Usually, when I give two-day courses, all participants (including me) see each other for the first time on the morning of the first day. Sometimes, I don’t even get a list of participants and backgrounds from the organizers. That’s why the first 15 minutes of the day are often used for brief introductions that don’t add much to the event itself. This is something I intend to change.
With my new one-day-workshop, I want people to know each other before the event starts, maybe using a Google Hangout or a Skype call. I also want participants to think about why they attend my event and what they hope to get as an outcome. Obviously, this will require a little bit of planning, both by me and the participants themselves.
There will also be games, tools, and practices in the workshop that would benefit from just a little preparation by the participants. After all, a day goes by very quickly when you’re having fun. It would be a shame wasting minutes of the day on personal research or reflection activities that a participant could do just as easily alone, either at home or at work, in the week before the event. I can think of researching culture books, reflecting on personal values, thinking up stories, or collecting performance metrics.
However, there’s another reason to ask people to prepare:
The most revolutionary solutions spring from group discussion of ideas hatched in isolation. – The Build Network
It is said that brainstorming produces the best results when people pool together ideas that they have prepared on their own. Therefore, it is ineffective to have people discuss problems in a workshop without any individual preparations. Strangers in one room who discuss a problem that none of them have considered before generate far fewer ideas than people who spent a little time reflecting on the problem beforehand.
OK, that’s the easy part.
The difficult part of the pre-workshop is, of course, dealing with the “Sorry, I didn’t have time” effect.