Events and workshops are the cornerstone of successful community engagement initiatives. If your goal is to be a community hub or offer personal or professional growth as a selling point, then be prepared to offer events in your coworking space. Follow our tips and click through our resources to start off your journey on the right foot and ensure that you’re maximizing the potential of your events and workshops even before you open your doors!
This is a part of our Coworking First Steps series, a collection of resources designed to help new and upcoming flexible workspaces find their footing.
Draft your strategy
The first question you need to answer is: What are you hoping to get out of events?
When you’re planning your events schedule, think about the goal behind both your wider strategy and each event. Do you want to hold targeted coworking events? Do your workshops have instructors that will reflect well on your space? Is your calendar evenly spaced to maximize the work you’re putting in? Are you varying your start times to make sure they reach more of your membership and community?
Most coworking space operators will gear their events towards their existing members, but don’t forget that events are not just a member retention initiative. Depending on your target market, they’re also a key component of a high-impact outreach strategy.
When you’re strategizing, you can turn to our guide on running events designed to new membership sales. Here are a few of the strategies we identified:
- Get your team in the room and create an “event audit” specific to your current membership or location.
- Take advantage of your greatest resource and ask your existing members what role events play in their relationship with your space.
- The things that your community cares about, when communicated and made visible, can help people feel that they would feel at home at your space.
- With minimal editing, you can turn your recorded events into on-demand resources that will add a huge degree of value to both in-person and virtual memberships.
Some shared and flexible offices will decide that their members are more interested an a seamless private office experience than events, or that the mix of personalities leans towards fewer public gatherings and towards internal teambuilding. But to make this decision you need to weigh your options and allocate your resources based on that decision; don’t let it be made for you.
Start hosting events before you open!
Sure, you know that events are for your members, and if you haven’t opened, you don’t have any current members yet—but there’s no reason to wait until you’ve opened to start hosting events in your space. In fact, if you wait until you’ve opened, you’ve missed out on your chance to drum up pre-release hype and craft your community image.
CORE Oldenburg was able to use events to get support not just from potential members, but the local business community (and even national news networks!) looking for an outlet for the creative talent in the city. They highlighted the project as an example of revitalization and were able to partner with local businesses and educational organizations to host events before they had technically opened their doors.
Use tools to help you manage the workload
Your team’s skills will likely be best used to handle planning, strategizing, and hosting events. To help them put their energy where it matters see what operational tasks you can automate with tools.
Managing attendance and tickets is a good place to start. Many event tools can even play a role promoting your space by making events visible to the public and visitors. Cobot’s built-in Events feature helps you create stylish event pages that can be shared with the wider community, so you can show off the value your members benefit from more widely.
As far as practical and time-saving considerations go, your management tools should also help you manage resources, give you a revenue overview, and communicate essential information—like how to find a venue—to your members, to save considerable time on internal and external communication efforts.
What makes the perfect workshop?
Workshops are a staple of coworking spaces, they can represent community building, skill-building, and can be a way to engage your members in the mission of your space, whether that’s community activism, environmental awareness, sustainable living, or professional development. Your choice of workshops will signal to your members what your values are.
The perfect workshop is the one that provides value to your members and your space.
What’s the difference between a workshop and an event? Well, a workshop is a kind of event, but generally, think of workshops as a university elective and events as the clubs. A good workshop will provide a structured learning environment that will expand the knowledge of the participants.
The first step: calculate a realistic cost estimate for your overhead and then set a price. Knowing the raw costs in terms of money and time is probably the single most practical thing you can do when beginning your design process.
We follow a workshop through from the idea to the follow-up and detail the best practices, helpful tips, and the most important questions to ask yourself before you start getting bogged down in details too soon. If you have the capacity, make sure a member of your team is around with no other agenda than to help participants get in the zone and stay that way. This person will also be perfectly placed to capture notes on what’s working, to help plan future workshops.
Scheduled vs. spontaneous
There are going to be all kinds of personalities in your space. Knowing your audience is going to determine how far your events will fall between pre-planned and in-the-moment.
Advantages of scheduled events:
- Ensure events are tailored to maximize effectiveness.
- Charge for admission and budget accordingly.
- Use event promotion in your materials.
Advantages of spontaneous events:
- Don’t worry about putting in extra effort for something that might not meet your attendance goals.
- Reward and celebrate members for showing up in the space every day.
- Usually low-cost and highly memorable.
Every space needs to find its own balance. Your goal should be that members feel like their needs are being exceeded and that they are excited for every month they get to be a part of your space.
Tools for inclusivity
Finally, don’t forget that a key element of creating a diverse, equitable, and accessible space is in creating a public way to hold attendees, organizers, and even yourself accountable.
Do you have a public code of conduct? When you’re putting in all the effort to make a quality, well-attended event or workshop, you’re also creating an environment where people from all walks of life are going to be interacting in a way that you can’t always predict or control. If you want to make sure that everyone feels welcome, you need to make sure that everyone’s voice can be heard and that you aren’t implicitly providing cover for behavior that you would never approve of.
We’ve supported and helped organize the Coworking Code of Conduct, a free to use (and free to modify) Code of Conduct designed for coworking events and conferences. It’s meant as a starting point for a longer discussion on how to make coworking spaces for inclusive, and hopefully it provides your team with more tools for growth and accountability.
There are other ways to improve your inclusivity, such as hiring a D&I (Diversity and Inclusion) expert, outreach efforts, and community and scholarship support. Start by drafting a plan and see where your efforts will make the most impact. You can also make use of the DICE service, which stands for Diversity & Inclusion at Conferences and Events and helps organizers identify and meet goals for events that open their doors more widely to all.
Now go make it happen!
We promise that if you’ve put in the effort and gotten support from the community, you won’t be disappointed in the results. But remember that like so many goals, it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Keep trying and tweaking your larger strategy and your concrete actions and eventually you will get to the point where your events and workshops are generating revenue, driving lead generation, and closing sales. When you get to that point, we may just be inviting you to write a post on your success for our blog as a guest expert!