For this post, I’m going to focus on some best practices for delivering workshops you’ve been hired to deliver for an organization or group. I promised to get this episode out to you when I did the original episode on workshops in October and here it is!
These are best practices I’ve developed over time because they made sense or I suffered the consequences of not doing them and thus learned a valuable lesson.
Practice is the operative word. Some of these I’ve adopted so recently that I will at times forget them. This is why I’ve created a checklist that I use and you can download and keep handy for when you’re engaged to do your next workshop. You can access the checklist at the bottom of this post.
Let’s break this down in stages from when you are first contacted to what you can do in the days after you’ve delivered the workshop.
Workshop discovery phase: from first communication to proposal submission
Be professional and timely in all your communications with your contact for the organization. This impacts your credibility. You always want to make a good impression and protect your reputation as a professional. Give them reasons to rehire you and also promote you to other people they know who could potentially hire you.
Provide any materials and resources on you and your business (CV, resume, brochures, web pages, LinkedIn profile) that will help them find out more about you. Likely, by the time you’ve been contacted they’ve already done their homework but making the offer to provide more information doesn’t hurt and may actually boost the likelihood that you get hired. They may not have seen your slick brochure.
Schedule a meeting to discuss and uncover what all their needs are. You are an expert at what you do and you may see solutions and opportunities that the person or people working for the organization have not seen yet. It’s not uncommon that I might be contacted to deliver a team building workshop and I ultimately recommend they do my workshop on Your Stress Personalities instead. Don’t be afraid to recommend different or additional work that you can do for them if it’s in their best interest.
Find out the number of participants who will be doing the workshop. For maximum effectiveness and engagement, I typically do not do workshops with any more than 20 people so I may need to do the same workshop for an organization more than once to accommodate the number of people they want to participate in the workshop.
Find out the location where you’ll be delivering the workshop. It may be at their local office or you may need travel. If you need to travel a distance to deliver the workshop, that may incur added costs for gas, tolls, hotel stays and meals while you are traveling. Make sure there is an agreement on who is covering these costs along with how they will be covered. I’ve had some organizations take care of all of that ahead of time and others that asked me to submit receipts after the workshop was done and I had returned home. Traveling gets pricey so make sure this is clear before you commit.
Inquire if they will need you to do additional tasks before or after you deliver the workshop. Depending on the time or complexity of the task it may incur an additional cost.
Find out who is expected to print the materials, and provide flip charts, markers, or anything else you are going to need to do your thing. If they have that all covered, great! If not, add it as a line item to your proposal. Printing and flipcharts are not cheap. You don’t want to find out you didn’t make much money for the time invested because the materials ate up your compensation.
Find out who is providing the food and beverages. Food and beverages are a must! Workshops go much more smoothly when beverages and snacks are provided. If it’s a full-day workshop, are participants expected to bring a lunch or is that being catered and by whom? Be clear if you are the one bringing these items in and add it as a line item to the proposal. More often than not this is being taken care of beautifully by the organization but don’t assume it is.
After you’ve done the needs assessment put together a proposal that outlines what you will provide along with the cost. Be sure to include what the organization is providing so you have it recorded on a document that a representative from the organization is signing.
If a couple days have gone by and you haven’t gotten an acknowledgment of the email, send a polite follow-up inquiring if they saw it. Sometimes people are so busy they open your email quickly, close it, and then get pulled in too many different directions. Sometimes your email ends up in Spam and sometimes it’s not a priority for the receiving party. However, it becomes more important once you’ve followed up and you’re in their inbox once again. Again, continue to be profession, supportive, and timely on your end. Your reputation is everything and how you conduct yourself is what your reputation is built on. I love the memes you see on social media that say something to the effect of, “Always be kind because you don’t know what the other person is going through.” This rule of thumb makes it so much easier to maintain your professionalism even if the other person is dropping the ball or not communicating well.
