Input? Sure if it is inspiring, engaging and co-created!I am a bit allergic to presentations during a workshop. It went wrong too often and my process heart felt miserable. The mindset behind many presentation sessions is not a networked one. I advocate strongly that we need to remodel the persisting formula of ‘Presentation + Q&A + conversation’; there are more engaging formats and forms that include all voices and lead to better results. We have to shift our thinking that an input is a presentation given by one person to many.

True, an inspiring and provoking presentation can advance our thinking and trigger reflection. I am a podcast lover and I regularly listen to TED Talks and DO Lectures. These well prepared short talks respect some basic rules (some good presentation tips can be found here) to grab attention and boost inspiration.

However, in a workshop setting, we have the chance to do it differently.

Create it together!

There is more than one smart, experienced and knowledgeable person in the workshop room who can contribute to the issue of discussion. So let’s tap into the collective intelligence of people present, build on their knowledge and experience and engage everyone for a shared learning experience.

Networked options for co-creating an input involving everyone

There are many options how to organize an inspiring workshop session that include some kind of input and to include and engage internal and external leaders and experts in conversation.

One basic pattern that is true to all the options below and can be used in all kind of settings is 1-2-4-all: Start with a short individual reflection, share in pairs, then in foursome and then with the whole group. This way everyone is generating questions, ideas, and suggestions simultaneously.

Walk around the model on the floor: I love to introduce new models ‘on the floor’. The principles of Liberating Structures or concepts like the 4-Fold-Practice or the 8 Breaths of Process Architecture are ideal to develop visually on the floor. First build the model step-by-step jointly with participants, then invite them for a Walk Around the model and position themselves according to some questions for reflection in pairs.

The co-created model of the 8 Breaths Process Architecture on the floor

Co-created inputs: It must not be the floor. Co-created inputs can also be done on flip charts, pinboards or walls. For example by developing a joint Mindmap on an issue by laying out all the information visually on the wall paper. Visualization and joint drawing, support the thinking process and help to create a common understanding.

Marketplace formats like Shift and Share or Speed-geeking: Shift and Share or Speed geeking or Knowledge Hub, connect people with people and people with ideas, insights and discoveries, in a sort of speed idea dating. Simultaneously, and in several rounds, ‘presenters’ (innovators, practitioners, researchers, change agents etc.) share the essence of their initiatives, innovations and achievements to small groups. Group members quickly learn about new ideas; innovators learn from the repetition.

Learning expedition: A learning expedition is a proactive inquiry process led by participants and their questions. It is mix of experience sharing, joint reflection and prototyping. The process could be combined with Simple Ethnography to observe and record actual behaviors of users in the field.

Human Library: This approach was shared to me by Katia Grütter, I did not yet have the opportunity to test it myself. In the Human Library you lend a ‘book’ for a certain time and enter into dialogue with that person bringing first-hand experiences on a certain issue or situations. The Human Library makes it possible to inquire what is actually true on a delicate issue or taboo or some past events. This approach needs an intimate and safe atmosphere.

Knowledge Café: A Knowledge Café starts with 1-2 short and snappy inputs of each max. 10 mins. People then move to a free small table conversations (no host and no reporting back as in a World Cafe) to elaborate on what they heard, to share their knowledge, experiences, perspectives, and creative ideas.

Interview formats: Doing an interview is an interesting and dynamic option to connect with a leader or an expert or with a diverse group of participants. An interview allows to uncover a more personal narrative of how that person is approaching a challenge. It needs curiosity and openness from the side of the interviewer and interviewee; and a bit of preparation. Check out interview formats like Celebrity Interview or Chat or Talk Shows. Appreciative Inquiry engages the whole group in a mutual interview-based inquiry process.

Master Classes: A master class starts with the master listening to the questions of the group before engaging in a discussion. The participants come well prepared to meet the master. Wonderful.

Conversation in parallel circles with resource persons: If several resource persons, experts, leaders are present, engaging with these persons is best done in small parallel circles.

Conversational talk and buzz groups: Conversational talks include Buzz groups for small conversations inviting people to turn to each other and form small groups of 2, 3 or 4 (no more). This gives material for a quality Q&A session. Read David Gurteen’s instruction How to give a conversational talk or presentation

Interactive Panel and Fishbowl: Panels and Fishbowl discussions involve a small group of people (usually 5-8) seated upfront (panel) or in the inner circle (fishbowl) having a conversation while a larger group of participants seated in the outer listens. Be mindful with these formats in engaging truely the ‘audience’ as there is a risk of falling into a ‘presentation mode’. A good twist offers the User Experience Fishbowl as the title suggests, users or practitioners are seated in the inner circle.  Their discussion is alternated with discussions among participants seated in the outer circle, they engage in small satellite groups to reflect their observations and formulate questions. More twits are possible, like buzz groups in 2-3-4 combined with collecting questions written on cards, pin board with questions, breakout circle discussions, quiet reflection moments, movements and visualisation.

World Cafe: Explore an issue in three discussion rounds in small table conversations supported by joint drawing and writing on the tablecloth. After each round, the groups remix for cross-fertilization (see World Cafe). If external or internal expert are present, they join the small table conversations and engage in the exchanges, they might want to share some insights and impressions at the end of the World Cafe.

Sharing experiences through storytelling: There are many interesting storytelling processes. Stories underline and clarify what we mean and help create a common understanding. My favourite is Story Harvesting a technique using listening lenses to leverage the power of stories and distil the learning from various experiences packed as stories.

Open Space Sessions: are participant-driven with a joint agenda (witin a defined and well framed topic ) setting at the marketplace. A simple & powerful methodology where the agenda is set by the participants themselves (following a light framing)

Rip it up: This one is fun. I got introduced to it by Johnnie Moore. He took his facilitators guideline, ripped it literally up and distributed the pages to participants with the invitation to pair up and engage in a short exchange. This is information sharing without having to read the whole thing (and making people curious to read it after the event).

PowerPoint based formats
  • Pecha-Kucha style presentation: 20 slides and 20 seconds per slide. This format helps you to focus in delivering the key message. Combine the presentation with a cafe style conversation.
  • Popcorn PowerPoint: This is another fun one I have been introduced to by Johnnie Moore. Prepare 50 visual slides about the topic. Number the slides. Each slide represents a specific, single message about the topic. Use bold images, colours and minimal text. Let people pick a number, show the slide and elaborate together the key message behind or invite someone to perform as the presenter.
  • PowerPoint Karaoke is an improvisational challenge. The presenter receives a slide deck prepared by someone else to give a presentation.

Creating momentum for engagement

Thinking about how to make information sharing engaging is a creative design challenge. As facilitators and workshop organizers we have the freedom to play with forms and formats and evolve and twist them so that they are fit for purpose of deep collaboration, active learning including all voices, experiences and perspectives.

Further links for inspiration