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Engaging, hands-on workshop? 7 practical tips for structure and success

Engaging, hands-on workshop? 7 practical tips for structure and success
Apr 19, 2018 Shaking Hands 0 comments
This post was first published by Brian McGee on 18/04/2018.

Engaging, hands-on workshop? 7 practical tips for structure and success

You have the knowledge, experience and contacts in your industry and beyond. You understand the difficulties of your ideal clients and how you can help to overcome them…

How about putting on a workshop, or series of workshops, to spread the word not only about your services, but the way you deliver them?

What better way of spending time with potential clients, referrers and others in your network and beyond… Here are seven ideas to help you plan an enjoyable, hands-on event.

1) Start from the end

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Whether you’re outlining the benefits of cloud-accounting software Xero, giving an overview of branding in your workshop, or explaining how to get more eyes on a website, the principles are the same.

What would you like to achieve by the end of the session? What do you want attendees to have learnt… or to be intrigued about? How do you want them to feel?

Start with the end, and keep that in mind as you plan the content of your workshop.

Keep going back to that end point as you plan each element of the workshop.

2) Resources at the ready

You plan to send on resources after the event. Grand. Get them together beforehand, allowing for some final tweaks shortly before you press send.

The day after the workshop you may feel like you’ve been fired out of a canon…  and who knows what other calls there may be on your time once back at the coalface.

That forward planning will take the pressure off, helping you send on the resources in good time.

Meeting the deadline that you’ve set for yourself, and told attendees about in the workshop, can only add to their favourable impression of your business.

Use your logo and branding in the resources? Absolutely.

  • Have another workshop coming up? What better opportunity to mention it than in the branded PDF you send just after the event attendees have just enjoyed.
  • Bear in mind that people may ask you to send on your PowerPoint slides. It’s worth thinking about this beforehand.
  • You may be more comfortable sharing just a summary. Have your follow-up resources ready to go? That could be your answer right there.

3) Team up

Putting on a workshop with an associate, perhaps another business owner, will help in a variety of ways.

You have different networks, complementary ideas and experience.

You can share costs too (room booking, printing, refreshments…). After the event, swap ideas too about how the event went, and what improvements to make next time. Constant improvement, and all that.

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In my case, I’ve joined forces with graphic designer Stephen Shillito to hold #BOWRivoli workshops at Rivoli Meeting Room in Ladywell, between Lewisham and the fibreglass cat of Catford.

(It’s a 14-minute train ride from London Bridge on a stopping train, 9 minutes direct.)

Others have done the same.

No Nonsense Tech teamed up with Blue Rocket Accounting and business coaches Evolve and Grow to put on a joint event last September, using the hashtag #iteabriefing on social media.

(High tea was part of the appeal. See what they did there?)

If you’re part of a network, perhaps you can host a joint workshop. I worked with Croydon Chamber of Commerce to deliver one of my LinkedIn workshops, for instance, at Sussex Innovation Centre by East Croydon station.

The next one is on Weds 16 May, in the same venue.

Workshop blog

4) Swish of the curtains

If you were a stage manager wouldn’t you want the curtains to close just so at the end of the performance? Or if cooking’s your thing, what a difference an anchovycan make to your pasta sauce…

Just as you make it a point of pride to surprise and delight your clients, how can you do the same with those who sign up to your workshop?

It might be cake (in my case from Blue Belle Café in Penge, southeast London), or ice cream if logistics allow. True enough, it’s not a party that you’re putting on… but who doesn’t like a branded notebook or other useful, gimmick-free giveaway on leaving a pleasant gathering?

Attendees at my workshop on blog writing, held on Weds 25 April, may well get a set of #PortesdePenge postcards. Contain your joy…

Whether it’s cake or the excitement of a hot beverage, to paraphrase the writer Bill Bryson, those little details can help create an engaging atmosphere.

5) Enjoyment

No doubt you’ll prepare as much as you can in advance, but you may have plenty to do the day before the event, for instance, to get your ducks in a row.

Try to leave yourself enough time to relax and then get a decent night’s sleep so that you have energy for the workshop.

Have you been looking forward to delivering this event? Tell the attendees that.

If you’re wrestling with the best way to get your message across, or puzzled as to what steps to take towards that end point, why not ask for help?

There’s a writer and trainer who I admire, with a business more established than my own, who kindly helped me iron out a couple of pre-workshop wrinkles during the planning stage.

Perhaps an associate or colleague can give you a steer in the same way. (As a qualified teacher, I’m also available to help develop this type of content; please get in touch.)

6) Tend the timings

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Leave enough time for workshop attendees to chat before, during and after the event. Captain Obvious? Fair point. Strange but true, that time for attendees to get to know each other a little isn’t always factored in.

Networking is part of the appeal of a workshop. That photographer diagonally opposite Joanna may be just the contact her marketing colleague is looking for…

Leave enough time for the hands-on part of the event to be, well, hands-on.

If, for instance, one or two people want to know how to customise their LinkedIn address, help them with the detail of that during the practical part of the workshop.

The 10 people who already have a bespoke LinkedIn address don’t to know how to do that… and may easily get distracted if you give the information to everyone in the room.

Whatever happens, finish on time. An attendee with a train to catch or an appointment after your event will appreciate not having to rush. It’s an extra reason to remember you.

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7) Supple structure

Plan? Of course. Set out a series of steps and give an estimated timing for each one? Yes to that too.

All the same, try to be aware of what’s happening in the room on the day. You may need to jettison an activity or not show a video clip you had planned to include.

Slavishly following every step of your plan may not always give the best results.