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Planning a workshop

Ginger Leadership Communications

Planning a workshop as a coach, trainer, manager or entrepreneur can be a critical activity for spreading the word about your work. Yet there are many seminars that have flabby content and little impact. So how can you be sure you’re planning a workshop that has a water-tight structure and has a powerful impact? Here’s a 5 step plan…

5 steps to planning a workshop

Planning a workshop Step 1: Conceptualizing

Before you leap in get really clear on the aims of you workshop.What is the purpose of the workshop? What are the key learning outcomes you hope for? What message would you like to get across to your audience? The more you attach your workshop to a deeper purpose, the more powerful it will be as an experience for your audience. More on how to ground your workshop in something meaningful to you here.

Identify your core message. Find the very core essence of your workshop. What’s the one thing that your workshop comes down to? That connects all of the things you’ll be talking about? Write it down in one sentence. If there is more than one core message, consider running more than one workshop. More on how to find your core message here.

Map the key elements of your message. Many trainers planning a workshop choose to use mind maps to structure the key elements of their talk – this way you can see at a glance the different parts of your message. Whatever your preferred style, create some kind of map with the priority areas you want to speak about – usually 3-4 key areas.

Create compelling marketing words. Whether you’re planning a workshop to sell as a product, or running it within an organisation, you’ll need your attendees to feel interested in and inspired by your workshop content. With your core message and key elements in mind, spend some time creating a short paragraph that explains the key, tangible benefits that attending your workshop will bring the audience.

Planning a workshop Step 2: Creating your structure

  1. Flesh out the bones. Divide the key elements of your workshop into separate ‘sessions’ or experiences. Depending on the time you have available, these sections might be 10 minutes, or 3 hours. Within each part of your workshop you will want to start thinking about creating a learning journey that provides your audience with:Some new information that’s relevant to their lives;

Evidence, examples, stories, facts to bring credibility and life to what you’re saying;

An opportunity to interact with that information through some form of interactivity (more on this below);

Something practical to take away.

  1. Build a unique public speaking experience. Are you planning a workshop that you want people to remember and act on? If so, you’ll need to present your content in a way that’s somehow distinct from the mass of information that surrounds us these days. Think about what you can do to:Use visual aids in a different way to bring life to your topic (more on how to use great visuals here)

Interact with you audience. In a workshop of any size, your audience will hope to engage with your content – this is how they will learn. From simple rhetorical devices, to using games – some ideas on different types of interaction are here.

Do something innovative, even if it may seem ‘unprofessional’ to the critical voice sitting on your shoulder. In all my years as a public speaking coach, I’ve heard countless audiences groan that a workshop was boring, but I’ve never once heard them complain that it was just too innovative, or too exciting. A quick tip on developing innovative content here.

Planning a workshop Step 3: Delivering your content

Get confident. Before I start a workshop, I like to centre myself. I focus on the benefit I hope to bring to my audience and how I need to be to serve them most effectively. This beyond personal focus shifts the emphasis from my nerves to something more productive. We’ve created a brilliant confidence visualisation available here to help you step into your power as a speaker.

Get fearless. To deliver a truly powerful workshop, you’ll need to be willing to step beyond your comfort zone to really move your audience. Identify which are the behaviours that your audience really need from you that you currently step away from. It could be that they need you to be fierce sometimes, to connect to them more, or to show them that you’re also human. It’s possible to get fearless on your own, but to really catch your blindspots it’s good to join a course like the Inspiring Speakers Programme.

Planning a workshop Step 4: Facilitating at tricky moments

Become an expert facilitator. Really great facilitators are skilled at:

  • Judging what their audience need at a given moment by observing cues like how settled the audience are and how much eye contact you receive from them. Figure out what the audience need and then give it to them.
  • Including all participants in the workshop. You can do this through eye contact, gestures or actively asking them questions.
  • Balancing discussions with ‘keeping on track’. Understand that audiences will need space to think, or talk through your topic, so don’t overload your workshop with so much information that you’re constantly rushing. At the same time, be willing to cut off a conversation that’s moving off topic, or that’s beyond the remit of your workshop.
  • Empowering and encouraging the whole audience. You are there to serve your audience, not them to serve you, so always keep your focus on how you can build their confidence around your subject matter. This will reflect better on you in the long run anyway.

Handle even tricky audience members.  Different audience members will naturally have different personalities and ways of expressing themselves. If you come across someone difficult, don’t be put off. Realise that they too are trying to get something from your workshop and they genuinely want you to succeed (even if they have a clumsy way of showing it!) One tricky customer is the sniper, who I talk about here. In most cases, stay polite, calm and trust that you know your topic and even tricky audience members will take something positive from your workshop.

Planning a workshop Step 5: Wrapping up

  • End with power. Often a key part missed in planning a workshop is the wrap up, yet it’s the most important moment if you want your workshop to create change. Remember to:Draw together the key learning from the workshop (which goes back to your key messages above)

Give tangible actions that you would like people to take as a result of your workshop.

  • Know when to finish. The best workshop leaders reach their most powerful material towards the end of the workshop, rather fizzling out because everyone’s tired. Think about what you can do to keep the energy going until the end. Here’s a brief tip on how to finish with power.
  • Leave space for feedback. Most workshop trainers will benefit from receiving feedback from the audience, so create a short form that your participants will complete at the end of your session. This gives you points to improve on, but also provides valuable testimonials if your audience enjoyed the workshop.


Next steps… 3 neglected principles of running a workshop

Once you have understood the nuts and bolts of planning a workshop, you’ll want to look at this 3 step guide to some of the most deglected principles in planning a workshop:

  1. Ground your workshop in something deeply meaningful to you.
  2. Prepare with the audience in mind
  3. Get ready to inspire

Read on for more about planning a workshop.

This guide on planning a workshop is a handy side note to Ginger Training & Coaching’s Inspiring Speaker’s Programme. If you would like to learn more about planning a workshop, head over to our courses section, or you might like to 1-2-1 coaching. We also have a host of FREE resources, such as the Ginger Doodles eCourse available to help more with planning a workshop

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