Why Use Coaching Tools and Exercises in Workshops? Plus Great Workshop Tips!

Group of people using Coaching Tools for Workshops

The essence of coaching is change, whether it's something we do—or how we think. Which means that it's essential that people leave our coaching workshops with at least one action—or new perspectives.

From the very beginning I used coaching tools and worksheets in workshops: handouts where people would write down their learnings—and identify actions.

A coaching form or worksheet helps people 'see' what's going on inside their mind

We all know that something happens when we take our thoughts out of our heads and speak them aloud—or put them on paper. We get perspective. We get insights. Because whatever has been rummaging around in our brain suddenly becomes tangible and 'real'.

And, when your attendees leave the workshop and take their form home, it also becomes something they can refer back to.

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

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

At the end of every workshop or webinar, I would give my attendees a workshop feedback form.

This form helped me hone my content and delivery style—and also (crucially) boosted my confidence: people really loved my workshops!

But one of the biggest things I learned about running workshops was that people didn't want to hear me speak—much!

Instead, what I learned was:

People are EAGER to interact with—and learn from—each other!

Get Your FREE Workshop & Webinar Feedback Form here:

This Workshop, Event or Webinar Feedback Form is fabulous! Use it to improve your workshop delivery skills, get newsletter sign-ups, sample coaching sessions booked, testimonials for your workshops—and more!

For everything you need to know about this form read 7 Reasons You Should Use this FREE Workshop Feedback Form - Now!

My Workshop Delivery Aha! moment

This was suddenly so obvious! A workshop is just like coaching session: people learn best when they figure it out for (or amongst!) themselves.

And as soon as I created more smaller group interactions, that feedback disappeared—poof!

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, what did I do do next?

Well, I continued to use coaching exercises and forms as worksheets and handouts. But instead of talking and sharing information at the front, and then getting people to fill out the the worksheet I facilitated their learning from each other.

Here are the 4 things I did as a result of this learning

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

And 5 things that came out of these small group discussions

  1. Powerful personal learnings
  2. Reinforcement of key workshop themes and ideas
  3. Nuanced discussions
  4. Different and new ideas for the participants (from each other, and for me as coach)
  5. And the powerful realisation that we're not alone... (other people struggle with this too!)

So much richness comes out of these group discussions that now I won't do workshops any other way. And it's my favourite part of the workshops!

Here's what I learned in pictures:

Coach presenting to audience
Less of this...
More of this...

Running workshops in a workplace

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

Plus organizations are more likely to expect you to be "training" (talking and sharing information) as well as providing tangible take-home resources.

So, when in a workplace, I may share more information (talk more!), as well as provide a 'pure information' handout to summarise key learnings, as well as the coaching exercises.

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

And I always include a coaching worksheet to help attendees summarise and clarify their thoughts and learnings.

Consider running free workshops when you first start!

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 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 empowers your attendees: always leave people feeling better about themselves or their situation.

Do this by:

  1. Ensuring attendees always have at least one action to take away.
  2. Or alternatively ask attendees to explicitly write down a helpful or 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.

Get 30+ Free Coaching Tools & Exercises!

If you love coaching activities and tools, be sure to check out our Free Coaching Tools & Resources Page. With over 30 tools, templates and forms to add to your coaching toolbox! You'll find:

  • Wheel of Life (Balance Wheel)
  • A Blank Wheel of Life (to customise for any situation)
  • Understand the Why of Your Goals!
  • 25 Questions to Identify Strengths
  • Client Action Recording Sheet & Template
  • Coaching Intake Session Checklist
  • And many more!

We know how hard it is to build a coaching business so we give away these tools free. They're also brandable and editable—enjoy!

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 Kindness.com. 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 for coaches, plus 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 Rawpixel.com 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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