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Mini-Workshops: A Fresh Approach to Learning for Teams with Busy Schedules


Clifton Johnson

Date Published

Sep 12, 2023
7 minute read

Defining Mini-Workshop Series Sessions 

At The Clearing, we lead client sessions every day. These sessions range from strategy sessions to leadership training to nearly everything in between. Depending on the objective, these sessions can range from a few hours to a few days. We work closely with our clients to ensure we’re driving for the proper outcomes and that we’re maximizing participants’ time; however, do you know what the most challenging part about session planning is for our clients?

Lining up calendars. Finding blocks of time that line up for every stakeholder can be downright tough – and that’s where a Mini-Workshop Series comes in.

The Clearing’s Mini-Workshop Series helps to build the capacity of our clients to address organizational challenges by offering models and frameworks that have been distilled down to what’s absolutely necessary. This allows us to cover a lot of ground in sessions as brief as 30 minutes spaced out with a month in between each session. Before we dig deeper, I want to be clear: our Mini-Workshop Series sessions aren’t a replacement for traditional training and engagements, but in the right situation, they support organizations in getting the ball rolling (or keep it moving) when time is tight.

Where It All Began

The idea for The Clearing’s Mini-Workshop Series concept began organically. A federal client inquired about leadership development training opportunities. In their department, they have individuals at various points in their careers, so holding one training wouldn’t meet the organization’s needs. However, catering day-long sessions for each career level was cost-prohibitive. Initially, we explored conducting two-hour or four-hour sessions, but scheduling for such a large cross-section of employees became difficult. That’s when we proposed the idea of a Mini-Workshop Series, which would meet both budget and scheduling criteria.

In essence, we began with delivering The Clearing’s standard leadership trainings, but we tailored them to career level for relevancy, then pared them down to the critical takeaways for each audience. These 30-minute sessions scheduled over the course of a few months would allow us to reach each audience and easily fit between meetings or during a working lunch. Additionally, we designed the sessions to be intentionally dynamic – The sessions were also dynamic – including short presentations and in-classroom group discussions, and also incorporated technology such as polling software to ensure engagement was high. Our client was on board to try this new way of operating and was enthusiastic that the specific content and topic areas aligned with their organization’s priorities for growing leadership capacity.

In service of those strategic goals, we created a series of Mini-Workshop Series called Think. Act. Communicate., which focused on leading and inspiring action and addressing different dynamics that are common barriers to success. The challenges the organization was facing included the need to empower more leaders across all levels; managing differences and conflicts in the workplace; and shifting leaders into a more entrepreneurial mindset. The four sessions dovetailed neatly with these challenges:

  • Session One: Embodying an Entrepreneurial Mindset
  • Session Two: Empowering Self and Others
  • Session Three: Navigating Social Dynamics in the Workplace
  • Session Four: Addressing Team Dynamics and Engaging Differently

What We Learned

Working with our client to implement this new approach to training was satisfying. Our key learnings and the feedback we received demonstrated the Mini-Workshop Series approach has real value.

Here are a few examples:

  • Timing: First, the condensed and targeted sessions helped with the organization’s scheduling issues. We heard from participants how much easier it was to fit these sessions into days often packed with back-to-back meetings. It also enabled participants to apply learnings in between sessions.
  • Engagement: We also discovered our Mini-Workshop Series is a great way to keep participants engaged. Knowing you’re only committing thirty minutes of your day eliminates the concern about what you may be missing or emails that are piling up. Combined with the single topic and up-tempo pace, there wasn’t time for any loss of focus as pressures outside of the training are tended to between breaks.
  • Pre-Work: We kept pre-work to a single short article or video of no more than ten minutes to help focus our conversations without adding any time-intensive activity.
  • A Forward-Looking Agenda: We ensured that each session was action-oriented and interactive, which included a call-to-action so participants could immediately apply what they learned back into their organization and their teams.

Mini-Workshop Series


We heard from participants that the focused nature of the Mini-Workshop Series allowed them to more easily understand the models and frameworks. In short, the topics covered were easily absorbed, making concepts easier to apply in the real world. As we plan more of these types of engagements, we’ll continue to iterate on the right balance of time commitment, topics covered, and optimal pre-work.

When to Consider a Mini-Workshop Series

As I stated earlier, a Mini-Workshop Series simply can’t replace in-depth training; however, it can help interrupt patterns with ideas that help put people on a growth path when longer engagements aren’t feasible. If you’re a leader who wants to equip your team with specific skills that will help advance their work towards mission objectives or strategic priorities, but find you’re limited in how much time your teams have to take on the learning and development required, a Mini-Workshop Series is a great place to start.

There are many reasons longer sessions are still advantageous – specifically when it comes to depth and breadth of content, facilitating in-depth group learning exercises, or highly technical topics. The Clearing is glad to work directly with leaders and teams to determine the right approach based on your organization’s specific needs and help choose the option that will best achieve your goals.

If you’re pressed for time and budget or simply looking for a way to get your team started on a professional development path, a Mini-Workshop Series may be the perfect place to start.

Contact us whenever you’re ready – I’d love to hear more about your challenges and discuss how we can help.