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What Makes A Workshop Powerful?

What makes a workshop powerful?

Lots of people do personal development and training events and come away with “That was quite good” So what is it that differentiates those kinds of events from the ones that make a profound difference for people or the ones that result in real changes in behaviour? We believe it is designing them around the social process of learning.

What we mean by that is for any significant kind of learning to happen the experience needs to connect with you underneath the surface. Maybe by making you question some things you have carried round as deeply held assumptions (I always believed that you can’t influence people if you show any kinds of feelings or vulnerability ).

Maybe by touching your sense of identity (I thought I was a good listener and now I am not so sure). This can be pretty uncomfortable and I am not likely to engage at that level if I am worried about disapproval or rejection. After all, humans are social beings with a pretty fundamental need to belong. So the relationships in the room are key.

In our many years of experience we have seen that people will risk taking their learning to this deeper level when they feel safe to do so eg in a group or with a person who also shows some vulnerability and where some investment has been made in building the relationships. Only then will they take the risk of saying what they really think or feel or worry about rather than skating over the top. Which then makes it possible to have a conversation about, and work with, the real issue.

For example, in an influencing skills workshop in one organisation a participant talked about what it is like to be a woman in this organization and what she has to consider when influencing.  In another group an individual talked about how their growing up had created a strong pattern of needing to do everything perfectly, which often gets in the way for them.

The second element of social process that “elevates” (I have been watching too much MasterChef) an interesting workshop to a profound one is working with the here and now. For example someone who is very verbose and unclear in their communications learns much more from me holding up a metaphorical mirror to show how they are communicating with me here and now than they do from a through action plan to start being concise and clear next week.

These principles inform how we design all of our workshops and they are the reason why people often experience our Influencing for Results workshop, for example, as powerful and sometimes even as life changing.

Our next open workshop, by the way, is 19 – 21 March 2024. You can find out more at

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