When it comes to company events, workshops are a great alternative to dull seminars, because attendees can be more actively involved. Rather than following long, drawn-out presentations, information and skills can be learnt in a hands-on manner. Our Event Inc editors will show you how to go about planning your workshop and what you have to be mindful of for a successful event.

What Exactly Is A Workshop?

A workshop is an intensive informative program organised around a particular subject, during which attendees learn new skills and put them into practice. For example, you can work on a strategy to approach a particular problem or task with the objective to make decisions or to strengthen team spirit. Workshops typically last between half a day and two days and there is usually a workshop leader or coach present to supervise and guide proceedings.

Planning Your Workshop – 15 Steps Towards A Productive Workshop

What are the aspects you have to bear in mind when planning your event? What is special about planning a workshop? We suggest following these 15 tips to ensure your workshop is a successful event.

1. Define the goals for your workshop

Having a clear goal will help you plan your workshop and the workshop program. It also gives participants an idea of what the workshop is about. Workshops are the perfect way to get people inspired and consider effective problem-solving, in a short space of time. However, in order for the workshop to be productive, it is always advisable to define a primary goal.

What will be the key takeaways for participants of the workshop? What do you want them to learn? For increased transparency, you can include the aims in the workshop description. This will then help to flag if there are contradictions between the desired outcome and the agenda.

2. One-page written summary

In order to stay on top of the preparations and to be able to communicate clearly with participants, having a one-page summary of objectives, activities, and any required materials and equipment is very useful. It serves as an overview of the main components of the workshop and can be used as a point of reference during the event.

3. Structure your workshop

A concrete agenda is useful for the organiser, the workshop leader, and the participants. Here is an example of a workshop agenda:

11.00 am: Welcome and Introduction
11.15-12.00 am: Activity 1
12.15-1.00 pm: Activity 2
1.00-2.00 pm: Lunch Break
2.00-2.45 pm: Activity 3
3.00-3.45 pm: Activity 4

In general, we recommend limiting the duration of each activity to 45-60 minutes and to plan breaks between each session. It is also a good idea to have a hidden time contingency in the schedule to allow for some activities to overrun.

The duration of different sessions can vary, e.g. the initial brainstorming session may take 10 minutes, followed by 30 minutes of individual work, and a 10-minute discussion about the results.  

4. Structure your sessions

  • The introduction is about telling participants what to expect from the activity and what is expected of them.
  • The activity part is when you get down to business and the participants begin to play an active role. While the attendees work or engage in discussions, the workshop leader or coach can walk around and be available to answer any questions that arise.
  • During the post-activity debrief, the results of the activities are discussed and concluded. Where did the participants  struggle and which part of the activity was easy? What have they learnt? What would they like to learn? Individual learnings can be discussed by way of example.

5. Keep it short

Whether it is a group discussion or a brainstorming session – the more participants you have, the longer a workshop will take. Don’t aim too high. Solution finding is exhausting, so do not draw it out unnecessarily. Two short sessions are more productive than one long one. If you have a larger group, you can form small teams for the benefit of the workshop. We recommend a small number of participants from the start, in order to improve the outcome of the workshop.

6. Employ skilled and experienced staff

Both at the planning stage and during the workshop, you should employ professional staff. The workshop leader, in particular, plays a vital role. They will open the workshop with an introduction and guide the conversation throughout – their job carries a lot of responsibility. You may wish to consider having one or two assistants to help with distributing the workload. They could provide support by answering questions or getting new materials. Good preparation makes a huge difference and expert coaching demonstrates competence and professionalism.

workshop leader speaker professional

7. Choose the right venue

They type of venue that you choose for your workshop will also have an impact on how attendees interact with each other.  Different seating arrangements have a big impact on how the workshop can be managed and whether you will have enough space for certain activities.  Check the Event Inc magazine for more information on which style of seating is best for what you are trying to achieve. For a workshop with up to 10 people, a conference room may be big enough, but a group of 25 people will need a larger space. You could even consider having a workshop outside! You should think about accessibility and how people can reach the venue and also, catering,  what lunch options there are in the vicinity.

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8. Facilitate collaborative work

A workshop is about ‘work‘, and interactivity is key. Rather than preparing a three-hour lecture, you should focus on making the activities collaborative and encouraging participants to play an active part. They are at the centre of the workshop, unlike the speaker in a lecture. Plan activities, so the participants can get involved.

9. Facilitate exchange

As mentioned previously, the workshop leader or coach should assume a guiding role, but allow attendees plenty of space and encourage interaction. Maybe some of the questions that come up during the session can be answered by one of the other workshop attendees. Of course, an essential component of facilitating communication is creating a relaxed atmosphere, where the attendees feel comfortable and willing to speak up. 

10. Test the individual sessions on the agenda

You can’t please everyone, but the content of a workshop should aim to please the majority of people which can be achieved if the activities have been tried and tested in advance. In any given group, there will be people of different skill levels and they all need to be accommodated. Activities shouldn’t be too simple or too complicated. Testing your workshop provides you with a firm idea of the level of difficulty. For instance, you can arrange a free test-run of the workshop for half the number of participants in order to make the actual workshop as productive as possible.

11. Provide tools to visualise content

Visual learners and brainstorming activities benefit massively from having a whiteboard or a flipchart to visualise ideas, proposals and context. Be ready to record interim results and processes, as appropriate. Flipcharts are simple and effective and everyone knows how to use them. Provide post-it notes, pens, and paper. Having a variety of stationery available is crucial to being able to run an engaging workshop and is not the place to save money.

Office Workshop Visualize

12. Use a checklist to plan your workshop

Keep a written record of your progress during the preparations in order to avoid going over things twice and to make sure nothing is forgotten. A checklist is an essential part of every event planning process, including workshops. What exercises are you planning and how much material will be required? Is there anything the participants should bring themselves? The better prepared you are, the better your participants will be prepared.

13. Leave time for questions and answers

Allocate time for questions at the end of your workshop and after each session. Answering questions that came up during an activity could benefit other attendees. Therefore, we recommend leaving a certain amount of time for questions in order to improve the outcome of the workshop.

14. Use technology

Use gadgets and devices to help attendees visualise some of the content of the workshop. Technology can also help facilitate collaboration between participants. It will also benefit the overall image of the workshop as you will be seen to be keeping up with technology, showing competence, and an up-to-date approach. Find out more about which technology trends are currently shaping the event planning industry, in the Event Inc magazine.

workshop meeting technology

15. Looking forward

After a productive workshop, give attendees a vision of planned future steps and developments. Having spent an intense period of time examining a certain topic, do not send your participants away empty-handed. Instead, you can inform them about future events and advanced courses, or hand out training materials. It also makes sense to prepare hand-outs that include references, literature, sources, and credits, in case the participants want to look at the subject further.

Are you planning an even bigger event? If you need assistance in setting up the right event concept, our Event Inc editors have prepared The Ultimate Guide To Your Event Concept.

Furthermore, we will be happy to help you find the perfect location for your event – without obligation, free of charge and with a best price guarantee!

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