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The scariest thing about workshops

From the introduction to Work the Room

Do you have stress dreams where you stand at a huge, empty expanse of white board—naked—with an old dry erase marker? A room full of workshop participants ignores you. Are they staring at their email? Having side conversations about lunch?

When I worked in-house, I liked to run workshops, work with colleagues to create a shared vision of awesome. As a consultant, I run even more workshops and do quite a bit of training and mentoring on how to make them better. When new facilitators ask for help, they always ask:

How do I make sure people participate?

Do you worry about getting people to participate? Maybe you fear facilitating a room full of strangers. Other monsters might lurk in your noggin:

  • What if they won’t listen to you?
  • What if they don’t believe you?
  • What if they know that you don’t know what you’re doing?
  • What if they don’t like you?

This might seem scary. But the scariest thing isn’t participants who don’t like or listen to you. The scariest thing is walking out of the workshop without what you wanted. The scariest thing is workshops that waste everyone’s time.