Organizing a workshop or retreat
Organizing a workshop or retreat is a great way to share your knowledge and experience. Think about something that you are good at, something that you get a lot of questions about from others. Then organize a workshop – preferably in an inspiring place. It is easier than you think.
Many people ask me why my workshops and retreats are so popular and how I organize them. They have the expertise in their field, but have no idea how to create an event to share it. Sometimes you see that they are so busy with the logistics that the content becomes secondary. This is a problem, because it is really all about exchanging that knowledge and experience.
Whether you are thinking about organizing a multi-day retreat or a shorter workshop or training event. I’d like to share my experiences and tips and help you to shape your workshop or retreat.
Me? A workshop or event?
Do you get a lot of questions about a specific topic?
Do you see that there are many people discussing ‘your’ theme on social media?
Do you feel that a physical meeting offers added value over the material that you have on your website / social media?
Ask on Facebook or other social media who to see who might be interested in the workshop you have in mind: if you get positive reactions: GO!
How do you find participants?
Continue to use social media after the initial check question to bring the workshop to the attention of the people that expressed interest and more!
Make sure that you talk more about the subject itself, rather than just about the workshop.
Give tips and information about your topic, with a link to your workshop. Good tips are shared and forwarded, not just a ‘sales messages’, but valuable information.
Create a Facebook event where people can sign up and meet each other.
Give away a free spot in your event to someone who is really motivated. That way people will talk about your event and respond to your social media post in comments, giving you loads of publicity for the event.
Do not praise your own workshops, but ask satisfied customers if they want to say something about it. It is best to ask them not just to comment on the workshop, but what results they achieved because of it. More tips for the best reference.
For a multi-day workshops it is preferable to hold your workshop at the same location as the accommodation. See if a B&B or similar is suitable, bearing in mind that you will be looking for privacy, space, acoustics, internet and work/breakout areas.
It works best if you choose a country, city, or place that you know well. You feel at ease, you know your way around and how to get the best deals. You are truly a ‘host’ for your participants.
I have rarely paid for a location. Try and choose a place that is not yet well known, perhaps somewhere new, somewhere out of season or somewhere that is looking for some promotion. Propose a barter deal: You arrange that people come, (and they may make additional purchases which benefits the venue) and talk about them in your PR messages. In return, you get a few hours of use of the venue. If you can afford it, pay a fee for drinks, cleaning etc. And make sure you really do promote the location, not just your workshop.
What do you really need? A quiet place and a table with about 10 chairs. Ideally an inspiring place. A nice cafe, restaurant, garden, room etc. No standard meeting locations please; that is soooo boring.
www.zaalhuren.net have lovely inspiring locations in NL for every budget
Instead of a physical workshop on location, you can also organize a webinar. During the live session, people can ask questions, creating engaging interactions. Don’t forget to record your webinar, so the content remains available, even for people who could not join the live webinar. Always end with a ‘call to action’, a website, a place where people can find more information or similar.
The program that your craft will depend on your subject, but as an example, for a one day workshop with up to 10 participants, this format has been working for me for years:
- If the topic is a big challenge for the participants, such as ‘writing your own book’, then I might start with a glass of champagne or a round of applause to acknowledge that it was a big step for the participants to register for the workshop and for really going to work of achieving their dream. It is a festive moment, so use it to remove tension and break the ice.
Then there is always a round of introductions. Who are you, why are you here today and what do you want to get out of the workshop? This is not just important for you, so that you know about your participants and what they are looking for, but is also relevant for the participants themselves. They can share what they are interested in, what they are struggling with or what they want to do, so that they know that they are not alone in their challenges. Limit the time to about 3 minutes per participant, otherwise you run the risk that your workshop will be over before everyone has done introducing themselves …
Then take the time to introduce yourself comprehensively. This way you can kick off by giving an introduction about the subject establish your credibility. You can also start to answer the questions that the participants have raised and highlight topics that participants have expressed an interest in.
You can then expand on this to move seamlessly to the content of your presentation, highlighting a number of themes, topics, questions, cases, examples that are interesting for the participants.
You can suggest that participants ask questions at any time, or you can choose to break for questions at specific times in the workshop.
Don’t forget that you need to take a break at least every hour and a half. You will see that participants will interact with each other. having introduced themselves, everyone will have found someone else that they are interested in or share interests with, and usually the conversations are lively. There is so much value in bringing people with similar interests together.
After the break, you can continue with your presentation materials or conduct a practical part of the workshop. For my speakers workshop, each participant tells a short story and gets feedback. For my book writing workshop we discuss everyone’s back page 1 on 1.
At a multi-day workshop, I choose a theme that we work on each day and the participants are given a lot of time to work on their own project/book/assignment. Each day there are at least two sessions with the whole group, at the start and the end of the day. The start of the day is about what are we going to do today, what each participant wants to gain from this topic, and some theory behind the subject. At the end-of-day check, we review the day and answer questions. Each day I also have at least 1 one-on-one session with each participant.
Do a round at the end of your workshop where everyone gets the chance to ask one last burning question or add something, as well as give feedback. At a multi-day workshop I always do this on the second last day, so that I get the chance to adjust if participants have missed something. I find that a very useful question to ask is, ‘What do you really want to do/learn/achieve before you go home tomorrow?’
End the workshop with the question: how will you take what you have learned here and move forward with it? make a plan so that participants can keep in touch. i find that a Facebook group is useful for this. Make sure that you give your participants advice on how to retain the energy of the workshop, such as a buddy system and let them know if there will be a follow-up/refresher or follow on course. That way everyone goes home with clear guidance and a way forward.
Let it go!
The attendees at your workshop have already taken an important step by showing up and meeting like-minded people, people who have the same issues or the same aspirations. This already has a great inherent value, and the additional value that you provided with the content of your workshop is a bonus! It is important that you are not preoccupied or hung up on sticking to the schedule. Be present at the moment, and pay attention to the needs of all your participants and their needs. If you have a great location, take the time to experience it. Take a walk before or after lunch and give participants time to process the knowledge and experiences that they are having by giving them breaks and time to relax.
Now, set YOUR event!
Everyone has their own way of working. I have shared my ideas with you, but you will need to find your own way. Feel free to join one of my workshops or retreats on a topic that interests you. That way you will get to experience how I organize my workshops and retreats AND you get to learn something about another interesting topic. If you are not sure yet what your added value is and what your event could be about, check out my live online workshop ‘How to turn anything into a business‘, where I personally help a small group of participants to pinpoint how they can turn their passion into a business.