How to make a workshop last six months rather than three hours

A key element of my consulting practice is running workshops. They are a very good way of marketing my services and also enable me to gain first-hand experience of how intranets and search are being implemented and used in organisations. No matter how well a workshop is planned in advance it is very difficult to cover all the topics that delegates have come to the workshop to explore. At the Enterprise Search Summit in New York this week I ran a three-hour workshop on how to develop an enterprise search strategy that attracted nearly 30 delegates. Luckily I knew this in advance and was able to plan accordingly.

I started the session off with four 20 minute sessions that covered

  • How to align a search strategy to a business strategy
  • How search should be governed, managed and financed
  • How search performance should be measured
  • What challenges, risks and opportunities are likely to arise in the next 12-18 months.

I encouraged everyone to move to a different table for each round of discussions and this meant that by the coffee break all the delegates had met each other and could continue discussions during the following two days of the Summit. In addition I have set up a Basecamp site for the workshop so that I can post resources that the group can download, both from my current collection and new resources that may emerge over the next six months. In addition the delegates can continue to discuss issues with the group as a whole or with one or more individual delegates without the need to manage the discussions through email exchanges.  As one delegate commented, the discussion was just starting to get really interesting at lunch as the threads of the four topics came together in a final synthesis session. I would totally agree, and that can be the frustration of a really active workshop. I plan to keep the Basecamp site up to the end of 2013.

The next time you attend a workshop you may want to check how you will be able continue the discussions after the event. That’s likely to be when the full value of the workshop will emerge.

Martin White