Skip to content
Home » Products » Podcast » Season 5 » S05 E03 – Workshopping

S05 E03 – Workshopping

Laura and Doug have a chat with Pedram Parasmand, a workshop designer, leadership coach, team builder and consultant.

Ped’s favourite books

  • 1984 by George Orwell
  • The Art of Possibility by Rosamund Stone Zander & Benjamin Zander

Find all of our guests’ reading recommendations at our The Tao of WAO book club.


Important note: this is a lightly-edited AI transcription of the conversation. If you require verbatim quotations, please double-check against the audio!

Laura Hilliger: [00:00:23] Hello and welcome to the Tao of WAO , a podcast about the intersection of technology, society and internet culture with a dash of philosophy and art for good measure. I’m Laura Hilliger.

Doug Belshaw: [00:00:35] And I’m Doug Belshaw. This podcast season is currently partially unfunded. You can support this podcast and other We are open projects and products at open Thank you to our most recent backer Alex. We’ve now got some badges for people who back. We are open projects and open collective so they’re winging their digitally digital way to support us as we speak.

Laura Hilliger: [00:01:02] Today. We’re talking to Pedram Peresman, a workshop designer and facilitator and also a leadership coach, team builder, consultant and all around amazing human being. We had the pleasure of working with you on a couple of projects during the pandemic, and so we’re really delighted to have him here today. Welcome, Ted.

Pedram Peresman: [00:01:24] Thank you. Thank you for having me on. Excited to be here.

Doug Belshaw: [00:01:28] So the first question, of course, which I hope you’re prepared for bed is what is your favourite book?

Pedram Peresman: [00:01:36] So I did search inside myself to answer this question, and it’s kind of a tough one because I think quite a lot of the books I read nowadays are non-fiction business books, productivity books or books related to personal development. But if I kind of go back to when I was younger, I was really into science fiction and I loved 1984. It’s a bit cliched, I know, but I read as a teenager and then I think picked it up a few times as an adult. And I’ve even seen a theatre, an opera adaptation to it over the years. Was it a rock opera? No, it wasn’t. It was just a, you know, a regular opera. And yeah, and like I said, it’s a bit cliched, but I do. I really enjoyed the kind of the social commentary that I know was relevant at the time when he wrote it and when Orwell wrote it and how it continues to feel relevant now. You know, it’s one of those things that I refer back to a lot. Yeah. So I think that’s my my non-fiction book, my fiction book that I would choose as my favourite. And have you got a non-fiction one as well? Yeah. You know, again, I was like thinking about this and you know what, I reckon what I’d say is probably the first self-help book that I read. It’s called The Art of Possibility by, um, I actually went to find it. It’s by Ben Zander and his wife Roz. And it’s a bit they’re, they’re American. It’s a bit cheesy at times, but when I read it, it just it was at a time when I needed to kind of reframe how I saw myself and how I saw the world. And it was although I can’t remember the specific details in it. Now, the every kind of chapter, which was some practice to help you reframe what you see and how you experience things, was just like an eye opening and and yeah, it really helped me. I guess it was a catalyst for me to do the work that I do now. It was I was still in it was in that world of learning and growth and personal development, but this was just a little bit more of a catalyst to do what I do now.

Laura Hilliger: [00:03:54] I feel like as an American, I have to ask whether or not you think Americans are cheesy since that’s how you introduce them.

Pedram Peresman: [00:04:03] So and I should also add that I am married to an American, too. So but when it comes to world of personal development and the stuff that came out of the human potential movement in the 60s and 70s, there’s a lot of I mean, let’s not beat about the bush a lot of things in that world.

Laura Hilliger: [00:04:23] I understand.

Doug Belshaw: [00:04:26] Oh, excellent. Excellent. So that’s really interesting. The I feel like I was slightly radicalised as a teenager by reading Animal Farm. And recently actually I read during the pandemic 1984 and Brave New World Back to back, which is a horrendous thing to do in the middle of the pandemic.

Pedram Peresman: [00:04:47] Yeah, I read them back to back at the time as well. And it’s interesting, you know, when you think about do we live in a huxleyan world or an Orwellian world, there’s kind of arguments to be made on both sides of things. Yeah.

