Because of the very nature of digital it’s all too easy to go for the ‘chalk and talk’ route. Produce a presentation, get your stats and screen grabs, or maybe go online in real time – we all know how it goes. For a big group, that lecture format may be all you can do, but for small audiences, participatory workshops where people really engage and look at their own issues can be far more fulfilling and relevant.
Digital, whether you are looking at digital marketing, social networking, ePR, search and optimization, mobile or any mix of topics – is complex and multi-faceted. Clients and delegates have varied needs and objectives, their businesses are of different sizes and stages of maturity, and their knowledge is sure to vary. In short, there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution. This is why workshop style can be ideal: it allows people to focus on their business needs and deal with topics relevant to themselves.
Dependent upon the size of the group, there are a variety of techniques that can be used – but the key word is ‘variety’. It keeps people interested and engaged, but above all, not everybody has the same learning style so with a good mix, all can be involved and catered for.
There will be need to present information, either on screen or using flip-charts, but I would break this up into small chunks and intersperse it with other activities. If you have a mass of detailed information and stats, put it in your handouts as takeaways. Don’t expect people to absorb or remember the broadband penetration across the major economies of the EU, for example..
Here are a few techniques you may consider using:
- Pair-work and groups. Break people up into pairs and threes so they can test out ideas on each other. This kind of co-coaching allows them to deal with subjects in a relevant way. Mix them up too – everyone has something different to offer. Bigger teams or groups can work on bigger projects.
- Set scenarios – this can be useful for groups and teams. Set a ‘what if’ scenario and see how different teams deal with it. A great one for ePR and social networking.
- Paper exercises – often with digital projects people are used to just sitting at a keyboard and screen. This can get in the way of seeing the big picture. Give people big sheets of paper and big markers to free up their ideas.
- Allow thinking time – after exercises, give a few minutes to make notes.
- Role play – not the most obvious choice for digital workshops, but very useful to remind people that at the end of that email, tweet, or e-commerce site is a real person. Ask someone to take on the persona of a particular target audience, then get somebody else to decide how they are going to communicate with them.
- Brain-storming – a great way to start the workshop – gets people interacting from the start. It also is useful in setting objectives for the project or session.
- Sorting exercises – use either pre-printed cards (for standard tasks) or get people to make their own, using cards or post it notes. Then have teams or groups use them to plan how they will attack a project. Really stimulates discussion. Great for marketing planning or website building.
Think carefully about your materials – active note-taking is great way to process information and embed it in memory. A useful way to construct you workshop is to break it into sessions: first you give information, then a small exercise, maybe a check list to tick off. Follow that with an interactive exercise, maybe in pairs or groups followed by open discussion and a little time to make notes on what they have learned. A good worksheet or workbook, well thought-out is so much more valuable than just giving a handout of your PowerPoint presentation.
With digital, a lot of what your delegates will be doing when they get back to work will actually be online, but online working is difficult to do in a training session or workshop. You will need to ensure that the materials you give them to take away are designed to enable them to carry their learning into their digital workplace.