Successful Workshops: Engage and Empower

ChairSmallI’ve been running several Chair Chi workshops for residents at aged care centres and have been reflecting on two common themes that also appear in the other workshops I run with Sue James; Essence of Appreciative Inquiry and AQ-KQ (Appreciative Intelligence and Kinaesthetic Intelligence).

The first theme is about ‘engaging’ participants, which is not only good manners but is also essential for any facilitator or trainer who wants to run a successful workshop.  Without engaging participants then empowering them is impossible. So to do this effectively I need to be aware of a number of things:

  • Age of participants
  • Gender
  • Cultural background
  • Knowledge
  • Attitudes

The first three are relatively easy to discover before the workshop, by asking a few questions of the organiser or client. But the fourth element, knowledge, is something that is only revealed as the workshop progresses.

And the fifth element, attitude, is something that needs to be continuously assessed during the workshop. Sometimes an organiser will give me an overall idea of ‘what the group is like’ but I still prefer to observe and monitor attitudes throughout the workshop from start to finish. This approach usually helps me find any ‘invisible elephants’ that may be lurking in the room. Sometimes I can’t see these ‘elephants’ but I can hear them restlessly stomping their feet to gain my attention.

The second theme of ’empowerment’ is something I try to achieve by doing the following;

  • Build trust
  • Listen
  • Compliment
  • Encourage
  • Focus on what works
  • Acknowledge grievances or problems – but don’t dwell on them
  • Trust the process

Whether I’ m working with a staff members, corporate executives  or a 100+ year-old residents in an aged care centre, I am constantly monitoring to ensure I’m engaging and empowering them. Otherwise, what’s the point of being there?


  1. Very well said, Chris. The list of items under “empowerment” is really comprehensive… Would love if you could share in any future blog post how you go about establishing the most critical one of all – trust. That would be a great discussion topic. Love your post.

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