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Unleashing the Power of Hands-On Workshops

Updated: Jul 21, 2023


The Aspiring Women Speakers (AWS) community recently explored the concept of transforming talks into engaging hands-on workshops. Members shared their experiences, providing a guide for those looking to venture into workshop facilitation. In this blog post, we explore the experiences and knowledge shared by AWS members, shedding light on tips for generating activity ideas and running successful workshop sessions.


Alex Radu, VP of Product Adoption and Marketing at JPMorgan Chase & Co and established public speaker, provided insights on incorporating hands-on exercises: "I'm trying to incorporate more hands-on exercises in sessions where I have an hour or more with the audience." She shared examples of practical exercises in her upcoming workshops: "For example, the next one I'm doing is on digital ethics, and I'm creating an exercise for the last 20 minutes where we'll go through the steps I'm describing in the talk on how to bring ethics into building products and making decisions with your teams."


Rajani Rao, Principal Engineer of u-blox and renowned speaker, shared her approach to incorporating interactive activities in book club discussions: “One example of a successful activity took place during a book club discussion on the book "Atomic Habits." Instead of simply talking about the concepts presented in the book, I used the summary of the book to guide the group in working on a habit that was most important to them. We shared it with the group as we kept building on it. We explored the book's recommendations on how to make a habit atomic, including utilising the two-minute principle, overcoming obstacles, and habit-stacking”. She highlighted the transformative power of interactive exercises: "By the end of the book club session, each participant had identified a specific habit they wanted to cultivate and created a comprehensive plan to achieve it. The engagement and enthusiasm from everyone involved was remarkable."


Barry Cranford, one of the AWS community organisers and experienced workshop facilitator, shared his journey of converting a workshop into a talk: "I’ve done quite a few workshops on a number of different things now, the most popular/common one I’ve done is on creating a lightning talk in under 15 minutes”. He emphasised the importance of iteration and continuous improvement: "Keep doing it over and over again with 2-3 people each time and making tweaks each time”.

When discussing the structure of the workshop, Barry commented “I found that in the early days I had left certain parts very open and people did things I didn’t think they would. So with each iteration I made it harder for people to go off piste and made the instructions clearer, now it works well most of the time but took a while to get to that point."


In conclusion, the AWS community has provided a wealth of knowledge and experiences for those interested in venturing into workshop facilitation. By embracing the principles shared by members Alex Radu and Rajani Rao, as well as community founder Barry Cranford, public speakers can unleash the power of hands-on workshops, fostering engagement, learning, and personal growth among participants.


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