Planning a Workshop

Planning a workshop may seem daunting, but if divided into steps, the stress can be alleviated. Many people use the terms workshop and seminar interchangeably, but there are a few distinctions.

A seminar is often lecture-driven, usually attended by more people than the number attending a workshop. A workshop creates a balance between lecture and attendee participation. The decision to use the workshop format works well for many reasons.

Define the Purpose of the Workshop

  • Establish the specific reason for the workshop. Is it for educational purposes, relationship building, brainstorming or problem-solving?
  • Articulate what will be gained by the attendees by attending the workshop.
  • Determine who the target group is and how many people should be accommodated.
  • The target group will influence when the workshop should be scheduled. If employees are targeted, offer the workshop during business hours. If the general public is invited, the workshop will be more successful if conducted on a weekend or after normal business hours.
  • Decide how much time will be needed for the presentation of the desired information and whether it can be presented in a few hours or needs to be over two or more days.

Determine the budget

  • The number of people targeted to attend will partially determine the starting point for the budget.
  • If directed to employees, the company should pay all workshop expenses. If for the public or a certain interest group, a registration fee can be established.
  • If refreshments will be provided, such as coffee, donuts and water, calculate the costs based on the number of people expected to attend.
  • Determine how many presenters, facilitators and assistants need to be paid for their services.
  • Money needs to be allotted for nametags, handouts, and paper, pens and pencils if note taking is encouraged.

Factors that go into choosing a venue

  • The choice of a venue depends on how many people are expected to attend, how long the workshop will last and whether or not refreshments will be served. If the decision has been made to serve refreshments, the venue must have tables that can be set up to accommodate that.
  • Consider whether equipment will be needed and if it is, will it be available at the venue. Some equipment can be rented elsewhere and transported to the venue, but it will be more convenient if the venue can provide visual aids such as an overhead projector, screen for a power-point presentation or a white-board.
  • If smaller group discussions are planned, are there smaller rooms or provisions to accommodate this?
  • Be sure there is adequate parking for the number of attendees expected.
  • Microphones should be available for presenters and audience participation.
  • If there are plans to do a live-stream to accommodate workshop participants from home, be sure that is possible at the venue.
  • There must an adequate number of restrooms to accommodate the anticipated attendance.
  • If the workshop is to be conducted over two or more days, there should be over-night accommodations either at or very near the selected venue.
  • If the workshop is to last an entire day or more, eating or snack locations should be easily accessible.
  • There needs to be room for selling books or other materials if applicable. If the speaker has written a book and plans to do a book signing, there needs to be space available for this.

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Prepare the agenda

  • The agenda of course depends on the purpose of the workshop. Determine how much time speakers will need for their presentations. There should be breaks scheduled and noted on the written agenda handed out to attendees so they know how to plan for their coffee, restroom breaks and phone calls.
  • Time for meals should be allotted and noted on the schedule. If there are to be any group activities, this should be included in the agenda. Attendees like to know what to expect and how long each speaker or activity is expected to take.
  • Allow time for questions after each presentation.

Marketing the workshop

  • If the workshop is for employees, memos should be sent to each employee expected to attend. If there is a bulletin board, also post the information there.
  • If the workshop is for a special interest group, send out invitations via email through social media channels. If for the public, you can promote it on Facebook, Twitter, and sites like

Miscellaneous considerations

  • If fees are to be charged, use a service like Eventbrite to take care of pre-registration fees. At check-in, have a sign-in sheet. Also plan for registration at the door and make provisions for accepting payment.
  • Decide whether name tags will be used. If so, they should be available at check-in.
  • Have enough hand-outs for all expected attendees plus extras.

Follow-up questionnaires

  • Have attendees hand an evaluation questionnaire to a volunteer as they exit the venue. Seek answers to whether or not the workshop was interesting, valuable and met their expectations.
  • Ask if they are willing to be contacted at a later time or if there is a way they can be reached to send them more information in the future.

Finally, send thank-you notes to all who helped make the workshop a success, including paid presenters and facilitators.