Hosting a workshop can be a fantastic way to get a group of people connected and learning new skills. This is not only fun, but it promotes a range of brain benefits.
Workshops are a great way to get people passionate about learning - whether a new dish, a new craft, or a soft skill that will be useful in the workplace.
Read on for a few fresh activities and ideas for your next workshop, and create an atmosphere that is fun and energetic, and provides a safe and productive space for all attendees.
Wait, so what is a workshop?
A workshop can take a number of forms. It can be a motorcycle fixing workshop or a pottery workshop. Or there is the famous Iowa Writers’ Workshop where budding wordsmiths go to tear each other’s work apart in roundtables, and right at the other end of the spectrum workshops were used in order to help companies undertake unconscious bias training.
Basically, a workshop is any gathering you hold where people learn a new skill. This skill can be specific to a particular business or company - like learning SEO. Or it can be a new hobby. No matter what you want to achieve, if it relies on people connecting and sharing in real-time, facilitating a workshop is a great way to fast-track the collaboration process.
Think outside the box
While everyone loves a cooking class or learning pottery, you can get as creative as you want. Catering for a specific group or for a niche interest may help stand out from the crowd. It may also be part of a strategy to engage a specific audience. Maybe this involves learning how to make organic skincare, or how to make gorgeous floral arrangements.
Consider partnering with organisations
Workshops can be a great opportunity to form partnerships with brands or organisations. Maybe someone from a flower shop would like to come into the office for an arrangement workshop for free. Or maybe your local barista would like to organise a coffee tasting and brewing workshop. This might expose their brand further - and generate new business.
If you are organising a workshop for your office or colleagues, it’s worth reaching out to similar organisations or perhaps organisations you work with. Maybe the person who handles your website could do an SEO workshop or a primer on social media analytics. This gives everyone the chance to learn a new skill in a mutually beneficial arrangement.
Set the room up to encourage positive learning
The way a room is set out can shape all interactions throughout the workshop and the entire tone for the day.
If you are hosting the workshop, or selecting a venue, it’s important to make sure it is the right space. This includes aligning with all health and safety requirements, considering accessibility and the general atmosphere!
If the workshop is mainly based around talking or sharing (instead of, say, learning a craft) it’s a great idea to set it up in a way that facilitates conversation. A safe bet for encouraging people to talk and discuss ideas is a U-shape configuration of chairs towards a central speaker at the front. There is the added benefit that this makes for an easy dancefloor when you need to bust a move [alt: can include this as a GIF] (in the name of effective collaboration, of course).
Or, go digital!
If it isn’t possible (or desirable) to host a workshop in person, look at ways you can take things online! For example, you might send participants ingredients and a recipe card, and then they can all tune into a video chat where the facilitator takes everyone through the cooking process. This allows you to re-create the workshop experience while people are in their own homes.
Have a goal in mind
The goal of a workshop might be to learn a new skill, especially if attendees are already in your organisation. Or it might be to attract potential customers to an event, leading to more exposure for your brand.
Whatever the reason, having a clear goal in mind at the planning stage will help make sure that the workshop serves a purpose. And even if that doesn’t work out, you’ll get to bring home a new sourdough method!
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Em Meller lives and works in Sydney, Australia on the unceded lands of the Gadigal people. Her work has appeared in places like The Lifted Brow, Cordite, and Going Down Swinging. She has studied creative writing at the University of Technology, Sydney, and at Oxford University.