MY 10 SECRETS TO APPLAUSE-WORTHY CREATIVE WORKSHOPS
Secret #6 = customers booking, showing up and coming back for more!
Did you know that workshops are 90% preparation and 10% presentation? So there is a lot of planning that needs to happen, but what exactly do you need to plan for? After leading countless creative workshops I’ve come up with my top 10 secret list to take the guesswork out of planning and raise your workshops to the next level.
I’ve compiled these 10 secrets into a pdf for you to keep for future reference, grab one below and I’ll send you my Workshop Planning Checklist too so you can tick everything of the list and show up for your next creative workshop oozing confidence.
Let’s dive in...
Secret #1 Show. Do. Don’t tell.
The word workshop tells that work will be done. This means that the focus is on the participants, participating. Doing the work. It is not about the host talking about their experience, knowledge, qualifications, expertise...and blah blah blah!
It’s not about you and it’s not a lecture. At least 75% of the workshop should be your participants ‘in action’. Many experts in their field struggle to run a workshop because they are used to lecturing or speaking, but a workshop shines a light on each of the students instead.
The learning happens in the ‘doing’ not in ‘listening to information’. This is why many ‘hobbyists’ are great at workshops because the skills needed to craft a winning workshop are based on passion and the desire to pass on your craft in a tangible and hands on way.
It is about showing and doing. Not telling.
Secret #2 Less is best
You want interaction. You want a buzz in your workshop. A large group can feel more interactive but keeping tight control of numbers for your workshop is key. Anything larger than 15 - 20 people can leave you as the host spread too thin.
It’s also super important to interact on a one on one level with each participant at some point during the workshop. This really makes people feel like they are getting value.
Depending on the activity you might find it useful to pair people up or put them into small groups to learn the task. Giving real thought to your workshop size is something I recommend and also something that you can trial and experiment with over time and as your confidence grows.
Secret #3 The power of 3
The most effective way to plan out and run a workshop is to break it down into three parts.
1 - Demonstration - Show everyone how to do the ‘thing’
2 - Exercise - Everyone does the ‘thing’, while you facilitate
3 - Review - Lead a discussion of what people enjoyed, where they got stuck, things they learned, encourage people to share their work and possibly lead a critique session
This process can be repeated throughout the workshop for each ‘stage’ of your project.
Also, don't forget to schedule in regular breaks. Get people up and moving around if possible to keep energy high.
Secret #5 Practice IRL
If possible have a practice run of your workshop, in real life and in real time. Find a patient and willing friend or family member to run through everything with, from start to finish.
The most common complaints about workshops are that “it was too easy” or “it was too hard” or “we ran out of time and didn’t get to finish”.
You might even consider doing a beta test for a small group of people for free or a discounted price in return for constructive feedback.
It can take a little time to develop and tweak an exercise for it to be interesting and flexible enough for different people, as well as easy and challenging enough for a range of skill level - this is where you want to have some tricks up your sleeve for those that progress a little quicker, little add on exercises.
On that note, don’t be afraid to encourage your students to say, “can you make this easier/more challenging”, this isn’t a negative thing at all.
Secret #7 Make a mess!
By this I mean that the room should look like a workshop has happened. Allow paper to fall on the floor and paint to spill. Creativity loves freedom to make a mess. Don’t stress your student’s out with a hostile environment.
Tape student’s work up on the walls and windows, have examples of your work on display too, have diagrams, sketches or post it notes stuck up on a whiteboard if needed, the room should look like creativity has hit and students should leave feeling that they have done the work.
Secret #8 Write a checklist
There is so much that goes into a workshop that the human brain can’t possibly remember it all. There are things to remember to prepare, to bring, to set up, to do….a disorganised workshop is not a successful workshop.
All it takes is a little preparation and planning for things to run smoothly. Write your own checklist for the day (you can even download mine from the file section in this group to use/add to)
Tick things off as you go and refer to it throughout the workshop too if you need to.
Secret #9 Give them more.
Your students are here at your workshop because they want to learn. Chances are they will want to keep learning too. They will want to learn from you how they can do this, what their options are, what’s available to them and what you recommend.
Tell them what comes next, be prepared and give this info at the end of the workshop. Have the next logical step available on your website or a flyer, you could suggest some useful books or why to buy materials etc.
It is possible they will want to book in to your next workshop there and then, so have all the information and booking forms etc ready to go - harness their enthusiasm right there and then!
I always like to give a little extra unexpected ‘something’ at the end of a workshop too, it can be something small but people love this, they love feeling like they have left with more than was promised. It could be some art card, or postcards, a magnet or anything!
It’ also acts as a good a visual reminder of you and your workshop - a subtle little marketing tool!
Secret #10 Ask for feedback
Lots of workshop hosts don’t do this. Partly because they are afraid of negative feedback and partly because they are unaware of the value it can bring.
Feedback from participants not only allows you to improve future workshops but often it can inspire new workshops, students tell you want they need, what they are looking for, giving you the opportunity to provide it for them.
I recommend developing a feedback form and have students complete it before they leave, of course they can be anonymous,
There you have it, my 10 secrets to applause-worthy creative workshops. Reach out and let me know how you put them into action and don’t forget to grab the pdf for future reference!