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The Approach: Practice-based Training, Not Talk

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I have seen through my years in academia and training that people learn best when they actively practise the skill. Listening to someone talk about recipes and cooking best-practice for three hours won't make the audience better cooks.
These workshops are designed and delivered with the following characteristics in mind.

Exercise-based

Workshops are designed around a variety of exercises using participants' work-related material. Participants improve by thinking and working with their material and receiving feedback.

Relevant Exercises

Let me give an example. During my presenting workshops, I often hear from participants that they've already done a half-day presenting workshop and they're not sure what they'll learn from my two-day version. When I ask them what their presentation was in this other workshop, it's invariably either their hobbies or their holidays, neither of which is relevant to their work.

In my presenting workshop, each participant gives at least two five-minute presentations (with and/or without slides) justifying that their work or project is worthwhile. This means that the participants:

  • are talking about work-related material, even if it's technical;
  • must focus on the essentials in order to be clear and concise in 5 minutes;
  • get practice at selling their ideas to an audience;
  • are prepared if they encounter hardware or software problems during future presentations.

Using work-related material also means that the participants progress with their work during the workshop and the skills are better integrated with their work activities.

Work In Small Teams

Participants work in small teams. They receive feedback from their peers so that they learn what to notice and how to give constructive feedback. After the workshop is finished and I've left the building, they can continue to help each other to improve.

The team-working approach also helps to break down the workplace isolation that often occurs. Participants are reacquainted with what their colleagues are doing.

Interdisciplinary Groups Are Encouraged

The advantage of mixed groups is that it forces each participant to think clearly and explain their meaning to the other participants who have different backgrounds. The mixture of backgrounds, experiences and viewpoints can also be a source of creative ideas. A third benefit of working with interdisciplinary groups is that it is easier to fill a workshop since the participants don't need to have the same background.

Thinking And Communication Skills Workshops

Any of the workshops can be run as a facilitated group process when a team needs to address a work-related issue.

Visual Reasoning: How To Draw Out And Check Your Thinking

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Approximately 16 participants — 1 Day or 2 x ½ Days

Participants will develop the skill of reasoning visually which draws upon ideas and techniques from Cognitive-/Causal-Mapping, Checkland's Soft Systems Methodology and Goldratt's Theory of Constraints. Several examples can be seen on the Articles page. This is not another mind-mapping workshop!

Why Is Visual Thinking Useful?

  • Most situations are complex.
  • Most things operate within a larger system. A visual representation makes the systemic behaviours more obvious.
  • Representing an issue diagrammatically means that you are less likely to miss something and relationships will be more obvious.
  • Diagrams of issues and situations makes it easier to discuss things with colleagues.
  • Since approximately 80% of people have a visual sensory preference, a visual approach will be more widely applicable.

How Will You Develop Your Visual Reasoning During The Workshop?

→ By mapping a system or the background situation to an issue

  • Identify the important factors and how they interact.
  • Discover connections that might not have been obvious.
  • Define how a system connects with its larger environment.
  • Check the representation for completeness and correctness.

→ By resolving conflicting or contradictory positions

Often when you map a situation you encounter two incompatible positions or courses-of-action. This can be handled by:

  • making the thinking behind the conflicting positions transparent using a diagrammatic technique call Dilemma Trees;
  • identifying questionable (or invalid) reasoning and assumptions behind each position;
  • resolving the contradiction by addressing the flawed aspects of the reasoning.

→ By thinking upstream

Reasoning in reverse to causes and conditions of a situation begins from either a single event or a collection of symptoms and then progressively works backwards to possible explanations. A process involving causal-mapping and questioning is used to raise various possibilities which can then be discounted or supported by additional information.

→ By thinking downstream

Thinking downstream involves anticipating consequences logically and developing contingency options. Sometimes the consequences of an action or event are relatively straightforward like a links in a chain. Other times, the consequences arise within a system and can be more complex and often unexpected. Once the consequences of an action or event have been anticipated using causal-mapping, then we can develop contingency options to minimise negative consequences or overcome obstacles.

Presenting Persuasively

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Approximately 8 – 10 participants — 1½ or 2 Day versions

Presentations are an inevitable and important part of any career – both to give and still worse, to sit through! Too often a presentation attempts to convey too much information to an overwhelmed (and eventually unwilling!) audience. The result is "Death by PowerPoint". If you want your audience to pay attention, agree with you and even take action, then this workshop is for you.

In this workshop you will learn how to:

  • Define what your presentation is meant to accomplish;
  • Consider the viewpoint(s), concerns and interests of your audience;
  • Prepare a strong simple story with sufficient backstory for it to make sense without drowning the audience in trivia;
  • Design slides that won't make your audience lose the will to live.

Depending upon the group's interests, optional topics could include coping with nerves, tips on presenting in English for non-native English speakers or audiences and handling aggressive questions.

This workshop will be an opportunity for each participant to deliver short work-related presentations which will be video-recorded. Participants will receive feedback from the group and the video-recording.

Writing Clearly, Concisely And Persuasively

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Approximately 16 participants — 1½ Days

These days, everyone is overwhelmed by innumerable emails, memos, letters, progress reports, research proposals, dissertations, ... If you want to increase the chances that what you write will actually be read, understood and acted upon, then this workshop is for you. Participants regularly find that they can cut the length of their writing by 30% to 70% while making it easier to read and more persuasive!

Participants must bring a 500 word sample of their writing. They will then have their sample constructively critiqued by a group of their peers.

 

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