Do you have a checklist for preparing and designing workshops?” is a question I am often asked. I have no checklists. I use visual planning maps and above all I have many questions. I promised myself to never stop asking questions in the organizing team as long as I do not feel satisfied with the answers.

Organizing team

Workshop planning is a collaborative and creative process. It needs an organizing team – a hosting team – to answer the many questions, to not forget important aspects and to grasp all perspectives. As a team, we jointly clarify the intention and purpose and shape our invitation. This is always an iterative process.

Visual planning maps

In my experience, planning is easier when done in a visual way. A visual planning map – the Workshop Agenda Shaper or Design for Wiser Action – supports and guides the conversation of the organizing team optimally. Working visually helps to get everyone on the same page. I am convinced that with visual maps we reach a deeper mutual understanding and can proceed faster in our design process.

Questions – questions – questions

Here are some questions I can offer as a sort of check-list to verify the planning process. You might want to draw your own visual planning map and integrate your questions?

  1. SHARED PURPOSE: Are you, as organizing team crystal clear why you organize this workshop and what you want to achieve?
  2. VALUE: Is there agreement in the organizing team what the participants will create together during the workshop; and what they will carry home in their hands, minds and hearts?
  3. BIGGER PROCESS: Are you clear about the bigger process this workshop is part of; and how this workshop is contributing to it?
  4. PEOPLE: Do you, as organizing team, have a good understanding about participants’ perspectives, potential and talents (their experiences, know-how, motivation, needs, questions and challenges in their context)?
  5. INVITATION: Is your invitation process inclusive and welcoming; are you inviting people to get ready and to contribute?
  6. CONTAINER: Have you defined the character of the workshop; which “workshop world” you must create together to achieve what you are aiming for? And how you will work together?
  7. FLOW: Have you designed the workshop as story with an inspiring opening that connects people and ideas; a meaningful middle where people create something new together; a forward-looking ending that prepares everyone for the next step?
  8. SPACE FOR INTERACTION AND NETWORKING: Have you included ample space for participants to connect to each other, to engage, share and learn together?
  9. TRANSFER TO PRACTICE: Have you included time for personal digestion and reflection for participants to formulate their personal insights and actions points?
  10. HARVESTING & REPORTING: Have you defined how you will harvest the collective learning? What kind of documentation would be meaningful for the participants and the larger process; and how you could include participants into the reporting process to boost reflection and learning?
  11. LOCATION: Is the room adequate for what you plan to do? Is there ample space to move freely, to have various small group discussions, to have walls for flipcharts and visual maps?

Which questions would you add?