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

peoplej0441047CROPFor me the essence of coaching is change, whether it's something we do - or the way we think. Therefore I think 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.

Because we all know that something happens when we take thoughts out of our heads and speak them aloud - or put them on paper. The form or worksheet provides a way to help people 'see' clearly what is going on inside of them. And then, when they take the form home, it becomes something they can refer back to. And remember to have your contact details on there so that if they have any questions or would like to follow-up, people know how to get in touch!

Now, one of the biggest things I learned early on about running workshops was that people didn't want to hear me speak (much!). What I found from using this workshop feedback form available *free* here - was that people wanted to interact with each other more.

What I realized was that in a workshop, just like coaching, people learn best when they figure it out for 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

So I continued to use coaching exercises and forms as worksheets, but instead of me talking and then people filling out the appropriate part of the worksheet, I said less and put people into groups to develop their own answers and deeper learnings. I then got the groups to share their learnings/observations/thoughts with the entire group. And only THEN would I ask them to complete the corresponding part of the worksheets. I found so much richness - learning, re-inforcement, realising we are not alone - comes out of these discussions, that now I  won't do workshops any other way.

Formal meeting with man presenting

Less of this...

People discussing and working in a group of 3

And more of this...

Workshops at work and in business: When the workshop is in a work context I have to be especially aware of politics, and issues around personal sharing. And 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 it's still the group discussion where people take a concept or learning and through listening, reflection and feedback with others, make it their own. And I always follow that with a coaching worksheet for them to summarise and clarify their thoughts and learnings.

In the beginning I did a lot of free workshops. Doing free workshops was a fantastic way for me to build an email list, fans and clients. The workshop/seminar feedback form I mentioned asks for their email address AND asks if they would like a consultation. It also asks for testimonials - which I collected for my website.  I learned so much about running seminars - that by the time I was paid to run seminars I was confident and able to deliver.

So, whatever worksheet exercise or tool you use, it should EMPOWER your attendees - leave them 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 new perspective on themselves, their life situation or the world.

Learn more about what coaching tools are, when to use them and how they can help here >>

In Part 2 of this article I'm going to share with you 5 specific coaching exercises I love to use in workshops >> and why.


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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 >>


  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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