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Good luck is the residue of…


Failing to prepare is preparing to fail, or so they say. But how do we actually prepare?

This week has been fairly quiet for me - I’m studying for an exam so much of my time was taken up with revision - but I did have one day in the training room.  I was due to deliver a workshop I hadn’t run before and so I had to do some prep for it.  For those of you who have seen me work, this may come as a surprise: despite the way it looks, I don’t just show up and ramble on - there is actually some work done behind the scenes!

I think I’m lucky because I love my job - not just running workshops but I also the preparation.  One of my favorite work memories is of the time I was facilitating a week-long conference for a major charity.  The nature of the event meant that the second half of the week was based on the outputs from the first part, so while the delegates had Wednesday afternoon off for sightseeing, I was left alone in the room to try to tie everything together, make some sense of it, and put together an outline for the rest of the week. I spent about six or seven hours doing that - running around this huge empty ballroom, moving flip charts around on the walls, drawing lines between things, scribbling on things, making connections - all whilst listening to music at the highest volume I could get away with: it’s one of my happiest memories!

My usual method of preparing for new workshops is similar and, I have to say, slightly shambolic. After all these years, I still don’t have any kind of structured methodology for getting to know new material; it normally evolves as I juggle the slides (if applicable) the delegate materials and the trainer notes.  As my mind flits backwards and forwards between these things, gradually a picture of the workshop seems to coalesce and that’s the point at which I can begin making my own notes, as a kind of route map through the workshop.

That’s all made significantly easier if the workshop makes sense, by which I mean the material has some flow to it. One topic should lead to the next; where questions are asked, they must be answered; where non sequiturs appear, they must be explained and resolved; concepts should be introduced in a logical order. That was not the case for this workshop. Exercises and concepts appeared seemingly at random; topics were frequently picked up and put down again for later in a way that made the whole workshop feel staccato.  It made me realise that a good workshop is like a conversation between the trainer and the delegates. The trainer steers the conversation and it’s vital that the path he or she has mapped out - essentially, the session plan for the workshop - is clear.

Of course, the chaotic nature of this material was all good news to me because it meant I could roll my sleeves up and get rearranging - another happy memory! And, in case you're wondering, both the conference and this week’s workshop were a great success.

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