After you’ve gotten the answer to your proposal
If you hear back from the organization and it’s a “No” you’ll probably hear something like:
“We decided to go in a different direction”. Thank them for their time and end things on a positive high note so if that “other direction” should not work out, now or in the future, they think of you and how great and professional you were receiving their “no”. I’ll tell you, there have been service providers I’ve had to say “no” to after considering hiring them who were cutting and unprofessional in their parting communication. Even when I had the budget to hire them later, I didn’t go back to them. They aren’t the kind of people I want to do business with. They have already given me the impression they would not value me or treat me well.
“Staffing changes have changed our needs”. Ask about their changing needs to see if you meet those new needs. If so, give some bullet points on how you can help and see if the proposal can be modified to meet their changed needs.
You may also hear, “we just don’t have the money in our budget at this time”. Ask what their budget is and offer to scale your services to meet their needs within their budget. Note, I’m not saying give a discount or give away part of your services for free. I’m saying, offer to scale down what you will provide so that it can come within their budget.
If you hear back from the organization and it’s a “Yes” express your gratitude to that connection and to the universe.
Find out who your contact will be for coordinating the logistics. It often is not the decision maker or the person who you’ve been working with in the discovery phase.
If you’re lucky it’s all one person and you can filter everything through them but it may be multiple people.
Who are your participants? Can you get information on the participants in advance? If this is something you require you will have already asked this in the discovery phase.
Ask if they will be conducting a satisfaction survey immediately after the workshop. If so, can you get access to that information for your own development. If not, can you bring your own survey to have the participants fill out.
If you are playing an audio or video make sure the room has a sound system or bring speakers that hook up to your computer or the computer being provided, if that’s the case. I bought Logitech speakers that were not cost prohibitive so do a little research and make sure you have speakers on hand if you need them.
Most locations have a projector. I have yet to do a workshop where I need to have my own projector and if push came to shove, most of my workshops don’t need slides. They’re a nice to have, not a need to have.
Make sure you are prepared to the point that you will have fun doing the workshop rather than stressing out about whether or not you’re ready. This includes creating a flexible timeline that includes everything contained in the workshop.
Design your workshop based on the time of day. Generally, workshop participants are more focused and engaged in the morning. They get lively mid-morning and have a dip as they are starting to get hungry before lunch. Right before and right after lunch you and your participants will be happiest if they are moving around, engaged in partner or group work, and don’t have to just sit and listen. They may get another boost after they’re done digesting their food but near the end of the day, they’ve given it their all, had a great time doing it, but they need to switch gears. I find group reflection work right before lunch and in the last 30-minutes of the workshop (if it’s an afternoon or all-day workshop) goes beautifully. It also helps the participants retain what they’ve learned.
Practices for the day of the workshop you are paid to deliver
Arrive early because there’s a lot of boxes to check before the first participant arrives and you want to be there well before any participants arrive.
You need to meet your contact, get yourself set up, make sure the A/V equipment is working properly, that the room is configured in a way that suits your goals, lighting is sufficient, the air conditioning is working properly, workbooks are passed out, name tags or name cards are ready to be filled out.
Make sure you have your beverages and snacks ready and in easy reach. Make sure snacks and refreshments are available for the participants.
A note on your snacks, I would keep caffeine and sugar to a minimum. You get an immediate energy boost but then you’re dealing with a crash an hour or so later. And if you keep putting caffeine and sugar in your body to keep your energy up, you’ll pay a big price at the end of the day. Everyone’s body is different so you need to figure out your nutritional needs but if energy crashes or body aches are something you’ve dealt with, try it out to see if it makes a difference.
Take pictures of the room as “before” pictures. You can use these on social media to promote your services. I only mention the company I’m working with on social media if I’ve gotten explicit permission to do so. I may take pictures during the workshop but it will usually be from the back of the room and I don’t post pictures of the participants faces to use in my promotion.
Lastly, make sure you are ready to greet your participants with a smile as they walk through the door.
Before you fully dive in, introduce yourself and go over the logistics. People are more relaxed when they know exactly what to expect and have a sense of their environment.
If you are meeting at a location the participants are not familiar with, tell them where the bathroom is. Tell them what time the breaks and meals are roughly going to be, and what time you’ll be ending. Give them a sense of the kinds of activities they’ll be engaging in so they can mentally prepare for them.
