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.
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.
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.