Workshop design

A simple framework to test the success of workshops and exercises

Decorative only

Facilitation made simple.

When designing workshops or activities, it can be challenging to predict how successful they'll be as often the content or audience will be new.

This canvas helps to break down the major elements that need to be considered to ensure the audience love it and that you achieve the outcomes you need to. (NB: The canvas can be used for a single activity or whole workshop, though it uses the term "exercise" as a universal, catch-all term.)

Thinking about and planning for each of these elements will help ensure that your workshop isn't just impactful, but enjoyable for you and participants, too.

For those new to facilitation, filling out each element in detail may be required. For more experienced facilitators, using this tool are quick reference and quality check may be all that's needed.

The elements of the canvas include:

  • Purpose: The reason for undertaking the exercise. What are you ultimately hoping to achieve? E.g. This could be 'Democratically agreed upon vision of the future' or 'Connection with team and appreciation of skills and resources'.
  • Length: How much time is allocated for the exercise? This may greatly impact how the purpose is achieved.
  • Tactile outcomes: The physical outcomes of the exercise. This includes anything physical or material that will be produced. E.g. List of ideas, written feedback, conceptual models, prototypes, etc.
  • Abstract outcomes: Anything immaterial that may be produced. E.g. Personal connection, team building, self-reflection, etc.
  • What occurs before and after: The context of the exercise. Understanding where in a schedule this takes place is crucial for tone and setting. E.g. The exercise is scheduled just after lunch, this may impact the attention, energy, and focus of participants. 
  • Open and close the space: How the exercise is introduced and wrapped up. How are participants introduced to the exercise? What knowledge is required? How might they understand what's required of them? What feedback or explanation is supplied at the end? Think of a workshop like a book—a clear beginning (to set the scene), middle (where action happens) and the end (a satisfying conclusion).
  • Totems and resources: The physical requirements of the exercise E.g. paper, pens, slides, scissors, chairs, tables, music, etc. 
  • Why they’ll love and hate it: A check to make sure you've designed the exercise for participants—not just yourself. How might you engineer joy, surprise, calm, or play into the space? This requires understanding of who the audience is, what their motivations are, what they value, what they need, what they’re scared of, and more.
  • What is a completely different way to fulfil the purpose? This challenges the assumption that what you've created so far is the best option. It might be, but it also might not be. This element encourages you to start again and think about a completely different and potentially more effective way to achieve your goals. 

Workshop Design Canvas · Preview

Click here to download an A3-sized PDF of the canvas.