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a blog by Chris Barrow

What makes for a good workshop?

As soon as I arrived at the Exeter Chiefs rugby stadium yesterday morning, I somehow knew that the day would be a good one.

I’ve been presenting workshops for enough years now to reflect upon the key ingredients for a successful day:

  1. Venue – a bright, modern, well lit, air-conditioned lecture room. Plenty of easy on-site parking. Easy to find. Excellent AV facilities. Good catering and, above all FRIENDLY AND HELPFUL STAFF. My thanks and appreciation go out to the conference department at the location, who did a wonderful job;

  2. Sound – I make a point wherever possible to use the audio systems or my own JPL speakers to get some loud-ish music going first thing in the morning (currently working my way through 28 hours of Paul Okenfold podcasts). The music lifts the delegates as they arrive – otherwise you have a wake at the start. Keep the music going during the breaks – don’t let the crowd sink down;

  3. Layout – round tables of up to 10 with a great big gap in the middle of the room for me to prance about;

  4. Catering – plenty of good tea, coffee, biscuits – and God help you if the lunch isn’t hot, comforting food with a decent dessert;

  5. Limited paperwork – delegates don’t want to be weighed down with print media – but they do want some memento of the proceedings – keep it concise;

  6. Powerpoint without death – “yes” to slides but “no” to small text and lots of words – simple visuals and few bullet points;

  7. Breaks – plenty of them. 10:30 (15 mins), 12:30 (45 mins), 15:00 (15 mins)

  8. A sense of humour – if you want people to absorb serious points, make them laugh about you, about the work we do and about themselves – study stand up comics who tell stories and not jokes.

and, above all, educate, entertain, challenge and use as many “real life” examples and as little “theory” as possible.

Oh – and by the way, keep the dementors away – or if they are there, head them off early in the day.

You know who I mean.

The people who think that you and your message are rubbish – even before they have heard it.

They believe that customer service has no place in dentistry and that asking team members to smile, make eye contact and adopt the mantra of “no problem, leave it with me, I’ll get it sorted” is an affront to their core values or qualifications.

“I didn’t come into dentistry to have to be nice to people.

Yesterday, the dementors stayed away – and the day just rocked.

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