Engaging, hands-on workshop? 7 practical tips for structure and success

You have the knowledge, experience and contacts in your industry and beyond. You understand the difficulties of your ideal clients and how you can help to overcome them…

How about putting on a workshop, or series of workshops, to spread the word not only about your services, but the way you deliver them?

What better way of spending time with potential clients, referrers and others in your network and beyond… Here are seven ideas to help you plan an enjoyable, hands-on event.

1) Start from the end

workshop blog

veronica111886 on Pixabay, in a www.briandmcgee.com/blog

Whether you’re outlining the benefits of cloud-accounting software Xero in your  workshop, giving an overview of branding, or explaining how to get more eyes on a website, the principles are the same.

What would you like to achieve by the end of the session? What do you want attendees to have learnt… or to be intrigued about? How do you want them to feel?

Start with the end, and keep that in mind as you sketch out the content of your workshop.

Keep going back to that end point as you plan each element of the workshop.

2) Resources at the ready

You plan to send on resources after the event. Grand. Get them together beforehand, allowing for some final tweaks shortly before you press send.

The day after the workshop you may feel like you’ve been fired out of a canon…  and who knows what other calls there may be on your time once back at the coalface.

That forward planning will take the pressure off, helping you send on the resources in good time.

Meeting the deadline that you’ve set for yourself, and told attendees about in the workshop, can only add to their favourable impression of your business.

Use your logo and branding in the resources? Absolutely.

  • Have another workshop coming up? What better opportunity to mention it than in the branded PDF you send just after the event attendees have just enjoyed.
  • Bear in mind that people may ask you to send on your PowerPoint slides. It’s worth thinking about this beforehand.
  • You may be more comfortable sharing just a summary. Have your follow-up resources ready to go? That could be your answer right there.

3) Team up

Putting on a workshop with an associate, perhaps another business owner, will help in a variety of ways.

You have different networks, complementary ideas and experience.

You can share costs too (room booking, printing, refreshments…). After the event, swap ideas too about how the event went, and what improvements to make next time. Constant improvement, and all that.

workshop blog

Image by kalhh on Pixabay, in a www.briandmcgee.com/blog

In my case, I’ve joined forces with graphic designer Stephen Shillito to hold #BOWRivoli workshops at Rivoli Meeting Room in Ladywell, between Lewisham and the fibreglass cat of Catford.

(It’s a 14-minute train ride from London Bridge on a stopping train, 9 minutes direct.)

Others have done the same.

No Nonsense Tech teamed up with Blue Rocket Accounting and business coaches Evolve and Grow to put on a joint event last September, using the hashtag #iteabriefing on social media.

(High tea was part of the appeal. See what they did there?)

If you’re part of a network, perhaps you can host a joint workshop. I worked with Croydon Chamber of Commerce to deliver one of my LinkedIn workshops, for instance, at Sussex Innovation Centre by East Croydon station.

The next one is on Weds 16 May, in the same venue.

Workshop blog

geralt on Pixabay, published in a www.briandmcgee.com/blog

4) Swish of the curtains

If you were a stage manager wouldn’t you want the curtains to close just so at the end of the performance? Or if cooking’s your thing, what a difference an anchovy can make to your pasta sauce…

Just as you make it a point of pride to surprise and delight your clients, how can you do the same with those who sign up to your workshop?

It might be cake (in my case from Blue Belle Café in Penge, southeast London), or ice cream if logistics allow. True enough, it’s not a party that you’re putting on… but who doesn’t like a branded notebook or other useful, gimmick-free giveaway on leaving a pleasant gathering?

Attendees at my workshop on blog writing, held on Weds 25 April, may well get a set of #PortesdePenge postcards. Contain your joy…

Whether it’s cake or the excitement of a hot beverage, to paraphrase the writer Bill Bryson, those little details can help create an engaging atmosphere.

5) Enjoyment

No doubt you’ll prepare as much as you can in advance, but you may have plenty to do the day before the event, for instance, to get your ducks in a row.

Try to leave yourself enough time to relax and then get a decent night’s sleep so that you have energy for the workshop.

Have you been looking forward to delivering this event? Tell the attendees that.

If you’re wrestling with the best way to get your message across, or puzzled as to what steps to take towards that end point, why not ask for help?

There’s a writer and trainer who I admire, with a business more established than my own, who kindly helped me iron out a couple of pre-workshop wrinkles during the planning stage.

Perhaps an associate or colleague can give you a steer in the same way. (As a qualified teacher, I’m also available to help develop this type of content; please get in touch.)

6) Tend the timings

workshop blog

Photo by Farago Tudor Andrei on Unsplash, published in a www.briandmcgee.com/blog

Leave enough time for workshop attendees to chat before, during and after the event. Captain Obvious? Fair point. Strange but true, that time for attendees to get to know each other a little isn’t always factored in.

Networking is part of the appeal of a workshop. That photographer diagonally opposite Joanna may be just the contact her marketing colleague is looking for…

Leave enough time for the hands-on part of the event to be, well, hands-on.

If, for instance, one or two people want to know how to customise their LinkedIn address, help them with the detail of that during the practical part of the workshop.

The 10 people who already have a bespoke LinkedIn address don’t to know how to do that… and may easily get distracted if you give the information to everyone in the room.

Whatever happens, finish on time. An attendee with a train to catch or an appointment after your event will appreciate not having to rush. It’s an extra reason to remember you.

workshop blog

Image by geralt on Pixabay, published in a www.briandmcgee.com/blog

7) Supple structure

Plan? Of course. Set out a series of steps and give an estimated timing for each one? Yes to that too.

All the same, try to be aware of what’s happening in the room on the day. You may need to jettison an activity or not show a video clip you had planned to include.

Slavishly following every step of your plan may not always give the best results.


If you do plan on holding a marketing workshop, whether in partnership or not, I’ll be very interested to hear about it.

My own events (blog writing, Weds 25 April; LinkedIn, Weds 16 May) are listed here.

So all that planning and forethought will deliver a perfect product? I suggest leaving yourself a breather before you evaluate how the workshop went.

There will be plenty of positives and, inevitably, areas for development. Works in progress, each of us…

Here’s to an engaging event that spurs you on to do another one soon. Plan, review, plan again. Enjoy!

(Lead photo by CG on Unsplash; final image by Dawid Zawiła on Unsplash.)

*Want help with your own workshop content? Please contact me.
Any comment to make on this blog? There’s space below. Many thanks.*

workshop blog

8 comments on “Engaging, hands-on workshop? 7 practical tips for structure and success

  1. David Thomas on

    Great tips Brian. I think the planning stage is the most important.

    I start by listing four or five things that the participants will be able to do by the end of the session. I then have a lesson plan grid which outlines the key sections of the training.

    Crucially each section has to address one of the learning points I have listed. If it doesn’t, it will almost certainly get ditched. That helps me keep focused.

    • Brian McGee on

      Many thanks for your comment David. Definitely, start with the end and work backwards… I’ll look out for details of your training sessions on LinkedIn.

  2. Eliza Nicholas on

    Brian, I really enjoyed this blog! Very useful tips, and some new ideas that I can certainly bring to my gardening workshops. Nice points about branded resources and providing something extra to pleasantly surprise attendees. Thanks!

    • Brian McGee on

      Hi Eliza, great to hear that you found this blog so useful. I’ll be keen to find out more about your gardening workshops. Thanks a lot for your comment.


Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.