The dos and donts of leading a successful creative workshop

Are you ready to lead a successful creative workshop? Here are 3 things you should do and 3 things you shouldn’t do!

As a newbie workshop leader I know you’re probably wondering what ‘should I be doing?’ or ‘am I doing this right?’ or ‘what’s more important this or that?’....

You don’t know what you don’t know right!? I’ve been through the years of trial and error and know what works and what doesn’t as well as what is important and what isn’t so important, so I have put together a list of the main do’s and don’t’s when it comes to leading a successful creative workshop. 


DO build hype in the lead up to the workshop

By ‘building hype’ I mean, keeping your people excited, the ones who have already signed up. It is easy to forget about people until the workshop day once they have signed up but this step of the process is super important. When someone signs up to your workshop this is their first touch point with you, how can you make it memorable? How can you ensure they tell someone else about this experience they just had? #OrganicMarketing 

Stay in contact with your people 2 to 3 times before the workshop date (I talk about ways you can do this in the planner) not only to create a good customer experience for them, but doing this is an excellent way to prevent the dreaded no-shows on the day.

DO have a niche

Us creatives are multi-passionate, I know! I know you want to teach all the things to all the people, but when you are just starting out this is a big no no. To make a name for yourself, you need to become known for something. For ONE thing. People need to know exactly what they are getting before they will part with their money to sign up to your workshop. A workshop called ‘Learn how to paint’ isn’t going to cut it. 

You need to get really specific. There is a misconception that if you do get specific and niche down and focus on one topic that you will ‘lose sales’. In fact I have found the opposite to be true time and time again. Niching your workshops means that all the people that really want to learn that specific things WILL sign up. All those same people will not sign up if they aren’t sure exactly what they’re getting. Confused customers do not buy. It is your job to make it easy for them, to show them that you can teach them EXACTLY what they want to learn. 

You need to get specific, so lets go back to the ‘learn to paint’ example. You teach painting? Great, what medium? Are you teaching beginners or advanced? Kids or adults? Still life/portrait/landscapes/abstract? Will they leave with a completed canvas (or something else!?) or are you teaching techniques? Will they learn colour theory and paint mixing? There are so many questions that need to be answered within your workshop title and short description, if they’re not answered people will not sign up. How can we ‘niche’  learn to paint:

Learn to paint > Learn to paint for beginners > Oil painting for beginners > Paint a self portrait in oils: a beginners workshop. 

How can you niche down your topic idea?

DO start before you feel ready

If you have an amazing workshop idea inside of you and you know that you’re meant for something bigger and more meaningful, then please do not wait until you ‘feel ready’. The truth is you are never going to feel ready. You are never going to feel confident/experienced/knowledgeable/comparable enough. Trust me you are ready enough as you are right now. Your confidence comes from the doing. Your experience grows through your action taking. Every day/month/year you are waiting to ‘feel ready’, is a day/month/year wasted ‘becoming incredible and making impact.


DON’T make it all about you

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. 

DON’T wing it 

One of the biggest complaints from participants is that ‘they ran out of time’. You never want this to happen in your workshop. Which is why planning is SO important. 

Planning and preparation are EVERYTHING!

Did you know that workshops are 90% preparation and 10% presentation?

When you see those numbers you definitely don’t want to be winging the presentation with zero preparation!  You can plan for too much/not enough time, you can plan extra tasks, you can plan for a slower pace of learning, you can plan for mixed ability. You definitely cannot wing all of those things even if you are a pro!

 (My planner has you covered with everything you need to think about and plan for at every stage of the process)

DON’T have too many participants

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.

Want to learn my 10 secrets to leading applause-worthy creative workshops? Grab your free PDF and my workshop planning checklist below