Want to host a successful workshop? Here are 7 things you need to do (that you never even thought of)

If you’re a business owner thinking about hosting your own workshop, I don’t need to give you any content tips. You’re an expert – you know exactly what you’re doing when it comes to putting your presentation together.

But a workshop is so much more than a presentation. You want to make people feel welcome; you want to help them stay focused; and (as a business owner) you want the workshop to benefit your business without you having to be salesy and off-putting.

I’ve hosted more copywriting workshops than I can count, most of them in partnership with Lloyds Business Bank – one of the biggest retail and commercial banks in the UK. They went so well that I’ve since turned those workshops into an online copywriting course.

I know a thing or two about how to host a workshop that people won’t forget. If you’re ready to dip your toes into this world, here are the 7 things you need to do (that you probably never even thought of).


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1. Send an email the day before your event

We’ve all been there.

You book yourself on to a workshop that you really like the sound of – but when the big day arrives, it’s raining, you’re snowed under at work, and you just think: “Ahh, I can’t be bothered.”

If I’m honest, I’ve skipped more workshops than I can count. So as someone who regularly delivers their own workshops, I’ve accepted that people not turning up is just part and parcel of hosting events – especially when your event is free.

But there are certain things you can do to lessen the number of dropouts.

A great way to give people the nudge they need to actually turn up to your workshop is to send them an email the day before the event. In this email, you should:

  • Introduce yourself
  • Tell them you’re looking forward to meeting them
  • Remind them of the value they’re going to get from the workshop
  • Invite them to connect with you on social media and say hi before the workshop
  • Give them any other details they need

You want to keep it light and friendly, but don’t be afraid to ask them whether they’re still coming. I sometimes like to add a line that says:

“P.S. If you can’t make the workshop after all, don’t worry (life happens!) – but I’d be really grateful if you could cancel your ticket so I can give that space to someone on the waiting list. Thanks!”

You’d be surprised how many people reply and (kindly) let you know they won’t be attending. You can then prepare yourself for lower numbers and try to fill those last few seats.

Here’s the email I send to people who have signed up to my workshop the day before the event:

Top Tip: You should know that whenever I host a free workshop, I only expect a 50% turnout rate. If I get anything above that, I’m happy. In comparison, my paid workshops have always had a 100% turnout rate.

Another Top Tip: If you’re not capturing the emails of people who sign up to your events, you need to be.

 

2. Remember people’s names

How heart-warming is it when someone you barely know remembers your name?

At every workshop I host, I make a conscious effort to remember people’s names. Sometimes, that means memorising up to 35 names in a short space of time.

Doing this makes attendees feel seen and it says a lot about your personality.

Research suggests that people only buy from people they know, like and trust. Though you’re not necessarily selling anything at your workshop, every audience member is a potential future customer or client. Remembering their names and showing an interest in them is an easy way to get them to like you.  

Top Tip: If you struggle to remember names (I know I do!), ask everybody to introduce themselves at the beginning of the workshop and jot their names down as they do. The key thing here is to write the names in the same order as the seating arrangement. That way, you can look down at your piece of paper for guidance whenever you need to.

 

3. Give them a break

This might sound obvious, but it’s one of those things that are so obvious we often forget  to do it.

If your workshop is more than an hour long, please for the love of God give your audience a break. Give them time to grab a drink, stretch their legs, take a toilet break or just say hi to their neighbour.

Research tells us that taking regular breaks is good for productivity and concentration. So if you want your audience to stay focused and get the most out of your workshop, give them a 5-15 minute break every hour or so.

Tell your audience at the beginning of the event that you plan to give them a break. That way, they’re less likely to get distracted and play on their phones while you’re presenting, because they know a break is coming. 

 

4. Offer refreshments

Food is the key to everyone’s heart. It doesn’t need to be anything fancy, but your audience will appreciate you providing water, tea, coffee and biscuits (at the very least).

If nothing else, grabbing a tea and a custard cream gives people something to do when they’re feeling uncomfortable, nervous or even vulnerable – especially when they’ve come to your workshop alone.

I don’t have much of a budget for my workshops, so what I like to do is buy a variety of chocolate bars and place them in front of each seat.

When someone walks through the door, they choose a seat based on the chocolate they want – and they have lots of fun choosing! 

 

5. Tell them to get on social media

If you want the audience to post about your workshop on social media, ask them to.

Tell them to take photos, give them a hashtag, and tell them to tag you so you can reply.

This social proof does wonders for your authority. If you’re going to the effort of hosting workshops, don’t be afraid to show the world how good your workshops are. Let everyone see that you’re an expert who’s liked and respected by your audience.  

Top Tip: Don’t forget to take your own photos too (or hire a photographer to do it for you) so you have some fancy speaker photos for your website and social media.

 

 

6. Delight your audience

Don’t let your audience leave empty-handed (figuratively I mean). Over deliver and delight them giving them the chance to access extra resources that they’ll find relevant and useful.

When I’m wrapping up my workshops, I invite my audience to download a copy of my free ebook – which is filled with even more tips and tricks that they’ll find helpful.

All they have to do is slip their business card into a pretty glass jar on their way out. (This jar idea I got from Louise over at Riot and Rebel).

Attendees leave the workshop knowing they got more knowledge and value than they’d hoped for, and I leave with warm leads to add to my mailing list. It’s a win-win!  

Top Tip: Make it easy for your audience to opt in to your mailing list. The one time I asked attendees to go on my website and sign up themselves, no one did. But every time I ask them to drop a business card in the jar if they want me to sign them up, the majority of people always do. 

 

7. Ask for reviews

 

This tip isn’t really for your audience, it’s for you – so your business can benefit from the workshop long after it’s over.

I ask everyone to leave a review before they leave, because (again) if you don’t ask, you won’t get.

95% of people stay behind to write one (it takes two minutes), which leaves me with dozens of testimonials that I can immediately start posting on social media and add to my website.

Top Tip: Again, make it easy for people to leave a review by putting a pen and a piece of paper on their desk in front of them. That way, they’re more likely to do it.

There’s a reason I don’t send electronic feedback forms after the event. If I did it that way, I probably wouldn’t receive any reviews – and not because people didn’t like the workshop, but because no one has time for that.

Reviews and testimonials are the backbone of any business, so do everything you can to secure at least a few.

If people seem reluctant to write one (which is unlikely) offer a prize to one lucky reviewer. As a copywriter, I might offer a 15-minute coaching call or a small-scale website audit. Whatever it is, this prize should follow on from your workshop, be valuable, and offer quick wins that people can implement immediately and feel good about.

 

Over to you.

Got any tips that’ll help readers host a successful workshop? Let us know!

Sign up to my mailing list and get my free ebook 6 Secrets to Writing Copy that Converts: A simple guide for struggling non-writers.

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Eman

Eman Ismail is a UK-based copywriter and the founder of InkHouse. She works with businesses and non-profits across the world, writing marketing materials and content that increases their exposure and attracts their ideal audience. When she’s not writing or delivering copywriting workshops, you’ll find her glued to a podcast in the corner of a cosy cafe.

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