Outputs and Outcomes: The Two Sides of Workshop Results – with Tim Ferguson
Outcomes drive outputs. For workshops to produce results, they must curate tangible outputs and outcomes.
Myriam wanted to dive into the two sides of workshop results further. So, she reached out to Tim Ferguson, the CEO of Audience. Audience is a creative and strategic agency, specialising in live meetings and internal communications.
Designing and creating events for corporate clients is what Tim and his team do best. He brings energy and passion to every project, which is something that he has become known for. Tim is a speaker, author, trainer, coach, and facilitator with a unique perspective on curating great events. He understands how to achieve both sides of workshop results. And, he was more than happy to share his secrets with us.
Know your audience
A key part of Tim’s company is to create events for corporate clients. This means helping to conceptualise the event. To do this, Tim asks important questions such as what is the theme? What is the key message or concept? What is the agenda?
Then, he and his team help clients develop content, workshops, and business simulations. One of the key aspects of ensuring a successful workshop, Tim believes, lies in the art of speaker training.
Tim emphasises the significance of this skill for the leaders of an event. Usually, at the beginning of an event or workshop, the leadership “stands on the stage and delivers an authentic, clear, concise message that they want their audience to really engage with.”
You can then translate your speaking skills to workshop facilitation.
Tim reveals that “everything you need for preparation is not in you or your content. It’s in the audience.”
You must learn as much as possible about your audience. Who are they? What is their reality? What do they care about? What keeps them up at night?
The ‘red thread’ journey
Every workshop is different. However, every event has a storyline that runs through it that Tim calls the ‘red thread.’
Consider what the storyline looks like for the audience or workshop attendees. Ask questions like: how are people going to feel on the morning of day one? Day two? Where should people be at by the end of day three? And so on.
Tim believes that the difference between outcomes and outputs is simple. “We refer to outcome as the feeling or the emotion…outputs would be ‘we developed a plan,’ or ‘we created a solution’ or ‘we learned a specific technique.’”
In other words, outputs are tangible, whereas outcomes are subjective. You want to seek both of these results, but as Tim notes, it depends on the nature of the event. You may find that the final result is leaning towards one more than the other.
Trainers vs facilitators
Many corporate events and workshops can be generic. Usually, you’ll find small groups of people working in a breakout room. It’s highly interactive, which is great, but it’s a little predictable.
Tim views workshops as something that everyone must contribute to. This means that participants must contribute to the ideas, solution, or the outcome. In other words, everyone in the room is “advancing the knowledge of everyone else in the room.”
The facilitator’s job is to honour the abilities of everyone in the room. They must also engage everyone’s most “thoughtful, creative self, and have them develop something together that none of them could have created on their own.”
A trainer will give you direct instructions and teach you the ‘proper’ way to do something. Tim sees himself as a trainer, facilitator, and coach because he does all three. In his role as a coach, he aims to help the team or individual win and accomplish their goals.
Tools to drive a meaningful outcome and output
Myriam asked Tim about the tools or strategies he uses to drive a meaningful outcome or output at a workshop or meeting. Tim’s response focused heavily on the importance of asking the right questions. Questions that provoke meaningful and true answers.
Tim talks about how you can get beneath the surface to really understand what’s needed. Think – what do your customers value? What does your organisation need? And, what are the available resources you can leverage? Asking important questions as they relate to your business and what you want to gain from your workshop is so important.
But you’ve also got to take a step back. Tim always tries to get people to “step away from their own business, get out of their own shoes and see the world from an objective point of view as possible.”
If a team is struggling to agree on their priorities, it helps to guide them from the outside-in. Consider the needs of the customer and the company. Then, use these insights to revisit priorities and possibly set new ones.
Creating trust in workshops is crucial. To develop real trust, you need time. Tim suggests that the ‘sweet spot’ for a workshop duration is around two days of content over three days.
For example, the first day of content could be delivered on a Tuesday and the second day of content could be delivered on Thursday. This gives people time to let the information sink in. They have more time to think and work together to curate results.
Creating trust is about being vulnerable and showing your authentic self. To be truly authentic, you’ve got to be willing to show people that you’re not perfect. Nobody is perfect. But…people trust imperfect people, because nobody can relate to a seemingly perfect person – they simply seem unbelievable.
Have the courage to be vulnerable, which is something that Tim puts a lot of emphasis on when curating events and workshops for his clients.
If you’re the leader of an event, when you speak to the audience is more important than you might think. Here’s Tim’s advice on this one:
“Often it’s the best thing for the senior leader to be the last to speak, and to give permission for people to speak.”
However, sometimes it seems like the leader of the group is a ‘wolf in sheep’s clothing’ and really shouldn’t be called a leader. In cases like this, it’s difficult to build trust because the leader may not want a specific outcome or output to be achieved.
Of course, not all leaders are like this. The good leaders, the ones who genuinely care for their team, are the ones who will find it a lot easier to create trust. Those are the people who will help make sure that everyone walks away from the workshop with clarity and a renewed perspective.
Tim emphasises the importance of trust further when he says, “to have a real meaningful impact to create meaningful change, you need those outcomes… You need that trust.”
Tim’s Key Takeaway
Whether you want people to walk away from a workshop with an output or outcome, it’s important to remember your responsibility as facilitators. Don’t push people too far.
Tim reminds us that workshops fail when they “bring the wrong people for the wrong reasons to the wrong place at the wrong time.”
Take time to learn about the participants. Try your best to make it a great experience for everyone involved. Realign people’s perceptions and focus so that everyone on the team can work towards achieving the same goal.
You can learn a lot from the art of giving a great presentation. As Tim states, “it’s the ultimate, underappreciated, soft skill in the corporate world” and working on your presentation skills as a facilitator can really enhance your next workshop event.
You can listen to the show on your favourite podcast player, searching for “Workshops Work” or stream the episodes here.
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