Why host a workshop? Well, for some, there is nothing more thrilling than sharing their love of a personal craft.
If you’re tired of trying to teach scared neighbour children about the joys of painting exotic fruit, a voluntary workshop may be your best bet. But once you have planned and promoted your workshop, you may have questions about what to actually do on the big day.
We’re going to cover these seven simple practices for stellar workshops:
- Preparing the space
- Greeting the guests
- Beginning the workshop proper
- Staying flexible
- Zipping your lip
- Creating the right social atmosphere
- Wrapping up
1. Gearing up
Workshops may be small-scale things in the wide world of events, but it’s always a good idea to show up early and set up your space.
Maybe you need to stream a tutorial video for masterful clay sculpting. Or perhaps you’ll need a projector to display your Internet browser as you show your attendees where to buy superior crafting materials.
Allow plenty of time for things like equipment setup and troubleshooting. You don’t want to be that old teacher who couldn’t get the VCR audio/video input to the dome-screen TV.
Some venues have technicians or other personnel who can help with this process. Test it all out and get your cogs grinding before the attendees show.
Run a little a demo for an invisible audience if you have to. If it doesn’t get fixed now, you’ll be fixing it in front of a live audience.
The feng shui way
Pronounced “fung shway,” this concept is an old Chinese practice. In the modern sense, feng shui usually just means ergonomics.
You want your workshop location to be physically arranged for maximum productivity. There isn’t exactly a hard science here, so you’ll have to do your best to create a comfortable environment. Some factors to mess around with might include:
- Chair, desk, and table spacing
- Noise levels from the surrounding area
- Art or posters on the walls (are they in line with the tone of your workshop?)
Whatever materials you need for the workshop content to flourish, be sure they are accessible and organised. Whether you are running a sewing workshop with loads of spare yarn or a board game design meetup, get all the bits and pieces laid out where they can be picked up.
And bring more than you think you’ll need. That’s always better than not having enough.
Get to the goods!
You’re lying if you say you don’t love goodies. Set the right tone for your workshop and lend a few dopamine boosts by handing out goodies at the start.
Alternatively, you can set them on desks or tables for attendees to pick up as they get seated.
These can be anything from snack bags to fun workshop tools like mini-journals or little commemorative coins. Workshops are just the right size for this kind of thing. You don’t have to launch custom T-shirts out of air cannons. Unless you want to, which we do not advise in a small space.
Tip: Have a look at this list of over 100 creative ideas for event giveaways.
2. “Greetings, earthlings”
Simple personal touches like a nice-to-meet-you are surprisingly important when you host a workshop. If you showed up early to get things nice and orderly, you can use the arrival period as a chance to issue warm welcomes.
Chit chat with the group and get a rapport going! Larger events make this a challenge, but if you host a workshop, good relationships are a centrepiece.
The formal intro
Once the ball gets rolling and the workshop begins, be sure to officially introduce yourself to the group. Your intro should cover some of the following:
- Your credentials: How did you become the miniatures-painting pro or the local juggling giant?
- The end goal of your workshop: What will you accomplish?
- What sort of progress the attendees can expect to make and what their skill levels should be at the outset.
Tip: Take a look at this guide on properly introducing yourself to a small group or class.
Not everyone is a fan of the evil icebreaker, but it can serve a useful purpose as you host a workshop. The point of the icebreaker is to get people talking.
Icebreakers can be a great way to lower inhibitions and get the social element of the workshop really flowing. And where there is comfort, creativity can blossom for everyone to see.
Sometimes, an icebreaker can be as straightforward as asking participants what they hope to gain from the day’s session.
Tip: Not all icebreakers are strictly informative. Some are actually quite amusing.
3. Go time
This is it!
Time to put that plan to work. Make sure you outline the plan to everyone involved. Printing out a workshop schedule is essential here. Either that or share one digitally, assuming everyone will be able to access it.
Read the schedule aloud and tell your guests what they’re in for. This really isn’t so different than a teacher covering a syllabus. It can also help to explain to guests why you have chosen to order the workshop as you have.
Tip: A workshop schedule doesn’t have to be Shakespearean— aim for simple and easy to parse.
4. Bending the rules
As helpful as plans are, you can’t forget to be flexible. A rigid experience that doesn’t accommodate guests can make for a crummy workshop.
If one exercise isn’t going as planned, switch gears. Or if your attendees can’t get enough, don’t be afraid to extend the initial time allotted. Go with the flow and make the experience fun.
5. Be quiet!
There may be a tendency to over-explain and lecture, but this is rarely a good idea.
Let those baby birds flop out of their nests. You should always be available to answer questions and provide help, but if you host a workshop, it’s really about the attendees.
Let them experiment, make mistakes, and really dig into the content. That’s the fun part of the workshop, anyhow.
Tip: Of course you have a beautiful speaking voice, but remember that even the best attention spans wane before too long.
6. Even-handed evenings
When you host a workshop, your guests should feel like equals. If you do small-group work that requires leaders, balance this by rotating leadership roles.
And just because some guests don’t speak much on their own doesn’t mean they have nothing to say. Make sure you hear from everyone at least a couple of times throughout the day.
This is not to say you should force commentary from your guests, but it’s really helpful to simply ask individuals how they feel about the topic or current project. Small group work can also be very helpful for getting everyone to contribute, as it is easier to open up and be social in a small crew.
Tip: Trello is a simple way to get everyone on board with project goals in real time. You can keep a visual tab of how things are going throughout the workshop, and everyone can contribute.
7. Be summary
Wrap things up by covering everything your workshop did. Make sure that your attendees realise they got their time and money’s worth from your session.
This can leave guests with a sense of accomplishment (and a desire to recommend your workshop to their friends). Don’t forget to remind everyone where they can get signed up for the next workshop!
Tip: End on a fun and memorable note with this workshop-finishing routine.
What are some of your favourite strategies when hosting a workshop? Let us know in the comments below!