What makes a good soft skills workshop?

Association news
Published on 7 August 2019

If you’re thinking about coming to one of our soft skills Masterclasses, what can you expect? How can you know that you’ll get what you want from it? John Scarrott is a trainer and coach working with Association professionals. He runs our Engagement, Public Speaking and Presentation Skills Masterclasses. We asked him what he thinks makes for an effective workshop. 

The success of a soft-skills workshop rests on a blend of things. There’s the content of course, but what sets the best workshops apart are the aspects related to people and how these are addressed. 

People are the most important part of any workshop. They can come feeling confident, apprehensive, or sometimes fearful. In fact they can bring more apprehension to a soft skills training session than they would to a live scenario, (I certainly used to). Here’s how I run my Masterclasses. 

My aim is to get us off to a good start, work well in the day and leave with an action plan to take things forward. If you like the sound of this, take a look at my forthcoming Masterclass dates here.

A good start: I like to say hello before we meet. I’ll send you something that gets you thinking about what you want to work on, what difference progress would make. You’ll become aware of any preparation that you need to do. And you can do it. No nasty surprises. And you can find out about me.

A group with things in common and differences: The group will all come from the Association sector. You could be from an Institute, Society, Trade Association or other membership body. You’ll be meeting and working with your peers and as such will have the chance to learn as much from them as you do from me. It’s a great way to expand your professional network.

Good beginnings: We start the session with introductions and goals. Everyone has the time and space to settle in, speak, to become present in the room and volunteer what they want to work on and why. When everyone hears themselves, they’ve spoken. With this, the ice breaks. And when you hear each other speak, you start to realise, “I’m not alone”.

Encouragement to stretch: it’s important to practise skills, yet this can be the scariest part of a soft skills workshop. So, we build up to the first practise. And then we have another in the afternoon. These are the two steps that will take you up to a new level smoothly. 

Blending discussion and information: there’s a balance to be struck here. I like to provide practical information and tips of course. But making a change to your soft skills is often about working things out for yourself. And the best way to do this is through discussing with your peers.

Feedback on practise: this is managed sensitively and well. Each speaker gets to say how they think it went. The group are invited to share what they noticed and I offer my view. The goal is for balanced, constructive feedback. The trust established between the group at the start of the session, paves the way for this to happen. 

Action orientated: What’s next for you? A workshop is a day out of the office. But it needs to be more than that. So there is a part that gives you time and space to think about, what next? For me? How will I continue what I’ve started? And the beauty of a soft skills workshop is that there are plenty of simple ways to take this forward.

Good endings: Finally, we circle back to the goal for the day. The group comes back together to share what has happened with their goal. Have they met it? Has it changed? What am I leaving with? And often this is when you’ll make connections with each other and keep in touch.

Many of my groups leave with a promise to stay in touch and to trade experiences, successes and stumbles. I see them as having the potential to form a learning unit, contributing to each others success. I hope this is your recipe for a good soft skills workshop. 

Take a look at my forthcoming Masterclass dates here.


John Scarrott
John Scarrott

John Scarrott Training and Coaching