Workshops for Engineers, Part 1

Most people I meet want their team to always be learning and growing. Whether you’re a manager of a team, tech lead, or just a colleague, leveling up is important. There are LOTS of bad, boring training workshops. Seminars where you sit and listen, where you stare at a slidedeck and check your watch and wonder what you should be learning from this. This is usually what people think of when they think of leadership training or professional development. But this is so far from what it could be. Enter Experiential Education. Experiential education focuses on creating an experience in order to help participants process and think critically about the goal of the activity. These can be immersion experiences like alternative spring break trips, habitat for humanity house building, educational experiences domestic or abroad, leadership training days, company retreats, or even just the one-off workshop. These workshops are engaging, interactive, and make a much larger impact on the people participating. It seems as though this is something only professionals can do, but it’s not! With some thought and understanding, anyone can put together these sorts of activities. This is a three-part series that will walk you through running a workshop.

The formula for a workshop is simple:

  • Goals
  • Trigger
  • Discussion
  • Conclusion
  • Supporting Materials
  • Materials Needed

We’ll talk through the goals and trigger here.

The goal is both the easy and most difficult part. Think about what you want the session to achieve. What are you hoping everyone learns? What do you want the participants to walk away with? You can have multiple goals for a workshop… I usually have between 1 and 3 depending on the topic and audience. Some examples of goals could be: To help the team learn about each other’s leadership styles. To understand and work through different communication and conflict styles. To help each person look at what type of leader they want to become. To learn about sorting algorithms.

The trigger comes next. The trigger is what kicks off and gets people thinking. It’s the pre-cursor to the discussion. A trigger activity can be anywhere from 5 to 45 minutes depending on what needs to be accomplished to give the participants enough to have a thoughtful discussion about it afterwards. There are hundreds of ways to execute this, including skits, drawing, social barometers, quizzes, self-identification. An example of a trigger would be making a line down the middle of a room and having one side be agree and the other disagree. The leader of the workshop would then make statements and people would choose which side of the line they stand on. Another example would be everyone breaking into groups and learning something and then doing a skit to present that information to the entire group. These triggers are NOT complex, but they’re creative, they get everyone thinking and moving and really engaging with the topic at hand.

Stay tuned for the post on what’s involved in the discussion, conclusion, supporting materials, and materials needed.

Part 2

Be on the lookout for examples of workshops like this in the future!

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