Workshop training takes a hands-on approach to teaching people new skills. Compared to just watching a video, sitting in a lecture or reading a book, a workshop should be designed to accommodate different learning styles. Regardless of what your training is about, a successful workshop begins with a good plan.
Uses of Workshop Training
Workshops are different than other training exercises in that they are hands-on. If you go to a painting workshop, you can expect to paint. If you go to a PowerPoint workshop, you should expect to create a presentation while you learn.
For a small business owner, workshops are a great way to:
- train employees in required skills
- attract new clients by demonstrating your expertise
- make money by charging fees
Set the Foundation of Your Training Workshop
Before you can begin planning a workshop, it's important to first decide on the basic details. These will be the foundation of the workshop.
- Topic: what your workshop will teach
- Title: the name you will market for your workshop
- Basic Student Profile: what group your workshop will be geared toward
- Venue: where you plan to hold the workshop
- Ideal class size: this is often determined by the venue, but should be small enough to keep instruction personal
- Fee: what you will ideally charge for each student, or if there will be no fee
- Materials: required for the workshop, supplied by you or the students
- Activities: what sort of activities you envision the students working on
- Time: approximately how many hours or days will be required to complete the workshop
Many of these details will require more work or revisions as you proceed through the planning, but many are interdependent so you will need to have a rough idea for each of them before you can start getting into the details. If you plan to have a workshop training of three days for 40 students, you may need to get an assistant or two to help you. You will also need to ensure you can find a venue to accommodate everyone. If you're doing workshop training on wood carving and need to provide materials for everyone, this will certainly affect the fee you charge.
Specify Your Learning Outcomes
Think of at least three learning outcomes your students will achieve by taking your workshop. Not only do learning outcomes help you to structure your training, but they will also make it easier for students to decide whether or not the workshop is the right fit for their needs.
Introductory WordPress Training Workshop Example
- WordPress terminology
- How to post a blog post
- How to add a page
Advanced WordPress Training Workshop Example
- How to install WordPress
- How to modify a WordPress theme
- How to install plugins
Facebook Marketing Workshop Example
- Learn how to create a Facebook ad
- Learn how to budget a campaign
- Learn how to use split tests
As you can see, learning objectives are tied to who your students are going to be. A beginner's training workshop has more basic objectives than a workshop for advanced students. All of the above workshops could be done in a day. However, if you held a three-day workshop, you could go from the basics to advanced concepts by offering the basics on the first day, intermediate skills in the second day and advanced concepts on the third day.
One way of determining what your learning outcomes should be is to ask those who are interested in your workshop. A short survey of what their current skills are and what they most want to learn can often determine what the outcomes should be. If the training is to help them achieve an industry certification, this should be the primary learning outcome.
Identify Your Student Profile
Write down a brief description of who your typical student will be. This is much the same as identifying a target market for products and services. While the characteristics for a student profile can vary with what you are teaching, some aspects to consider include:
- level of education
- relationship to you
- relationship to each other
Each of these aspects could have a big impact on how you organize the workshop, while others may have no effect at all. If you are training a group of employees on workplace safety, they may be a mix in each of these categories, particularly if it's a large company and they may not all know you or each other. In this case, you will have to accommodate a wide variety of students.
Other workshops can have very specific demographics. For example:
- Learning to Code for Women
- Oil Painting for Couples
- Resume Writing for New Grads
- Resume Writing for Immigrants
- Using an iPad for Seniors
- Network Security for Executives
Tailor Your Teaching Method to the Topic and Audience
Teaching women to code, compared to men, might have little effect on how you prepare and teach your workshop. But if you are using the workshop as an income source, it could greatly affect how you market the training and it could actually increase the number of students who sign up, compared to a more generic "Learning to Code for Beginners."
Age can have a considerable impact on how you present the topic. New technology, for example, can be intimidating to seniors who don't have the fine motor skills younger students take for granted and are not often accustomed to recent developments in mobile phones and tablets.
Introduce Yourself and Your Background
If the students don't know you, it will be important to introduce yourself and explain what about your background makes you a competent teacher for the subject you are teaching them. If the students don't know each other, you may want to allow them to introduce themselves as well.
If the students are not attending your workshop from choice, there is a chance they may be indifferent or even hostile toward the subject. In this case, it may be wise to give them a chance to express their opinions about being there and then to explain how your workshop will benefit them.
Consider Different Learning Styles
Not everyone learns best the same way, so it's important to integrate a few different learning styles in a training workshop.
