The Technical Revolution has done a lot for us -- we merely have to pick up a phone or send an email to conduct business. Yet, there still is no substitute for live, personal appearances when you want your teaching to count, and that's why I love workshops. Your participants benefit from the short-term intensity of the experience, and you benefit from actually seeing your principles and exercises in play.
If you've got the solution to any problem that's out there, you can deliver it in workshop form. Here are some steps I've developed in my years of designing and delivering self-help workshops:
1. Put together a workshop people actually need. What's the biggest problem your target market faces ? and what do you know about solving it? This is the key to filling your workshop. Find the problem you are uniquely qualified to solve. Do not rely on vague promises like "improving your life" or "boosting your creativity". Offer us something we can really use, such as "How to Create More Time for Your Dream."
2. Decide where and how you'll lead the workshop. Basically, you have a choice: you find a location and hold the workshop yourself, or you pitch and sell it to a larger venue, such as an adult ed learning center. If you hold the workshop yourself, you will have a bigger job, but you potentially could make much more money. If someone else holds it, your audience may be more certain ? or it may not. Also, it may be hard to place your workshop with a larger venue if you don't already have a track record doing such ? unless your idea is so 'killer' that learning venue can resist. There is no 'right' answer here. Test the waters to find the best solution.
3. Choose a great location. Nothing is more depressing than a workshop in a dimly lit church basement painted an institutional green. Instead, look for a sunny, fresh environment that makes you (and them) feel good. When holding your own workshop, look for inns or even B&B's that have a meeting room or living room available. Often such places will provide a room for free if they are catering your event. For shorter workshops, look to grand old libraries that have seminar rooms, or churches or temples that have recently renovated or offer more upscale facilities.
4. Plan the day around food. Believe it or not, this is key. A workshop has to have an air of retreat to it, or it won't have nearly the impact you want. That's why I like to hold longer, full-day workshops that include a nice lunch and afternoon tea and cookies. This gives your participants the sense that they're really getting away from everyday life and nurturing themselves, which facilitates breakthroughs. At the same time, you can offer more benefits, and thus a more valuable workshop package.
5. Structure your day with lots of play. Give these folks some things to do that get them out of their usual routine, right off the bat. In my own How Much Joy Can You Stand? workshops, I have people come to the event with a 'no-name' tag ? something they can comfortably wear that expresses their essence without using their name. It's a fun way to get everyone on level playing ground. This sort of hands-on exercise can be used at least two or three times during the day to make your points more effectively. To create exercises, simply think about what sorts of activities would really move you to have fun, and think outside of the usual box.
6. Combine teaching with feedback. Don't just preach; ask. During your lecture time, take occasional breaks to ask for their ideas, observations, questions, etc. You can also drive home points by creating front-of-the-room lists on a flip chart, or by having brief writing exercises, which they can share from afterwards. I like timed writing exercises, quick top of the mind lists, and written responses to questions.
7. Don't be afraid of group meditations. If you're doing work that is at all spiritually attuned, guided meditations can be fantastic tools. Most people will give them a try, even if they've never done so before. Be sure to speak clearly throughout the meditation, and urge people to sit on cushions or chairs, but not recline. Some may be willing to share what they observed, which is often quite powerful.
8. Let them guide you. Sometimes you need to put aside your plan for a while, and let a powerful group conversation take over. Be sure to design your day with an extra half-hour to hour (if it's a full day) for such tangents to develop. That way, you won't be a slave to the clock, and can allow for spontaneous insights to occur.
9. Start with a group of friends ? and get evaluations. Your very first workshop can always be held with friends, or your R&D group, right in your own living room. Offer it for free, in exchange for detailed feedback on what worked, and what didn't. Then be sure to have the evaluation forms ready to fill out at the end of the workshop ? before anyone leaves. In your evaluation, also include a place for enthusiasts to leave glowing testimonials, for use in your promo materials. (Include a request for a signed okay for use of their name and quote in your form.)
10. Experiment. You're going to get a lot further leading workshops if you can view this aspect of your career as a grand experiment. Some things will work; some things won't. Your job is to find out which is which, so your workshop becomes the very best it can be ? and that's the best way to fill them up!
Copyright 2004 Suzanne Falter-Barns
About The Author
Want to learn more about how to lead your own creativity workshop? Go to http://www.howmuchjoy.com/facilitatorsworkshop.html. Suzanne Falter-Barns is the author of How Much Joy Can You Stand? and Living Your Joy. (Ballantine) You can learn more in her free ezine, The Joy Letter, which brings you a crisp, fresh burst of inspiration for your dream every week or two. Sign up at http://www.howmuchjoy.com/joyletter.html and receive her valuable report, "Thirty-Five Guaranteed Time Savers". It helps you create time to finally live your dreams.