Planning a Workshop

It is important to continue learning and educating yourself well into your career. It is also important to help others continue to educate themselves. As the old saying goes: “You haven’t mastered something until you can teach it to someone else.”


I host, design, and teach a variety of forums, webinars, and workshops dedicated to the continued education of dentists, oral surgeons, and other types of doctors, as well as personal  coaching and speaking engagements for students, clinicians, and other professionals in my field.


Planning a workshop, forum, or class is a big job. And to make it truly informative and also engaging takes a lot of organization, as well as creativity, focus, and drive. And if you are like me, and doing this in addition to your “day job”, it takes multitasking abilities as well. It is also rewarding, educational, potentially lucrative, and is a great resume builder, and if you can take the time to put it together, I can promise it will be worth it.


For those of you with the expertise to get involved with continuing education in your field, but nowhere to start, here are a few tips on creating a workshop curriculum:


First, define the workshop:


What are your goals? Do you want to train managers in sexual harassment and HR policies? Do you want to pass on your specific painting technique? Do you want to help others refine their sales funnel? Regardless of your topic, it’s important to not just know the topic, but to have a goal at the heart of said topic. This will allow you to keep the focus and the keep your workshop from meandering or becoming uninteresting.


It also helps you define your audience. Who do you want to reach? How many people would ideally attend? If you goal is teaching a specific technique, you may want to limit attendance to a smaller group of already educated attendees so you have time for one-on-one and the ability to skip the basics. If your goal is brainstorming solutions, you may be best off with a larger workshop that divides into small groups for more varied viewpoints and showing how different solutions can come to the fore. Who do you want to reach? How will you get your workshop in front of the people you want?


If you know specifically who you want to attend, put their names down to reach out to them later.


Now is the time to nail down some specifics, like time. How long will it take you to say what you need to say? Are you going to start 10 minutes late to allow for latecomers, or will you lock the doors and begin exactly on time? Do you need time for breakout sessions, or for attendees to finish up projects?


What is your budget for the workshop? Are you paying out of pocket? Expensing it to a company? Will there be snacks and coffee? Do you need to provide paper, pens, or supplies?

Block out the major beats you want to cover, and for each one write down any things you will need for the workshop: wi-fi, a microphone, a projector that can show a Powerpoint presentation, a whiteboard, a kitchen, individual desks, outlets, et cetera.


Once you know your budget and time frame and material needs, you can move on to the next step.


Choose your location: Do you need outdoor space for a yoga workshop? A classroom setting? A conference room? Obviously you want to use the most affordable location possible. Do you work in an office you could use after hours? Many local Chamber of Commerce buildings have rooms you can book. Perhaps a local high school or college? Will you need two rooms to facilitate breakout sessions? Will you need to provide accommodations, rides to bus people to the location, lunch for a long workshop? If your workshop is a weekend session, what are the after-hours options? Bonding during, and in the hours surrounding, a long workshop can be excellent bonding and skill building time.


Now you have location options, it’s time to choose your dates: Some of this will be affected by the venue availability, or if the venue is less expensive in certain time periods. Some of this may be affected by you or your company’s needs. Do you want to use this workshop as a platform to advertise your book? Does the company want to time it with a press release? Do you want to hold them regularly, and need a space that is free every Thursday night? If your workshop is for educators, do you want to hold in during the school year when they are busy but in town, or you you want to wait until the summer when they have more free time, but are more likely to have family or travel plans? There are lots of options that may affect when you want to hold this workshop.


Outline, script, and design: List the topics to cover in detail, or write yourself a script. Determine your ground rules in advance along with the rules of the venue (i.e. cell phone use, break periods, no outside food, question asking during the workshop, or Q&A at the end?) Decide how to introduce your topic and yourself in the beginning. How will you end? Do you need to wrap it up with extra materials to take home? Advertising the next class? Filling out a feedback form? Charades to loosen people up and leave them with a fun memory? Design your visual aids, background music, and any other additions to the workshop. Prepare materials for hand-outs or activities. Make nametags for attendees. Edit and proofread materials.


The day of the workshop: Make sure to get people involved. Ask questions. Do an icebreaker. Tell a joke about yourself. Mix up people of different backgrounds, ages, et cetera. It is difficult to get people involved, but that is the best way for them to learn and want to repeat the experience. Get people to interact, shout out ideas, or maybe quietly write solutions and hand them in. Follow up with a questionnaire, an email collection, or ask questions to see what they want to know next, or maybe a coffee and cookie time where you can get feedback.