What really makes a workshop a workshop and not just a glorified focus group with a few exercises thrown in? When I signed up to the AQR’s ‘Welcome to the Games’ I was hoping to find out. I’ve run a few ‘workshops’ before, both client and consumer, but what I wanted from the course was to come away armed with a fresh tool kit of tricks and tips and a better understanding of what makes a workshop really work.

Kate and Iain were excellent hosts. With workshops being the name of the game, it was only fitting to run the training course itself in a workshop format. And what was great about the way Kate and Iain engaged us was that they’d get us doing things throughout the day, then stop and get us to reflect on why we were asked to do those things. We were never allowed to rest on our laurels. Whether it was walking round the room shaking hands with everyone or choosing your favourite smelly pen, we were constantly moved around, energised and engaged, the first rule when it comes to running a successful workshop.

The venue didn’t go unnoticed either. A lavishly decorated quirky set of rooms in London’s Art House, Islington (with an excellent breakfast spread on arrival and equally delicious lunch). Second rule of workshopping — stay out of the board room. If you want an inspiring and creative session, you need an inspiring and creative space. And one that gives people permission to shake off their day job and get stuck in.

The course took us through a step-by-step process, from Purpose through to Practicalities (the 7Ps) to running our own workshops, with a perfect balance of theory and practice. The latter half culminated in us planning and running our very own session. We were not only given the knowledge and confidence to facilitate but also great insight into how it feels to be a participant ourselves.

I’d highly recommend the course to anyone working in research, whether that be agency or client side. I came away with lots of great ideas and can’t wait to put some of them into practice!