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PMO Conference 2021 \\ Making Workshops Work – Penny Pullan

As PMO practitioners, we face the challenge of running really effective workshops in what are often very stressful situations: with demanding participants, bad news to share, challenging groups each with their own agenda, very senior leaders and more. On top of all of this, we need to collaborate creatively whether our workshop is virtual, in-person or hybrid.

You don’t need me to tell you that this is stressful, but all too often stress makes us less effective at facilitation. This session will explore the effects of stress on workshop leaders and how to counteract it to make your workshops work.
This session was presented by Dr Penny Pullen, author of a new book called Making Projects Work, and she shared some great stories that helped us think differently about workshop facilitation.

Session Recording


Session Slidedeck

 Making Workshops Work – Penny Pullan

Top Ten Takeaways

If you’re going to run a workshop, the best thing you can do is spend time planning that. Penny shared what she called her magic six – six things you need to be thinking about:

Penny really knows how to tell a story – certainly she has had many years of practice but it is something you can learn and finesse over time.
We loved the one about the lawyer where she lost the plot and also the six blind men and an elephant which she used to highlight how many people in a workshop have an opinion and all their opinions are right – from their perspective. We can use that conflict for good in getting some great outcomes to workshops.

I loved the solution to that problem where people on virtual meetings or calls are just not listening or paying enough attention. Penny talked about the step in the process where the attendees agree on how they will work together upfront.
The solution is that the facilitator tells everyone that every 10 minutes or so, they will be polling for comments/feedback from attendees randomly. It certainly makes people focus as no one wants to be that guy.

Thinking about the rules of the workshop – or the agreement on how everyone will work together – Penny talked about how some rules can be more positively framed – which is more likely to get agreement from the group. For example, rather than saying that there should be no interruptions, change it to be that there should only be one voice at a time – much more positive.

A bit part of the facilitation role is about reflecting back to the group about what you’re seeing. Often people in the moment, perhaps they’re taking over and not letting others have a say, don’t or can’t see that is what they’re doing. The facilitator needs to be able to jump in and reflect that back to them so they can see it i.e., ‘could you see that Mike and Joss had their hands up, ready to speak etc’
Also, the facilitator shouldn’t be the one in the spotlight, your job is to make sure the spotlight stays on them so the biggest skill you can deploy is listening!
Making Workshops Work

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