Do an activity to warm the group up. If time is tight have each person introduce themselves and identify something they are looking to gain from the workshop, or share something they struggle with in regard to the topic of the workshop. This serves to also give you an even better sense of who is in the room and what they need from you.
Use the timeline you created in advance even if things aren’t going exactly according to plan. I am nearly always running tight on time so the timeline helps me to be nimble if I need to allow more time for this or take out that based on who is in the room and what their immediate needs are. Be structured but also be ready to be flexible.
Read the room!
Pay attention to the overall energy of the room to sense if you need to calm the group down or get them re-energized. You can turn a writing exercise into a group activity on the fly, or take an unscheduled break. I’m not opposed to having everyone stand, stretch and take some deep breaths if I think that will do the trick.
Also, be sure everyone has a chance to speak and get their questions answered. If someone is dominating the conversation you need to manage them so others don’t shut down or get resentful.
If someone seems withdrawn find an opportunity to check in with them on the next break. Don’t take it personally or make it mean anything until you know exactly what’s going on. Sometimes the content of the workshop triggers an old wound or provides a revelation that causes someone to go into a reflective mode on the spot. As long as they are getting what they need there’s nothing wrong.
Have fun! As I mentioned in the last episode on workshops released October of 2019, to deliver high-quality workshops you have to love it. Let your love for what you are doing come through! Your participants, unless they are just determined to have a bad time, will find your enjoyment contagious. This also means you’re likely more yourself than you would be otherwise and this also allows the participants to make a human connection with you. When that happens, they are more open to learning and being in a discovery process with you, and that means they will gain more value from the content you are delivering.
Before you finish up have the participants complete a feedback form or survey to get feedback on the different aspects of the workshop. This is worth its weight in gold. Sometimes it’s hard to read critical feedback but I know I make the biggest leaps in my own development as a workshop facilitator when I get critical feedback. This is one of the ways we get to mastery.
Thank the participants wholeheartedly for their time and contributions to the workshop. They may have been told they had to be there but that doesn’t take away from the attention and effort they put in to participate.
If okayed by the organization you may offer your contact information and handles on social media platforms to the participants so they can reach out to you if they would like to, follow you, get to know you better, or inquire into your products and services.
Lastly, freebies that require an opt-in email. Typically, if I’m getting paid by an organization to deliver a workshop it’s not appropriate to ask their employees or members for their email addresses in exchange for a freebie. I’m either giving it to them or I’m not. I may say something like, if x, y, z, is something you’re working on I have a downloadable on my homepage if that interests you.
However, if you’re going to send them to a specific page that will require their email or a coupon code, ask for explicit permission from the organization before creating any slides or materials that reference this. Again, this is your professional relationship you’re playing with.
All that being said, by this point you are probably both physically tired but soulfully energized from the experience. Let’s get into best practices after the workshop.
Best practices for after the workshop you are hired to deliver
I leave it all out on the field when I’m delivering workshops. The participants get my best and that has an effect on my physical and mental bandwidth.
If I’m delivering a workshop in the morning, I keep my afternoon clear of anything that would require me to be at optimal. Instead, I will typically clean out easy emails and messages, and respond to comments and questions that come through social media platforms. I will also do rudimentary tasks like bookkeeping or entering the information from business cards I’ve collected recently into my Google Contacts.
If it’s an all-day workshop I’m wiped out at the end of the day so it will be an evening in. Be mindful of what you need to recover and do what you can to take care of yourself.
Within a day or two send a thank you to the person or people at the organization you had contact with, whether it’s the decision maker, the committee, or the coordinator. Let them know it was a positive experience for you, if that’s true, and that you are grateful to have had the opportunity to serve them.
[This is a new practice I’m taking on], in that communication offer to do a follow up meeting to see if the workshop did its job and to see if there are other services or workshops you can provide to continue to serve them.
If you are still listening at this point, I’m assuming you either get hired to deliver workshops or you’ve attended workshops that someone was hired to deliver. Let me know if I missed anything. What would you add to this list of best practices to make the workshop more effective or an even better experience?
Here is the checklist of these best practices which you can use the next time an organization reaches out to you to see what you would charge to deliver a workshop for them.
As always, I hope this was of value to you and here’s to your success!
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