Coaching Tools 101: Why Use Coaching Tools & Exercises in Workshops?

Group of people using Coaching Tools for Workshops

For me the essence of coaching is change, whether it's something we do—or how we think. Therefore it's essential that people leave our coaching workshops with at least one action—and new perspectives. From the very beginning I used coaching tools and worksheets in workshops: handouts where people wrote down learnings about themselves and identified actions.

A form or worksheet provides a way to help people 'see' clearly what is going on inside of them.

We all know that something happens when we take thoughts out of our heads and speak them aloud—or put them on paper.

And then, when they take their form home, it becomes something they can refer back to.

BUSINESS TIP: Remember to have your contact details on there so if people have questions or would like to follow-up, they know how to get in touch!

The importance of feedback and one essential thing I learned early on...

One of the biggest things I learned early on about running workshops was that people didn't want to hear me speak (much!).

Instead, what I found from using this workshop feedback form available *free* here was that:

*** People want to interact with, and learn from, each other! ***

So, in a workshop just like in a coaching session, people learn best when they figure it out for (or amongst!) themselves.

If an audience only listens, they take away 12% of your content. By making it more visual, you can increase audience comprehension and remembrance to 26%. But when you actually get them involved and responding, their understanding and 'take away' goes up to 51%. Mark Lavergne

What did I do with this information?

Well, I continued to use coaching exercises and forms as worksheets and handouts, but instead of me talking and sharing information and then getting people to fill out the the worksheet I did the following:

  • I said less and put people into groups to discuss answers and uncover deeper learnings.
  • I asked the groups to share their learnings/observations/thoughts with the entire group.
  • If needed (for example a learning point was missed in the discussions) I would sometimes add a couple of points from my notes.
  • And only then would I ask them to complete the corresponding part of the worksheets.

And what came out of these group discussions was:

  • Powerful learnings
  • Re-inforcement of key ideas and nuanced discussions
  • Different and new ideas for the participants (from each other, and for me as coach!)
  • And the powerful realisation that we're not alone...

So much richness comes out of these group discussions, that now I won't do workshops any other way.

So, here's what I learned in pictures


Coach presenting to audience

Less of this...


Group of Workshops discussing concepts and ideas

And more of this...

Considerations for running workshops in the workplace

When the workshop is in a work context we need to be especially aware of politics, and issues around personal sharing.

Depending on the client I may share more information (talk more!), as well as provide a 'pure information' handout in addition to the coaching exercises to summarise the key learnings.

But I still include the group discussions where people take a concept or learning and through listening, reflection and feedback with others, make it their own.

And I still follow that with a coaching worksheet for them to summarise and clarify their thoughts and learnings.

The benefits of running free workshops

In the early days of my coaching practice I ran a lot of free workshops.

This was a fantastic way for me to build a permission-based email list, fans and clients (adding 15-40 people each time).

That's because the workshop feedback form I mentioned asks for their email address AND asks if they would like to receive my newsletter and/or a free consultation. It also asks for testimonialswhich I collected for my website.

And lastly, I learned so much about running workshops from all the free sessions I gave that by the time I was paid to run workshops I was more confident as a speaker, more confident in my material—and better able to deliver great results.

A key tip for using Coaching Tools in workshops

Ensure that whatever worksheet, exercise or tool you use, it should empower your attendees. Always leave people feeling better about themselves or their situation.

This can be done by ensuring they always have at least one action to take away or by sharing a helpful and uplifting new perspective on themselves, their life situation or the world.

In Part 2 of this article I share 5 specific coaching exercises I love to use in workshops and why.

If you liked this article on using coaching tools in workshops, you may also like:

Emma-Louise Elsey Headshot

Contributing Author:

Emma-Louise Elsey has been coaching since 2003 and is the Founder of The Coaching Tools Company and Fierce She's passionate about coaching and personal development. Originally a project and relationship manager for Fortune 500 companies she combined her love of coaching, creativity and systems to create over 100 brandable coaching tools, forms and exercises including 30+ completely free coaching tools. She now serves coaches and the coaching world through her exclusive newsletter for coaches, Coaches Helping Coaches Facebook Group and many other great tools, resources and ideas for your coaching toolbox. The Coaching Tools Company is an official ICF Business Solutions Partner.

Learn more about Emma-Louise & see all their articles here >>

Image of Group of people using Coaching Tools for Workshops by via Shutterstock

Image of Group of people chatting together by Monkey Business Images via Shutterstock

Image of Coach "lecturing" audience by BearFotos via Shutterstock


  1. Fiona

    Hi, what a timely article for me. I have run workshops in the past and always liked using lots of group work. I am currently studying for a Diploma in Life Coaching and have two volunteer clients at the moment. I am thinking that I would love to be able to use a lot of the life changing concepts and tools of coaching in a group situation and had been wondering how best to do this - so thanks for the article, it has kind of confirmed I am on the right track with my plans.

    • Emma-Louise

      Thanks Fiona! Glad to have helped confirm your plans! There is a great book on Group Coaching if you are interested, "Effective Group Coaching" by Jennifer Britton. Warmly, EL

  2. Lorrie Hess

    Thanks for the confirmation of what I've noticed in our workshops. My partner and I just increased group activity and discussion time significantly - and also reduced our talking time to one-third. Better for the audience, and easier for us!

    • Emma-Louise

      Hi Lorrie! Thank-you for your comment. It sounds like you have a plan - and I agree wholeheartedly, better for the audience and easier for you - that's a true WIN-WIN!!! Let us know how it goes. Warmly, EL


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