I had a possibility to facilitate three workshops for two different projects (2 ws + 1 ws) in this spring. The projects were related to improve empathy in health care, facing the patients and their relatives in new ways and find development ideas in the workspace. The participants of workshops were personnel and students of health care. I was a “hired” facilitator for these workshops with my fellow students. While still learning the magics of facilitation, I would like to share my early key findings and learnings. These findings are from my perspective and do not form any comprehensive list. I had no former background from health care at all. The workshops located in a hospital and a health centre premises in Helsinki, Finland.
Keep the focus
The most important thing to start when planning a workshop, whom contents and themes are not familiar to you, is that you need to understand the target of the project and this specific workshop. To have a workshop is not the reason itself, it should create something valuable. Ask targets from different perspectives, clarify them to yourself and make sure, that you have understood right. And make sure that the subscriber of the facilitation, the person who has hired you, understands you. Actually, it is not so important to understand the subject matter (for example the daily life of a hospital department).
Choose right methods and language
When the target is clear to you, choose right methods and tools for the workshop. You need to understand the backgrounds and expectations of participants. A lot can be done in few hours’ workshop, but too much is too much. Always. What are the things which can or need to be done in advance? For example, in my cases, the basis work was done by health care students. Source material for the workshops were personas and stories. It was quite easy to start with those.
We modified the name of the methods. Customer journey paths were used in workshops, but we used a word “patient path” instead of “customer journey”. Respectively, the empathy map was called “emotion path”. It would have been nice to ask the participants to create an idea portfolio, but we asked participants to prioritize ideas like picking up “pearls”.
Timing, timing, timing…
A big part of planning was the scheduling of the workshops. It was important to imagine the whole workshop from the very beginning to the end. How much time is needed for introduction of the agenda and facilitators? How many breaks are needed? How much time needs each new method or part of the workshop? And their instructions? Still, you need to make the schedule slightly flexible – some surprises happen always! One tiny thing, which can totally ruin your wonderfully planned schedule is the IT-equipment of the premises. Please ensure beforehand, that your laptop fits to displays and other devices. Be prepared for that nothing works except papers and pens. Have a lot of those!
After all careful planning, take a deep breath and relax. Everything will go well – and if not, invent quickly something! Remember the target and find to way to achieve it. Good luck 😊
Author of the blog is Pia Rytilahti, MBA candidate at Laurea University of Applied Science