Guest Post: The Keys to a Successful Workshop

By Categories: Inspiration

women listening to a workshop smiling

From Collaboratory Sponsor Innovation Loft

Many offsite meetings and corporate workshops fail to achieve significant business impact, while others serve as the pivotal moment in which everything changes for a company. The team at the Innovation Loft* uses three overarching aspects of a successful offsite that make the difference: a stimulating environment, an engaging design, and skilled facilitation.

Stimulating Environment

It’s difficult to get people to think and interact in new ways when they’re in the same old rooms or even new rooms that follow a familiar format. That’s why the environment is the first condition of a successful meeting–it is key to have a stimulating space that imparts a sense of wonder and creativity. An outstanding workshop environment should foster:

Inspiration: Natural light and open space are key to stimulating creativity and outside-the-box thinking.

Engagement: A good workshop environment lets participants move around and physically interact with their surroundings all throughout the day, thus channeling their energy in a fruitful and productive manner.

Collaboration: It’s important to have a dynamic, flexible layout that allows participants to quickly move between small and large groups, as discussing ideas in-depth and sharing them more widely are both vital to a successful session.

Engaging Design

Using a great environment in an effective way is critical, as a workshop’s design must be well thought out and goal-oriented. Set the stage for participants to digest lots of information, gain inspiration, generate new ideas, share them easily, and break into new modes of thinking and working.  The basic aspects of an outstanding workshop design are:

The right agenda; Before planning a single part of the day itself, define the high-level goals and desired outcomes. Once they’re defined and agreed upon, you can start to put together a detailed, multi-dimensional agenda that encourages participants to think in novel spaces and approach the day’s questions with urgency and enthusiasm.

The right information: Effective collaboration requires that all participants share a common set of information, so it’s imperative to decide on the same context, pull it all together, and figure out the techniques to best familiarize participants with it.

The right logistics: To ensure that everyone on your team can focus less on planning headaches and more on the day’s goals, logistics should be made easy. Whether it’s traveling to a workshop or using its WiFi capabilities, all external factors should be taken care of ahead of time in order to maximize the day’s potential.

Skilled Facilitation

Even in the ideal environment and with every step of your meeting planned out, it is invaluable to have someone there to bring the day’s design to life and see it all through. This is where the third part of a successful workshop comes in: facilitation. The notable things effective facilitators accomplish that internal leaders often cannot are:

Leading with certainty: experienced leaders who specialize in facilitation are what take a workshop to the next level, as it often requires an unfamiliar figure with an unflappable sense of certainty to get participants to fully buy into the session’s outside-the-box agenda.

Delivering on the design effectively but flexibly: possessing a deep knowledge of the day’s agenda and workshop facilitation as a whole, facilitators ensure that the day sticks to the agenda while also making necessary adjustments on the fly and maintaining focus on the follow-through required once it’s all over.

Dealing with curveballs and ensuring effective next steps: While there are inherent risks to having a high-stakes workshop (like elephants in the room or filibustering participants), seasoned facilitators have the experience and executive presence needed to address these hurdles in a way the wider group can respect. In this way, they allow important, at times-contentious issues to be addressed, but in a timely and productive manner.


These overarching aspects of a successful workshop are vital to keep in mind when holding your next session. Off-site workshops can provide a great return on investment for years to come, but only if you provide the infrastructure for participants to unlock their potential.

If you’re local to New York, visit or email if you’d like to learn more about conducting a successful workshop and producing results that drive transformational business impact.

(The Innovation Loft was a sponsor at The Collaboratory 2019.)

Photo credit: Shulamit Seidler-Feller

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