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Workshop Design: Five Common Mistakes

March 15, 2016

Sandra Currie-Samson|Sassy Solutions


Offering a workshop is a great opportunity for us, as entrepreneurs and business leaders, to sell our expertise and to share our knowledge with customer and clients.

Yet, just because we are experts in our subject matter, it does not automatically give us the ability to teach it. I am sure you have been in that class or presentation at some point in your life; the one where the person teaching is brilliant and has so much to share with their audience, but really has difficulty getting their message across. 

Raise your hand if you have ever had a “teacher” who talked too long, said too much, never involved you in the discussion, never made the information relevant, or just bored you to tears: Did you learn?

Most likely, the answer is no, or at least, not well. Unfortunately, this situation is all too common.

Albert Einstein once said: “Learning is an experience. Everything else is just information.”

As a facilitator, trainer and adult educator, I believe strongly in creating the experience for those who have invested their time, energy and perhaps money, to learn from us.  When we create the experience, we are better able to engage our audience and have them walk away from our workshop saying “wow – that is just what I needed to learn.”

Here are five ways to create a better learning experience:

1. Know your audience. Knowledge of your audience is the key to making the link to what you are teaching and why the audience is there. Knowing things like preferences, needs, and demographics will help you as the facilitator make a stronger connection with your workshop participants and engage them. Think about it: would you deliver the exact same workshop on retirement planning to a group of college students as you would to a group of 40-somethings?  Their needs, goals and learning preferences are vastly different. Knowing who is in the audience will help you plan your content and how you will deliver it.

2. Don’t give too much information. Experts on a subject are just that: experts! We are passionate about our topic and want to share it with others. The problem is we often share too much, leaving our audience mind-boggled at the amount of information dumped on them within an often too short timeframe and much of it is irrelevant.  Again, we forget our audience’s needs. Teach them what they need and want to know and no more.

3. Don’t talk too much. One mistake workshop facilitators often make is talking too much and not giving their audience time to talk and think! Adult learners bring experience and viewpoints to a workshop. Properly using discussion and reflection time engages the audience and makes the material relevant to them. When we talk too much, it becomes more about us and not about the needs of our audience.

4. Plan. Plan and Plan. A workshop takes planning. There needs to be learning objectives in place so the facilitator can plan the workshop around achieving those objectives. Without them, it is like trying to hit a bull’s eye blindfolded. When you know your purpose and objectives, you can plan the flow of activities that will best help your audience to achieve them. When you plan, you know what you can cover in an amount of time and have alternatives in place in case things go sideways. When you plan and execute your plan, the workshop runs smoothly and you as a facilitator demonstrate a more confident demeanor.

5. Change things up. People’s attention spans are short. If we present material to them for long periods of time without changing up the method, people become bored and they tune out. To keep the audience’s interest do something different every 10-15 minutes. Ask a question. Introduce an activity. Change the pace. When you do something unexpected, people perk up and realize they should be paying attention. Also, when you change things up, it allows for the brain to store the information into long term memory which aids in the learning process.
Facilitating workshops is a fun and effective way to get your message across to your audience. Remember, you want to create the experience for your learners so the workshops you design and deliver are relevant, dynamic and fun. Your audience will thank you for it.

To get you started, I am offering a free Workshop Builder Power Hour. During this 60 min call we will explore how you can start using workshops as a source of revenue for your business.  Email to reserve your time. Book soon, as there are only a few spots available for March and April.

For those of you who want to learn more about workshop design and delivery in order to begin to use this powerful tool to sell your expertise and add another revenue stream to your business, you are invited to join us for Build-Your-Workshop. Click HERE for registration information.

Deadline to register is May 25th. Space is limited. 



About Sandra:

Sandra Currie-Samson is owner of Sassy Solutions Consulting. She helps subject matter experts become masterful teachers so they can brilliantly engage their audience by understanding what motivates the adult learner and how to effectively achieve their desired outcomes. As a result, subject matter experts become more valuable resources, make more money for their company, get more referrals from satisfied participants and most importantly, make a lasting impact on the people they work with.

As a learning and development consultant with a M.Ed. in Studies of Lifelong Learning she has designed and facilitated training sessions for hundreds of participants. As well, she has led training on million dollar technology implementations working with many large professional firms.

Sandra is also an instructor in the Certificate of Adult Education at Dalhousie College of Continuing Education and is an active Nova Scotia Chapter Board Member for the Institute for Performance and Learning. Sandra is a student of lifelong learning and her passion for learning is infectious allowing her to be an energetic and enthusiastic educator, trainer and facilitator – and loves to help others be the same.

Connect with Sandra:

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