13 Principles to Follow when Designing your Workshop

When creating a successful workshop, the design stage is the most critical stage.  Like building a home, if you don’t have a solid foundation, that home will not withstand the test of time.

First let’s talk about what makes a workshop successful.  You might think it’s indicated by all the smiley faces and high scores on your evaluation form.  While they may be helpful and informative, it’s not the true measure of success.

True success is measured by the specific changes that participants make after they leave your workshop.  It is about the results they produce after the workshop that truly determines the value you provided and impact you made.

It is also critical to create an experience that is long-lasting. Adults retain the most when they are engaged and interacting. The retain less by seeing and they retain even less by hearing.   In understanding how adults learn and recalling your own experience as a participant, one of the most critical factors to your success is creating highly interactive and experiential workshops.  In addition to ensuring your workshop is highly experiential, there are many other principles to keep in mind.

Here are the principles necessary to ensure a super solid design that sets the stage for development:

Information is easy to understand

The information you are presenting and teaching makes sense to the participant and is delivered in an easy-to-understand format.  Test this out by reviewing with a small pilot group.

  • Customized and relevant: The more customized your topic is to your audience, the greater you will hold the participant’s attention and ultimately, the more memorable experience and lasting change you create.  Understand your audience’s deepest needs and ensure your content addresses those.
  • Practical and immediately applicable: People will retain what is most relevant to them that they can apply right here, right now.  Provide tools and activities your participants can apply immediately following your workshop.  The sooner your participants see the results of their actions, the greater the likelihood they will come back for more and refer others to your workshops.
  • Highly interactive and experiential: At mentioned before, this is one of the most critical success factors.  Keep presentation of information to a minimum (30/70 rule – 30% presentation, 70% experiential).  Your participants are not going to remember a talking head, but you can count on them for remembering the experience they had.
  • Cater to different learning style: Each participant learns differently.  By varying the types of delivery, you increase the attention rate of your participants and ultimately the value they receive.
  • Working session: Incorporate exercises that leave your participants with something “real”, not just concepts or theories.  Take them through an exercise they can apply directly to something they are facing right now. That way, they actually leave having completed something “real” in your workshop. They will see it as a great use of their time.
  • Real-Plays not Role-Plays: Although role plays are a very common approach for creating an experience, consider facilitating “Real-Plays” instead.  These are real situations your participants may experience.  Identify in advance or have your participants come up with the context of the exercise based on what they are up to.  Role plays using “fake” scenarios that the participants “act” out will not have as great of an impact.
  • Ensure each Learning Objective is met: In the Set Direction Stage of Workshop University’s Workshop and Webinar Success course (https://www.workshopuniversity.com/products/) , you will be identifying the learning objectives for your workshop.  Learning Objectives are what you want attendees to be able to do, be or have out of attending your workshop.  These learning objectives set the direction for your design.  As you complete your design, and outline your components, be sure that your components ultimately meet your learning objectives. The worst thing you could do is articulate learning objectives in your marketing material and in your course that you ultimately don’t meet.
  • Keep it modular: As you begin to design your curriculum, logically group components together so that in the future, they can be easy to “plug and play”.  This is a fundamental concept when designing in general and will enable you to customize your material for future audiences and situations easily.
  • Stick to “what” you need to cover when in the Design Stage: As you create your design, it is so easy to jump quickly to how you will deliver the material.  The design stage answers the “What” while the Development Stage answers the “How”.  Keep yourself from jumping to the “How” right away. Take the time to think about all the pieces before figuring out how to deliver them.  Do capture your “How” ideas as you go so you don’t forget them.
  • Actionable and results-driven: Ultimately, the value of your workshop is determined based on what your participants do after the workshop.  Be sure to save time throughout and at the end of your workshop for participants to identify one or more action items they will commit to taking on out of the workshop.  Help them to set up accountability structures if necessary.
  • Design drives development: The design phase addresses “what” you need to cover and the development Stage is “how” you will deliver it. The design then ultimately drives development.  Utilize your design to help you stay focused on what to deliver.
  • Engaging & Fun! We come back to FUN again!! If it’s not fun, your participants will lose interest.  If it’s not fun for you it won’t be fun for them.
  • Capture everything, but stay focused: While you are designing your workshop, you will inevitably come up with ideas on how to deliver that particular piece.  Capture the idea so you don’t forget and then get back on track with your design.  As you gain more experience in designing and developing, you will be able to do both at the same time, but in the beginning, get into the practice of sticking to the “What”, then focus on the “How”.