Laura Hilliger: [00:05:02] Yeah, I had a couple of years ago, I had a reread all of the things I was forced to read in in school phase. And so I reread 1984 Animal Farm, Brave New World, Lord of the Flies, which if you haven’t read that as an adult, you should read it and then wonder why they would put that on school curriculum because whoa! And you know, Fahrenheit 451 Day of the Triffids, all of those. Oh, yeah..

Doug Belshaw: [00:05:31] Oh, my goodness me.

Laura Hilliger: [00:05:33] What a wonderful book. Yeah, I loaned it to someone and then I never got it back, which is why I have a policy of not loaning people books.

Doug Belshaw: [00:05:39] SeThough.

Laura Hilliger: [00:05:41] There’s a sequel.

Doug Belshaw: [00:05:43] There’s a sequel to Day of the Triffids. The reason you haven’t heard about it is because it’s terrible, that’s why. Yeah, It’s not like, you know, like the Toy Story movies get better. Yeah, it’s not like that.

Laura Hilliger: [00:05:57] We’re going to get, we’re going to get reader mail. About your opinion of the sequel to Day of the Triffids. I don’t I don’t know, I haven’t read it.

Doug Belshaw: [00:06:04] I want to start because I’ve heard you tell this story before because some people might think, oh, I know Ped. He’s a good looking guy on LinkedIn. And I wondered whether we could start.

Pedram Peresman: [00:06:17] I’m not sure. Yeah.

Doug Belshaw: [00:06:18] One of and I legitimately believe this to be true, one of the best profile photos in the history of profile photos. So could you just and Laura might not have heard this story, so could you tell us the story behind this, this profile photo of yours?

Pedram Peresman: [00:06:33] Yeah. Okay. I will. Um, so I mean, I should say I should probably change the photo. It’s about seven years old now. I was in my mid 30s then, and it was probably when I was at my most peak hipster. I was coming out of the Hoxton Hotel. I’d had brunch, probably avocado on toast, obviously wearing a smart, casual Rapha cycling blazer. It’s like a, you know, like imagine a blazer but designed for cycling, um, with the little kind of pink highlights. Rafa Yeah.

Laura Hilliger: [00:07:09] Yeah. So for listeners who don’t know, Rafa is one of the most luxe cycling brands.

Pedram Peresman: [00:07:16] Yeah. Yeah. Um, I love that jacket. They don’t make it anymore anyway. And I was unlocking my fixed gear bike, obviously, and some guy approached me who said that he worked for a Korean style magazine and he was taking pictures of cool guys on cool bikes. So of course, thinking I was a cool guy with a cool bike, I agreed for him to take the pictures. So he did. And, you know, he directed me to look longingly into the distance and all that stuff. And afterwards I asked him if he would share some of the photos and maybe even the link of the, you know, the article that was going to be written with me in it. And he did. And it was great. And he sent me the link and obviously all written in Korean, but the headline was in English and it said Style Maketh Man. And I was like, Oh, this is great. Wow, brilliant. And I was like, curious to know what the rest of it was about, you know, all the written in Korean. So I emailed it to a friend of mine who’s Korean and said, What does it say? And she she got back to me and she goes, you know, so it starts off in Korean as well and style Makyth man. But let’s see what else is in store for men in their 40s I was 35 at the time. I was like yeah. Like this bittersweet moment in my life. So yeah, that’s, that’s where that photo came from. I should change it. Like I said.

Speaker4: [00:08:48] I don’t think so. I love it. It’s timeless.

Doug Belshaw: [00:08:52] So thanks.

Laura Hilliger: [00:08:54] I would really like to see the rest of the photo.

Pedram Peresman: [00:08:57] Oh, yeah. I’ll dig it out. Yeah.

Laura Hilliger: [00:08:59] Please do.

Doug Belshaw: [00:09:02] Um, so that is on your LinkedIn profile and other things which people should go and have a look at. And it’s interesting because I knew this about you a little bit anyway, about how you’d had a varied career, but then I was scrolling through your, your LinkedIn profile last week and oh my goodness, Like, you know, I found it an aspiration agency, which I knew about. I didn’t know that you took a career break to learn Spanish in South America. Like, can you just talk? Because one of the interesting things about this podcast is we we are very fortunate to know awesome people like yourself and some people might be listening to this thinking, How do I get to be paid? And sometimes interesting, like walking people through some of the career transitions and like how you ended up where you are now and that kind of thing. You don’t mind.

Pedram Peresman: [00:09:50] So yeah, I’d say, what’s the what would you like me to share?

Doug Belshaw: [00:09:55] Well, like, right at the beginning. So what was your first job? How did you get into it? And then how did you decide to move on from that? And then you can fast forward bits that you know you don’t want to dwell on or whatever, but like, what’s the arc been? What’s the trajectory been? What’s been the common, what’s changed?

Pedram Peresman: [00:10:09] Nice. Okay. I think for me, and it’s funny because it’s one of those things where I haven’t always been intentional or cognisant around the decisions I’m making. And, you know, when I look back and I go, okay, what was that about? You know, I can make sense of it, you know, like, what’s the narrative? And, and I probably say that the the narrative or the the thing that hooks each experience to each other. And even if it’s gone in like random, you know, in, in maybe a convoluted way or a non-linear way, is this idea about helping people learn and grow as people, you know, the kind of the practical and interpersonal skills that you need in the workplace to be a great colleague, be a great team-mate manager, leader. And so yeah, I kind of I’ve done that sometimes at the frontline of my work. For example, when I was a teacher or a Duke of Edinburgh Leader. Other times it’s been more behind the scenes, for example, consulting with organisations and charities that support others. You know, the kind of projects that we worked on together. And now I’m increasingly working with other coaches and consultants and experts to help them create like high value workshops and programming experiences so that they can essentially like amplify their impact on others to learn and grow a little bit meta there. But yeah, I think around learning and growing, um, is like the, the thread. And when I kind of I kind of share a little bit more about my kind of origin story is not the right word, but where that came from, because I’ve done a lot of like searching around. Like if you’d have asked me what I wanted to do when I was at university or even when I was at school, I’d say something like, I want to, you know, be an investment banker or a management consultant or something like that. I know, right? Like, I can see you’re kind of facial expressions, like, that’s not me. Um, so yeah, I can if you want me to share a little bit more about what, what happened?

Doug Belshaw: [00:12:14] Well, origin stories are what every superhero needs, so. Yeah.

Laura Hilliger: [00:12:18] Yeah. And Ped, what did you actually study at university?

Pedram Peresman: [00:12:23] Theoretical physics. So I have a massive theoretical physics.

Pedram Peresman: [00:12:26] Yeah.

Laura Hilliger: [00:12:27] And you wanted to be an investment banker?

Pedram Peresman: [00:12:30] Well, no I mean, do you know physicists go to become investment bankers? You know, I sort of saw the other people around in my. In my cohort. Yeah. It’s funnily enough. So I. Yeah, I’ve got a master’s degree in theoretical physics from Imperial College. And when I graduated, I was highly educated, but completely unemployable. That’s how I kind of see it. And it’s because I didn’t have any of those, I guess, like soft skills under my belt to demonstrate that I could work as part of a team or all these other things. You know, these things that graduate recruiters are looking for in a communication skills and whatnot. And and that really came from, I guess, my parents, Iranian Armenian expats who moved to the UK. They didn’t really want my brother and I to experience any adversity. So I’d say that I was kind of spoilt, like so all because they didn’t know how the system worked around, you know, the, the value of getting a part time job or doing an internship. This all these things just weren’t on my radar. So when I graduated, all my friends had kind of gone into consultancy and investment banking and all that stuff and I was there like, okay, what what do I need to do now to get a job? You know, get a graduate job? So I went and did a whole bunch of volunteer work at fundraise, went on a charity expedition, and that’s when I first got my my first job after university was working as an executive assistant in a governmental body that helped or a team that helped marginalised unemployed people get into work.

Pedram Peresman: [00:14:15] And that was really enlightening because I was like, okay, this is like. I was privileged and unemployable. And these people, you know, there was like this this sort of the there was a bit of a gap there. So, you know, all that happened. I got my kind of, you know, my all the things I could put on a CV that was set to become an accountant. So I kind of did a little bit of a pivot. I was like, okay, I’m going to be an accountant. And I was targeted by through the milkround. I don’t know if that website still exists. It’s like the thing that graduates help, helps graduates get.

Doug Belshaw: [00:14:50] Yeah, it’s a thing in the UK, isn’t it? And I think maybe Australia as well. Yeah. So you kind of get shocked to different types of careers I guess, and organisations.

Pedram Peresman: [00:15:00] Yeah. So I got this email to it was to join the inaugural cohort of Teach First. I, I don’t know if anybody, if you know, I think Doug you might know about teach.

Doug Belshaw: [00:15:10] I know, teach first .

Pedram Peresman: [00:15:11] It’s a teacher training program and. It has. It’s a charity that was had a, I guess, a mission to address educational disadvantage. And I was kind of controversial at the time because the name suggests this is like teach first, make a difference. That was like part of the.

Doug Belshaw: [00:15:33] Then go and earn loads of money then.

Pedram Peresman: [00:15:34] Yeah, then go and like develop your leadership skills and then go into the corporate world and earn loads of money. But you know, you’ve sort of you’ve gone and you know you’ve given something back a bit so and a controversial it’s, it’s evolved since then but I thought what a great opportunity for me to actually go and do something which like helps people that are less privileged than me and also maybe help them not make the same mistakes I made around not developing your soft skills. That’s why I did. The Duke became the Duke of Edinburgh leader in the school and all that stuff. So that’s part of how I go into the work I did. I do. But instead of teaching for two years, I ended up teaching for five years and I got more and more fascinated by how people learn and grow, you know, all the soft skills stuff. And I suppose everything else since then has had that thread, all the trainings that I’ve done, all the work that I’ve been involved in, in some shape or form has got to do with helping people grow. So, yeah, that’s, uh, I’ve thought about that, you know, and your kind of question made me think about it a bit more.

Doug Belshaw: [00:16:43] Well, it is fascinating, though, isn’t it? Because you kind of, especially when you’re young, you’re asked a lot like, what are you going to be when you grow up? And then when you university, you have a story that you tell yourself and then you kind of go out into the world and you realise like, Oh, it turns out I’m interested in different things than I thought I was. And the opportunities that you have and how you can link those experiences that you’ve had together is fascinating. So it’s really interesting to know that you that was you were turned on to that by a formative experience quite, quite early on.

Pedram Peresman: [00:17:13] Yeah. And you know, and that kind of geeky physicist in me continues as. To try to understand how things work. That’s why I wanted to do university. I want to study physics at university. How does the universe work? But now it’s more about like, how do we work like internally? Like what? What’s our internal processes as people? Also how we work with others interpersonally, all those things. I’m fascinated by. So, you know, when I talk about the books I’ve read, you know, the non-fiction books around personal development and all that, like neuroscience, psychology, all that stuff. I’m yeah. Fascinated by.

Laura Hilliger: [00:17:52] I think it’s really interesting the metaphors that we that we kind of learn through osmosis in our the early part of our lives where, you know, we hear that our careers are like a ladder, you know, like step by step, you just climb up or, you know, you hear here that in order to do X, then you have to follow, you know. Whatever the letters before X are like in a perfect line. But every time we talk to somebody about how they got to where they are, their origin story is completely different from where they’ve ended up. And none of the career paths that we talk about or that we hear about, including our own, are in any way a straight line. There are these crazy curlicues and I think this is something that’s really interesting, particularly for young people to to understand. And I wonder how we as a society can do better about helping people understand that there is no step by step to be, you know, quote unquote, successful, that it is all, you know, a learning and growing journey and that it’s curly.

Pedram Peresman: [00:18:54] Yeah, I agree. And I think sometimes you can be super intentional about it. And other times it’s just seeing what happens, you know, and making decisions, feeling out because you’re not going to necessarily know what you want to do until you’ve tried something that you know. Did you enjoy it? Did it feel good? Did it, Did you feel like you’re making a difference or whatever it is? Like whatever your barometer is, um, and you’re not going to know until you try. And I think what’s important is just to to pause every so often and just check in with yourself, you know? And yeah, like last year, last November, I did a little, had a bit of a pivot with the work that I’m up to, and that came off the back of me asking myself, What do I love doing? What do I like doing and what can I do? But I probably shouldn’t. And, and yeah, again, just that that just helps to clarify the next steps.

Laura Hilliger: [00:19:51] Do you have a process for that reflection? Do you like are there any specific tools that you use to help you do that? Reflection Every once in a while.

Pedram Peresman: [00:20:00] So that literally just asking those three questions, it’s not, not, not too complicated.

Pedram Peresman: [00:20:05] Right. Okay. Yeah.

Pedram Peresman: [00:20:07] Um, the other one, which I’ve, I’ve used and I’ve actually worked with others to use is the concept of the ikigai. Yeah. The Japanese concept of a life well lived. And if you Google it, you end up with a couple of overlapping circles. That represents what I love doing, what the world needs, and a whole bunch of other things. But it doesn’t actually that that construct, as it turns out, doesn’t come from Japan. It’s like some buddy who works in personal development, like came up with it. But there’s some really good prompt questions to, to ask yourself and then just see where the overlap is and go, okay, that’s the sweet spot to, to kind of to focus on.

Laura Hilliger: [00:20:45] Yeah, I was totally prompting you to say ikigai, because when you ask those three questions, then I saw the circles in my head and we actually have a, we have a page on our wiki that’s called the spirit of we are open and we, we use those questions to sort of talk a little bit about how we choose projects and just do that kind of reflection.

Doug Belshaw: [00:21:06] And on, we have a template which people can use, which we use with Greenpeace International for some work we did on their website. So if you want to be like Ped and do some personal development work, seamless plug here, you can have a look at that up.

Pedram Peresman: [00:21:25] Actually, just highlight that last question as well. What do I, what can I do? But I probably shouldn’t because it’s there’s as we go through our lives and we end up doing things in different roles, different jobs that we can become competent in, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that you enjoy it or you want to continue to do it. And I think it’s quite good to ask yourself the opposite as well. So what what do I need to stop doing? Because there is an opportunity cost of continuing to do things that either don’t light you up or are a bit of a drag or whatever it is when whereas just only and you know, you might continue to do it because you can do it. Um, so yeah, so that’s a good one.

Doug Belshaw: [00:22:16] We could talk for hours and I want to get to workshops in a moment, but the so Oliver Quinlan I don’t know if you know Oliver, but he’s a, he’s a friend of ours. He used to be at the Raspberry Pi Foundation. Now he’s gone to work for the civil service. Um, he’s got a newsletter. And a couple of weeks ago he did one about. He used to be a teacher as well. The title of it was You’re Learning a Lot, but Is it valuable? And he was talking about like, we have this assumption that we’re always learning new things in the work that we do and therefore all learning is valuable. And he talks about, you know, finally getting a new project through an arcane approvals process or working out how to convince someone obstructive to try and solve a new problem. You’re saying, Well, some learning is just the things that you have to do because your workplace is dysfunctional and that’s not actually useful learning. Um, you know what I mean? And like just I thought it was an interesting link to what you’re, you’re saying there in terms of stuff that, you know, you can do but perhaps you don’t want to do anymore. Um, you might work in an organisation or with people who, yeah, you can work with them, but maybe you don’t want to do that anymore. And so that reflection is a really, really valuable thing to do. What do you love? What do you get out of bed for in the morning? That kind of.

Pedram Peresman: [00:23:24] Thing? Yeah. Yeah. Good.

Laura Hilliger: [00:23:26] I think that’s a this is also like a nice place where I would love to have advice or have had advice in the past about how do you, um. How do you actually convince people who constantly come to you for something that they think that you’re good at, that you don’t want to do anymore? Like, how do you make how do you actually make that pivot? Because often we’re known for something and people are like, Oh, Laura is just the most awesome, whatever facilitator and I might hate facilitation. I don’t. I like it. But if I don’t like it and people think I’m really good at it and they constantly ask me to to do that work, how do you actually help, like pivot without, you know, sort of damaging your reputation or. Yeah.

Pedram Peresman: [00:24:13] Yeah, I think it’s a good question. Um. I think the simple answer. And it’s easier said than done to say no to those opportunities. I know that it’s a lot easier said than done, especially because you might be you know, you especially if you’ve run your own business, you’re a freelancer. You might be like, Well, that’s a paycheque. You know, that’s going to give me all these other things I want in my life. But like I said, there is an opportunity cost there. That means that you aren’t spending the time investing in the aspects of your work and life that you are wanting to grow. Um, so, yeah. Yeah. I think it’s, it’s a, it’s a, it’s a, it’s a generous no I think and helping people point them in the right direction, you know, there might be other people that you’ve worked with that can do that work and enjoy doing that work and say, you know I’m not doing that, but this person can.

Doug Belshaw: [00:25:12] Yeah pointing to other people can be a very generous thing to do. Yeah. Um, let’s go into two workshops. I find it fascinating to hear about your story from like, hard nosed physicist realising that they needed more, like, human soft skills to genuinely being one of the most emotionally mature people I’ve had the pleasure of working with. Yeah. Um, and in the conversation that we’ve had so far, um, I think there’s, in the background there’s a little bit of like people not realising the development and the evolution that needs to take place in human beings to get to where they need to be. And so when I was younger, you know, my dad was deputy head of my school and my football coach and whatever, and I saw the behind the scenes thing. Um, and I wondered, like a lot of the time people see you or see people as the finished article and. But is there a. Have you had to learn new skills, like to do what you’re doing online versus offline? Do you feel like there are just certain people who. I shouldn’t say this, but like. Like naturally good facilitators or naturally good like workshop hosts or leaders or whatever. Um, or are there certain things that can definitely be learned, I guess.

Pedram Peresman: [00:26:33] Yeah. Well, there’s a lot of, I think to be a facilitator, whether it’s online or offline, there’s a lot of learned skills. But I think the one thing that great all great facilitators that I’ve seen have in common is that they care about the people that they are running a session for, whether it’s whatever kind of workshop or programming it is. Um, obviously care that the content is valuable to them, care enough to tune in and respond to what’s going on for the audience. Um, you know, working with whatever’s come up with for them, you know, their thoughts, their reactions, their feelings, all that stuff. Just like welcoming all of those things, not making them wrong, but just sort of working with them to just help them get to the outcomes that they want. So I think that obviously you can cultivate that, but you’ve got to ultimately care about the people that you’re running a workshop for.

Doug Belshaw: [00:27:29] You’ve shared a lot of stuff recently. I keep mentioning LinkedIn, but that’s, I guess, the place where I see you most often, mainly because I’m not on Twitter and stuff anymore. And like daily you’re sharing stuff like giving away all of the secrets, as it were, hopefully helping the world become better at workshops. But are there any things that you would say, okay, I’m planning a workshop, I’ve got to have these things in either magic ingredients or like the fundamentals or like if I don’t put these three things in, it’s going to fail or whatever. Are there certain things that you would say, okay, make sure you get these sorted out before you get before you begin?

Pedram Peresman: [00:28:09] Yeah, I think there’s a few things, a few ways you can think about that. So the mechanics of a workshop, like how how it’s structured and how you set it up and all that stuff, how you give instructions. But I go further upstream and think about the principles that underlie it. And for me, there are three principles that underlie great workshops. The context based the evocative and their experiential. And I came across a version of this idea by a course leader of mine many years ago called Caroline Hall. When I was on a ten month leadership program I did in 2016. She shared a version of this, but I’ve kind of gone on to adapt it to, I guess, to make it more relevant to the kinds of work that I do. And yeah, I can sort of go go into a little bit more detail about what I mean by context.

Doug Belshaw: [00:29:05] Oh for sure. Yeah. Please, please do.

Pedram Peresman: [00:29:06] So context based, I guess this really means that there’s always a context behind every workshop you run. So each group that you run a workshop for will have their own context, who they are, what they do, what’s working for them, what’s not working for them, what they want to achieve in their work or their lives. Basically, there is a context to who they are really understanding the context. So it helps to clarify that value proposition. But also having that context really anchors you around the design of the session, sort of deciding what goes and what doesn’t go in. But ultimately when you’re then in the session, that context helps you navigate the conversation. It’s like the anchor so that you’re really paying attention to what’s going on and relating it back to that context so that it’s useful for people. And especially if things things don’t go to plan, that context is going to still be a useful anchor to guide the conversation or guide the the workshop back to what’s going to be meaningful for people. So that’s context based, experiential. I think this really comes down to this idea about learning by doing, you know, if you think about some of the great learning experiences that you’ve had, you know. Probably got your hands dirty. You’ve tried something. You’ve may have failed or succeeded, and that’s just prompted you to get a little bit better and better from it.

Pedram Peresman: [00:30:29] So I think workshops, great workshops, whether they’re surrounded, whether they’re to do with individual growth, where individuals are developing their self awareness to learn new skills or if it’s group processes where groups are learning how to be more skilfully or learning how to more skilfully work with each other, or even innovation processes where you’re helping harvest a group’s collective wisdom. All of these cases, some kind of learning is happening and it’s happening through experience. So I think experience is really important. You’re not just like talking at people, you’re giving them things to do and which essentially leads into the next bit that the evocative element, because those experiences evoke reactions and thoughts, feelings, um, people enjoying it, not enjoying it. All these reactions are really important because in a workshop you want to be collecting those reactions, helping people make sense of those, whether the experience was a positive, positive or negative for that activity, because that ultimately helps them develop their self awareness, social awareness, all those other things that are needed to figure out what does this mean for them and their realities. So I think those three principles around context based, experiential, evocative learning are what I consider whenever I’m designing any workshop or programming.

Doug Belshaw: [00:31:59] So I find this fascinating Ped, you know, the evocative and experiential thing. I’ve got two things I want to kind of zoom in on. The first one is whether, you know, when you’re running a workshop, do you tend to run them by yourself or does it depend on numbers? Do you have someone else usually helping you? That kind of thing.

Pedram Peresman: [00:32:15] I my preference is to run workshops with other people, like with a co facilitator. I think it creates a a better dynamic for the participants. Both those facilitators can bring their own expertise. When one facilitator is maybe sharing an idea or a concept or giving instructions, the other one can be tuning in much more clearly with what’s going on with the group. See if something’s landing or not landing, do a bit of a yes. And you know, it’s just I find that so much more dynamic and interesting, although I do run things by myself.

Doug Belshaw: [00:32:49] Yeah, Yeah, for sure. And the interesting thing is when you’re talking about the evocative and experiential thing, you’re basically increasing the likelihood potentially of things going wrong because you’re tapping into people’s emotions, you’re getting them to do stuff and that might not go right. You’re interacting with and I see so many or have experienced so many times as a participant where people try and keep things really neutral and therefore it’s really boring and you don’t learn anything. And I wondered, I guess this comes into the next question about like how you’ve noticed ways in which it could be your own workshops are the ones you participate in. Are there certain ways in which workshops tend to go wrong? Is it based on them not getting those three things round about right, about context based, evocative, experiential? Or are there particular ways in which workshops tend to fail or go wrong?

Pedram Peresman: [00:33:41] Yeah, I think. So there’s a bit of everything. But I think not not meeting your audience where they’re at, I think is a key one either in the work that you do beforehand to understand who they are and understand that context. But you’re not always you don’t always have the the luxury of being able to figure out who’s coming to your session beforehand. So making sure that you have the time at the beginning to be able to check in with people, see how they how they’re landing in the session, what they want to get out of the session. I think that’s really important because then people immediately feel like you get them and you trust them. It builds a trust because you’re really. Like I said, meeting them where they’re at and you can adapt and flex the plan and maybe like refer back to what it is that they want to get out of the session. So I think that’s one thing when you’re just. Going into lecture mode, for example. And I think maybe that’s where the second bit as well. So there’s six fundamental building blocks. There’s like lectures or kind of mini teachers. There’s individual reflection, group activity or group discussion, active experimentation, which is something that can happen by yourself or with others scenarios and Q&A. So those are like the six building blocks. And there’s also, I guess you can think about how you mix and match those building blocks and changing them up every 20 minutes or so is really important to make things just feel like they’re moving and not getting too stuck into one type of activity. So I think that mixing, not mixing things up enough or just relying too much on, say, delivering or talking at people. Um. And yeah.

Doug Belshaw: [00:35:29] So there’s rules of I mean, I remember I think Laura told me about the kind of rule of thumb about getting people to talk really early. The earlier you get people to talk, the more likely they are to, you know, talk in the workshop session itself. And rather than, you know, being in passive lean back mode or whatever. Um, do you I mean, you might have some little kind of practical tips like, like that. But the other thing I wanted to ask you was, during our collaborations, I’ve particularly noticed how organised you are and that might be the the physicist in you. I don’t know. Um, but I know that you’re like an ambassador or an expert facilitator in Mural, which is an online kind of whiteboarding tool. It does more than that, but that’s the way I would describe it. But do you know, do you have some things which might be particularly germane to workshop facilitators or just you as a business owner or whatever in terms of processes and tools and workflows and little tips like that as we come towards the end?

Pedram Peresman: [00:36:30] Uh, in terms of. Workshops if you’re running online workshops, this is one of the things that you just touched on there. Getting people in, involved and interacting is really important. Um, there’s loads of different ways you can do that. So things like chat, you can just get people to add things in chat. An interactive whiteboard is really great. In fact, I think both chat and interactive whiteboards afford a way to run workshops online that engage people more actively than face to face sessions because you’re not having to wait in turn to hear from everyone. So I think there’s some really clever ways that you can use that. Um, when it comes to, um, like business or like business workflows and, and how I organise myself. Big fan of notion. It’s, I don’t know if you’ve come across it. It’s sort of like a. And interact. It’s a collaborative document com database and you can essentially help organise a lot of your processes on there. So I often use it to collaborate with um, other project partners or clients to create like a project dashboard that has things like your tasks and key documents, regardless of whether those documents are shared, saved on, you know, Google Drive or Microsoft Office 360 or whatever it is, you can just like put a link in notion and that’s you can have access to it. So I think those things. But yeah, I think yeah the geeky physicists in me ultimately. Uh, I do like systematising things and it’s probably because I don’t. A guiding principle for me is I don’t want to think, or at least I don’t want to think about the same thing more than once. So if there’s some process or something that I’m doing, I’ve found that I do maybe more than once and I do it regularly, then that’s a trigger for me to create some kind of system or process so that I might be doing the upfront thinking. And but then in the execution, it’s like. It’s a gift from my previous self to my future self.

Doug Belshaw: [00:38:49] I find it fascinating because it’s interesting that Brian Mathers, who’s part of our co-op, who’s now pretty much a full time illustrator, he systematises his resources like his the things he’s doing within his illustrator work. But that’s kind of a hangover from him being a software developer. So it’s interesting taking those very technical mindsets and applying them to a different area. That’s fascinating.

Laura Hilliger: [00:39:13] I think it’s particularly interesting here because as a workshop facilitator, there seem to be certain kinds of things that you that to me seem impossible to systematise. So, for example, like, you know, the some of the, the touchy feely bits about being a facilitator and paying attention to people and helping them sort of grok their context. And it’s so like learning is such a personal thing. And as a workshop facilitator, creating the space for learning to happen and creating the the evocative and experiential thing that people are going through. And there’s there’s ways to put systems around some of the planning and stuff. But then it seems like in the execution of workshops, because it’s so context based and because the people are always different, there’s a set of skills that you have there that are that don’t have a way to be systematised And those are I’m thinking of things like empathy, intuition and, you know, really seeing people for who they are understanding. So I think it’s it’s quite interesting that you have those. I don’t like the term soft skills because I don’t think they’re soft at all but that you that you have that that emotional intelligence that can’t be systematised while you’re also trying to systematise all the things.

Pedram Peresman: [00:40:33] Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. Thanks for naming that. It is both an art and a science to both design and deliver the workshops because there’s an aspect. I mean this is kind of what I’m, what I’ve been working on right now is to create sort of codify that design process to save time and sort of mental and I guess the mental anguish of trying to think about how to decide what goes in or doesn’t go in, how to then structure things, all those things you can systematise and and then then when it comes to delivering it, you’ve got to then see how it’s landing with the audience and what’s working, what’s not working, and just flex with it if you need to.

Laura Hilliger: [00:41:17] So Ped we have a one last question for you before we wrap up today, which is what’s next for you? What are you what are you looking to do next? What are you looking to get into? What’s what are what’s your kind of future planning at the moment?

Pedram Peresman: [00:41:33] Yeah. So I think I’ve just just touched on that. I think my main focus right now is supporting other coaches and consultants get better at putting on high value, high impact workshops and programming. So earlier this year I launched a workshop Design Mastery program, which kind of packages up the core bits of the last 20 years of my experience designing workshops, programming and other learning experiences. I’ve brought together things from instructional design, adult education, leadership development systems, coaching, design, thinking and storytelling to create a kind of a framework to to help think through how to design workshops. Because quite often a lot of coaches and consultants who run workshops, they pick up the tricks of the trade. You know, they follow their intuition and they see things that work for other people. They try and incorporate it. But a lot of people haven’t had that formal guidance on workshop design, so they end up spending or burning through a lot of time and guess mental energy designing or redesigning the process. And I really want to just help people get there quicker so they can really utilise their expertise and have their impact. So for me, it’s.

Laura Hilliger: [00:42:45] Where can where can people find your your master masterclass?

Pedram Peresman: [00:42:50] So it’s I’ve got there’s a you can find me on LinkedIn. And also there’s a little link there if anybody wants to get in touch with me there and my website as well. The, there’s a page on there. You can find out a little bit more information about it.

Laura Hilliger: [00:43:09] Great. Well, I will make sure to put those in the show notes and also to bookmark them for myself. Ped, thank you so much for being here today. I know we could talk for hours and we should expand the conversation maybe in a future episode!

Pedram Peresman: [00:43:26] Thanks for having me on. It’s been a real pleasure!