1. Visual Learners: These students learn best when they can see the information being presented to them. They prefer written text, diagrams and pictures. Also known as spatial learners, you can identify these students by those who take notes, make lists and doodle while you talk. These students often need more time to process information, so it helps to give them a few minutes to process what you've given them before moving on to a new topic.
2. Reading/Writing Learners: These students are similar to visual learners, but are more attuned to the written word than pictures and diagrams. They can breeze through several pages of written text and are likely to write down notes.
Give students handouts. Encourage note-taking. Use a whiteboard to explain things with diagrams.
3. Auditory Learners: These students learn best when you talk to them, rather than relying on handouts. They may often repeat things, or even read aloud, since their own voice reinforces the information they are processing.
Read information to the students, even if they have the text in front of them. Ask students to repeat key concepts to you. Encourage group discussions, show them videos, play music while they are working on their own.
- Kinesthetic Learners: These students prefer learning through hands-on experience. These students are more likely to enroll in a workshop, rather than sign up for a lecture or watch a video. Sitting for long periods of time, or being asked to take their own notes, can be difficult for them.
Schedule Breaks and Allow for Extra Help Being Needed
Encourage these students to do tasks themselves. Schedule frequent breaks and be prepared to take unscheduled breaks when you see students begin to fidget. Games or any activity requiring movement is helpful, as is giving them turns to take control of the whiteboard themselves.
Regardless of their learning styles, some students may need extra time or extra help to complete the training. Giving them additional one-on-one instruction while others are taking a break or working on their own may be important. Students with disabilities may be unable to participate in some activities.
Develop a Class Schedule
Once you have finalized your learning objectives and have an idea of who your students will be, it's time to create a schedule. Begin with sections that will take the class from the introduction through each learning objective. If it's a one-day workshop, break it down by the hour at first. If it's a longer workshop, begin with the mornings and afternoons for each day.
Write down the main points that need to be covered in each time period, how you will present the material and what the students will do. Try to include at least two different learning styles.
For example in an introduction to WordPress for beginners, for the first hour you could:
- Show a PowerPoint presentation with examples of different WordPress themes.
- Give students a handout with definitions of the terminology you will be using.
- Ask the students to take turns reading the handout aloud.
- Ask the students to go into WordPress, create an account and select a theme to use, while giving individual instruction as needed.
- Take a 10-minute break with more individual instruction as needed.
Fill in the Details
With the main sections written down, you can now begin filling in the details. Write down the times you plan to allot for each part, ideally in five to 15-minute increments. Make sure you include time for questions and answers as well as discussion. During the training, if you find yourself off schedule, you can increase or decrease discussion sessions as needed.
Make sure there is as much hands-on work for the students as possible throughout your workshop as this is what distinguishes a workshop from a training class.
Write a List of Materials
Make a list of everything that is needed for the workshop, including what you need for yourself, what you need to give to the students and what the students need to bring themselves. If students do need to bring their own supplies, provide them with an itemized list when they register.
If you are charging a fee for the workshop, make sure you price out your supplies and cover the cost in the fee you charge.
Create an Evaluation Form
As with most things in life, the first time conducting a workshop is the hardest. The more you do, the easier the process gets. To help you, and to help your future students, an evaluation form is invaluable. Students will almost always notice things that you did not and will usually be happy to offer you suggestions on how to improve the training.
Many questions work best with a five-point scale to encourage a response. If asked what they thought of you as an instructor, for example, many students would leave the line blank. Circling a number is faster and easier.
Example Questions to Rate on a Scale from 1 to 5
- The workshop met my expectations.
- The workshop objectives were clear to me.
- The activities gave me good practice and feedback.
- The instructor was prepared.
- The instructor was helpful.
Example Open-Ended Questions
- What was most helpful about the workshop?
- What was least helpful about the workshop?
- How would you improve this workshop?
At the bottom of the evaluation form, ask the student to provide her email address to be put on your mailing list or to receive information about related workshops in the future.
Remember to follow up with a thank you note to everyone who gave you their email addresses. Even if they don't attend another workshop you offer, they may recommend you to others they know.
A published author, David Weedmark has advised businesses on technology, media and marketing for more than 20 years and used to teach computer science at Algonquin College. He is currently the owner of Mad Hat Labs, a web design and media consultancy business. David has written hundreds of articles for newspapers, magazines and websites including American Express, Samsung, Re/Max and the New York Times' About.com.