use of questions can help you enormously in your workshop. Questions help get and keep a conversation going. Questions can also clarify a participant’s comment, this is especially helpful in building rapport.

Difficult people in workshops usually take on two different forms. There are those who do not participate at all, and those who participate too much and constantly challenge you. For those who do not participate, ask them questions to get them involved and have them speak about their experiences, make them team leaders, so they have to be more involved.

When you have participants who do too much and challenge you, let the group handle them, turn their questions/ideas over to the group for comment. Put them to work, let them head up a team or group.

If you follow these recommendations, you will be off to a good start with all of your workshops.

Author's Bio: 

A U. S. Air Force veteran and MBA, the author has spent over thirty-five years in the business world in sales and sales management positions for the pharmaceutical, consumer products and publishing industries. The bulk of Vince’s experience is in the pharmaceutical industry, where he has held the positions of National Sales Manager and Sales Training Director for some of the largest corporations in the world.
He has trained thousands of sales managers and sales people in both English and Spanish, and has conducted fieldwork and training seminars and workshops in the North America, Europe, Middle East, Africa, Central and South America, Asia and Australia.
It is his belief that the frontline sales manager is the critical player in the sales person’s success, and he coined the phrase, “Your sales reps are only as good as their district managers.” This belief made him go on and co-author the first and only American book specifically for pharmaceutical district sales managers, Pharmaceutical Sales Management in a Changeable Marketplace. The ideas in Vince’s books underlie the skills taught in his training workshops on selling and sales management.