Template:WPG F1

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In Section B, we described a ‘workshop’ as a place where something is made, created, repaired or even updated by people with special skills and tools, working together. So the facilitator must design a set of activities that will get the participants working together and using their skills and knowledge in order to realise the workshop’s objectives.

A good way to ‘break the ice’ and start your workshop is to begin activities immediately:

  • Don’t waste time with a formal ‘icebreaker’ exercise. The participants will get to know their new colleagues more effectively by working with them, rather than reciting their names.
  • Don’t waste time explaining the aim and objectives of the workshop in detail. If the participants don’t know why they’ve been invited, then they shouldn’t be there.
  • Don’t waste time explaining the workshop schedule in detail. Instead, display the schedule on a slide or a poster throughout the workshop.

The moment when a group of participants meets for the first time at the beginning of a workshop can be quite exciting. The participants are motivated and ready to participate in activities. Unfortunately, it’s quite common for a workshop to begin with a number of formal speeches and presentations by the host organisation, the funding agency, a local politician etc. This kind of formal introduction can take hours, during which the participants can quickly lose their motivation. If possible, try to keep the formal introduction as short as possible: 15 minutes should be enough. If you want to have formal presentations by politicians or funders, try holding these at the end of the workshop, to bring the event to a formal close.

Engagement – handing over workshop control

A quick way to engage participants is to hand over control of the workshop to them as soon as you can. Nominate individuals or teams according to their skills, knowledge and personality in order to:

  • Facilitate individual sessions and group activities.
  • Moderate feedback, or Question & Answer sessions.
  • Create content.
  • Organise and conduct measurement.

If possible, try to give every workshop participant responsibility for at least one task or activity. By handing over control in this way, you can achieve many important things:

  • The workshop becomes less ‘top-down’ and more ‘bottom-up’ as each participant takes on a responsibility.
  • Each participant becomes publicly accountable for this responsibility.

You reduce your own workload – instead of facilitating every session, you can step back and take a more strategic responsibility for the progress of the workshop (which is one of your most important jobs).

Example: designing and beginning activities

Every activity should be designed to fulfill one of the workshop’s specific objectives. Each activity should have a clear purpose; a set duration'; and a different and appropriate session chair. For example, see the following activities for the first morning of a community radio workshop:

Session 1

The main facilitator welcomes the group; outlines workshop expectations; and describes the venue and its facilities in five minutes.

Session 2

The main facilitator hands over to a local participant to chair a briefing on the local situation. The main facilitator has asked four participants to prepare some content before arriving at the workshop. The session chair finishes with a Question & Answer (Q&A) session.

Session 3

Similar to Session 2. The main facilitator has asked some external participants to prepare content before arriving at the workshop.

Session 4

Another local participant serves as session chair. The workshop breaks into pre-arranged groups for discussion.

By designing the workshop activities in this way, the main facilitator has made sure that a number of local and external participants have made an important contribution before lunchtime. Therefore the group is engaged and remains motivated from the beginning.

# Session name
Contributes to objective #

Session chair:

main facilitator

Set expectations.

Describe venue facilities.

0900 to




Briefing session

local situation

Session chair:

Fatima (local)

Brief external participants on the local current situation. # Participants A and B (local) play a short radio newspiece that they have prepared for the workshop. It includes interviews; vox pops and back story.
  1. Participants C and D (local) use role play to illustrate local attitudes and behaviour.
  2. Fatima (session chair) moderates Q&A.
Objective #1: Review of current situation and comparable initiatives. 0905 to




Briefing session:

comparable initiatives

Session chair:

Tony (external)

Brief local participants on best practice by other initiatives.
  1. Outline experiences each participant has which are relevant to the current situation & workshop aim.
Participant E presents a series of newspaper headline scans and TV news recordings to demonstrate a comparable situation.
  1. Participant F plays a recording of a radio chat show which illustrates external attitudes and behaviour.
  2. Tony (session chair) moderates Q&A.
Objective #1: Review of current situation and comparable initiatives. 0935 to




Small group work:

skills review

Session chair:

Evelyn (local)

Review participant skills and knowledge relevant to the workshop aim.

The workshop splits into small groups decided by the main facilitator.
  1. The groups relate the briefing sessions to their own skills and experience.
  2. Evelyn (session chair) moderates Q&A.
This activity replaces a formal icebreaker 1005 to




Morning tea 1035 to




Task: Designing & Beginning Activities

  • Begin your own planning by using the format shown below (i.e., in the blank chart).
  • You can plan the first full day of workshop activities.
  • Adjust the chart as required by adding or reducing the number of sessions.
  • Feel free to extend the chart so that you can plan more workshop days.

Session name
Contributes to objective #
Morning tea
Afternoon tea