Stay on track & manage delays

Related areas
TL;DR recommendations
—Create and share the agenda at the start of the workshop —Use time buffers —Use visual cues for the time-boxing —Have a “Parking Lot” —Keep track of time in breakouts —When running late, shorten the theory, not the activities

Keeping track of time in workshops can be challenging due to several reasons.

Firstly, workshops often involve dynamic and interactive activities, such as group discussions, brainstorming sessions, and hands-on exercises. These activities can easily extend beyond the allocated time if not managed carefully.

Secondly, participants' engagement and active participation can sometimes lead to extended discussions or tangents, making it difficult to stick to the planned schedule.

Additionally, unexpected technical issues, participant arrivals or departures, and unforeseen questions or concerns can disrupt the flow of the workshop, further complicating time management.

So here are our tried-and-tested tips to finish on time and keep the quality of your session high.

👉 Tip #1: Create a detailed agenda

Before the workshop, create a well-structured agenda that outlines the timing for each activity, including breaks and transitions, and the time you need to explain each activity. Determine the most important topics or activities that need to be covered within the given time frame and allocate sufficient time for these.

👉 Tip #2: Use time buffers

If discussions or activities are generating valuable insights and active participation, be open to extending the time allocated to capitalize on the group's enthusiasm and learning. That's why it's important to plan enough buffer time in your design. These are chunks of time when you don't plan anything on the agenda, so you have some space for that great conversation you don't want to abruptly cut. These will also prove useful if you need to start the session a bit later for whatever reason.

👉 Tip #3: Use visual cues for the time boxing

Display a visible timer or countdown clock to provide participants with a sense of time and keep them aware of the remaining time for each activity. The Butter Agenda allows you to do just that so that everyone in the room sees the allocated time for each activity. Having the counter in front of your eyes will eliminate the need to keep track of time on your phone and stay present in the session. Similarly, you can use timers for any small activity during the session, no matter if it's silent reflection, or something else. When time's up, participants will be notified with a sound, making it easy for you to “interrupt” them and move on. 👉 Tip #4: Always have a “Parking Lot”

Often, the excitement in the room is so hight, that the conversation gets sidetracked. Or maybe some participants have a different agenda they would like to push forward. This is why a “parking lot” is a must for any workshop! What is it? Introduce it at the beginning of the session as the place you'll “park” any topics and questions that don't align with the goals of the session. If there's time at the end, you'll come back to them. If not, you'll revert to them via email with the answers. You can use a whiteboard or the Shared Notes as a parking lot.

👉 Tip #5: Keep track of time in breakouts

You know by now how important small group conversations are for both learning, attention, and engagement. Don't rely on them to keep track of time. Instead, use the “broadcast” feature to let them know when you're at half the time, and 1-2 minutes before you close the breakout. This will help them stay focused on the task at hand, and bring their conversation to a conclusion before you close the rooms. You can skip an example, an anecdote, or the debriefing of an activity if needed.

👉 Tip #6: When running late, shorten the theory, not the activities

Sometimes, no matter how well you manage your time, you'll realize you will run out of it and won't be able to finish everything you had planned for. In this case, cut content from the next non-vital content block. Talking too fast and speeding is bad for learning and cutting breaks short will impact their energy. You'll be tempted to cut from the activities. Don't. You don't want your engaging session to turn into a long, boring lecture.

🧰 For your toolbox: