How to Use Dialogue, Collaboration and Simplicity to Design Better Meetings and Workshops

Tom Barrett
9 min readOct 11, 2021

What is your biggest challenge when you design workshops, meetings and professional learning sessions?

I tend to overthink my designs.

I turn the session inside out in my mind, pushing and pulling each part. I fill every moment and bolt-on exciting methods.

Sometimes I get so lost in the moving parts that I lose touch with the core intention. Learning is complex enough without my muddled meddling.

Have you ever experienced this design rumination before a big meeting or workshop?

I have designed hundreds of lessons and workshops, and many of them start this way. At worst, they are ugly amalgamations that struggle to stand under the weight of my ambitious plans.

We all spend a significant portion of our lives in meetings, workshops and sessions. The goal is to generate dialogue and interaction between participants to collaborate better as a team or organisation.

However, many people struggle with the design principles needed for successful meetings and workshops.

This blog post outlines three design principles that you should consider when you design your next meeting or workshop. We look at the principles of dialogue, collaboration and simplicity.

Dialogic Learning

First, let’s consider the role of dialogue in meetings and sessions.

An important distinction I want to start with is the difference between dialogue and discussion.

Here is David Bohm explaining the subtle difference.

“Dialogue” comes from the Greek word dialogos. Logos means “the word,” or in our case, we would think of the “meaning of the word.” And dia means “through” — it doesn’t mean “two.” The picture or image that this derivation suggests is of a stream of meaning flowing among and through us and between us. This will make possible a flow of meaning in the whole group, out of which may emerge some new understanding. It’s something new, which may not have been in the starting point at all. It’s something creative.

Contrast this with the word “discussion,” which has the

Tom Barrett

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