You know what participants will learn at your workshop. But to make your workshop most effective, you need to go beyond basic education and think about inspiration.

Your workshop may be a part of a greater event like a business conference, or an independent class that’s open to the community. The subject matter could be academic, professional, personal, creative, or even parental. But all workshops have a few elements in common:

  • They’re intimate and interactive — no one can hide in the back like they might in a lecture
  • They set the stage for learning, growth, and relationship building
  • When done right, they spark engaging experiences and forward momentum for individuals, companies, and communities

To reach their full potential, workshops require vision and imagination. Here’s how to create a workshop plan that leaves participants not just educated, but also motivated.

How to create an innovative workshop

Once you know your lesson and your audience, the next step is to create an innovative theme for your workshop. How can you make sure your lesson is compelling and memorable?

One of the best ways to brainstorm inventive workshop plans is simple: ask people what they want to do. You might already have an audience in mind. Reach out to them to find out what they’re interested in and what they haven’t seen before.

If you have a Facebook Business Page, you could conduct a poll on that platform. If Instagram is your medium, the Stories feature now has polls embedded. And if you have a mailing list, take advantage of tools like SurveyMonkey to send out an email questionnaire.

Once you have your theme solidified, it’s time to get logistical.

Set the mood at your workshop

Workshops in sterile hotel conference rooms aren’t always the most inspiring. Consider different types of venues for your workshop, like warehouses, barns, and gardens. You could even turn to Airbnb to lease a space such as someone’s roomy, light-filled home so attendees can relax.  

A “must-have” list of venue requirements will help you settle on and set up the right space. When you’re vetting venues, consider whether your workshop requires elements like:

  • AV support
  • Wi-fi
  • ADA-compliant restrooms
  • Access to a kitchen
  • Space for physical exercises

If you’re creating a workshop as part of a greater event and don’t have control over the venue, use the elements you do have at your disposal to set an effective mood. These tools might include lighting, music, or even the snacks you provide.

Turn audience members into workshop participants

By their very nature, workshops are interactive. Instead of a passive audience, attendees become active participants who contribute to the outcome.

Encourage total participation, even from shy attendees. For those who don’t like to speak up in a group, consider using real-time polling apps like Sli.do to encourage people to ask questions and answer prompts from their mobile devices. And always factor in time for feedback at the end, even if it means a follow-up email survey.

As you create your workshop, make sure to incorporate activities that involve participants to the fullest extent. Icebreakers, group exercises, and speed-networking activities are all effective ways to warm people up. While workshops are typically small affairs, you can make them even more intimate by breaking participants into pairs or small groups to communicate, create, and cooperate.

Incorporate creativity into your workshop plan

Regardless of your workshop theme, creative exercises can unlock growth and the potential for out-of-the-box ideas. Infusing workshops with creative play inspires innovation in business and beyond. And — perhaps most importantly — it makes your workshop more fun.

There are many different approaches to creativity. You might integrate exercises like drawing, painting, singing, music playing, or improv to loosen people up. Storytelling events are incredibly popular as well — so consider having attendees share their stories to make your workshop more intimate and impactful. (Visit The Moth or Mortified for storytelling inspiration.)

Once you’ve created your workshop plan, it’s time to convey the value of your workshop to potential attendees. Get started with this guide to marketing and promotion for events.

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