Planning and launching a workshop series can be a fun and rewarding experience. You get to bring a community together and boost eager participants’ knowledge, skills, and creative output. This also looks good to funders, investors, and other stakeholders in your space. However, before setting out to run a series, there are some important things you need to consider to make sure your efforts are rewarded.
After leading workshops across countries, conferences, and organizations — as well as working with children, teens, adults, professionals, and senior citizens throughout a range of teaching/learning contexts — there are a few questions we’ve found that could help you launch your own educational offerings.
Questions to Ask
When launching new workshops, there are many questions to ask, and many that will be asked of you, as you design your educational program.
Instructors will ask:
- When do classes start?
- How long am I expected to teach?
- What is expected of me?
- How will I get paid?
- What must I submit?
- How do you make a decision to hire/work with me?
- Will you provide the technology for students?
- Will you provide technology for me?
Students might ask:
- How do I pay?
- Can I get in for free or at a reduced rate?
- How do I know the instructor is qualified?
- Will equipment be provided for me?
- Is there food?
- I was dissatisfied. How do I get my money back?
- I was satisfied! Who do I tell/how do I share?
Funders/sponsors will certainly ask:
- How do you vet your instructors?
- What does the money go towards?
What other questions might you ask of yourself? Knowing what people will want in advance will help you avoid problems, find solutions, and project professionalism. Plus, it’s always better to avert a disaster than to have to clean one up.
Figuring Out Costs and Pricing for Running Your Workshops
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. Providing a workshop in your coworking space means a base cost of rent, staff time, instructor fees, materials, and electricity.
While it may help to get as detailed as you can on costs later, it doesn’t hurt to get to a rough number to start with through your overhead costs. This will not only help you structure and plan the creation and execution of your workshops but will also encourage the long-term sustainability of your educational venture.
By knowing how much it costs to actually run your workshops, you’ll be able to do three things:
- Charge an appropriate amount to cover the costs of the space, the instructor, and the materials (if needed).
- Find external funding streams, either from other parts of your space, your local civic organization, or a larger funding body.
- Accept the negative revenue and defray your costs as a necessary loss, if this event is intended to grow your profile or pool of members.
And this is before you even start recruiting and marketing…
Managing Instructors, Operations and Marketing
When your idea has moved into development and started to gather steam, then you need to start laying down deadlines. In order to effectively schedule your marketing for maximum reach and ensure smooth operations during the life cycle of your workshops, set realistic deadlines and dates for the items below:
Before the workshop:
- Find an instructor
- Agree on the content
- Check their resume and credentials
- Agree on a time
- Agree on the price
- Schedule the space
- Market it correctly. Who is interested and how can you reach them?
- Use your resources (time or money) to advertise
- Coordinate with your communications team and staff about how they should pitch this opportunity
Day of the workshop:
- Set up for the workshop space
- Document the workshop
- Close the workshop
- Clean and lock up the space
After the workshop:
- Gather and synthesize feedback from participants
- Decide what to do with your new data!
The last bit–deciding what to do with your data–is one of the most fun parts of the process. What did people like? What didn’t they like? How did they hear about you? This debrief will give you the most useful feedback you will ever receive for planning your next workshop.
Make Your Workshops Accessible and Inclusive
In order to allow people from a diverse range of backgrounds to attend and get the most out of your workshops, it is important to ensure that the events are accessible and welcoming. Here are a few tips:
Let attendees know the language the workshop will be held in. Will there be food and drinks? What level of knowledge is needed? Provide detailed information about how accessible the building and the rooms are. Is there an elevator? Will attendees need to pass through a door-lock access system? Is the space easy to access? Do you have an accessibility statement? Here’s an example of an accessibility statement that makes it clear what attendees can expect. This process has many benefits, it can help you become more aware of your spaces limitations and how to fix them, encourage participants to feel more comfortable, and welcome members to attend events they might have otherwise avoided.
Code of Conduct
To ensure a safe event, you should be prepared to deal with conflicts. You might think nothing objectionable would ever happen in your space, but a good policy can help attendees feel safe and encourage the best from your audience. Run your event under a Code of Conduct and make sure your staff is ready and trained to enforce it. Here’s an example from our own space.
Can your space afford to give out a few free seats in a workshop? Do it! This is a great way to include people from your community who otherwise couldn’t afford it. You can even encourage one of your members or partners to sponsor a scholarship. You’ll make the event audience more diverse while giving back to your community.
Other Things to Keep In Mind
Get a Solid Hiring Policy for Instructors
How will you pick your instructors? How will you pay them? How much will they earn?
Have these questions answered ahead of time–or at least know what to tell instructors when making a decision to work with them. The same goes for ‘firing’ instructors: how will you make a decision to not work with an instructor? Who will make this decision? Codifying your policies ahead of time can make the difference between a painless resolution and a messy, drawn out relationship.
Get a Solid Backup Plan for ‘No Shows’
It can happen. You’ve invested crucial staff hours in recruiting, vetting, scheduling your instructor–and they cancel at the very last minute. After you’ve sent out your press release and invited all your friends. Your options are all bad: scramble to find another instructor to teach, or print up a ‘Sorry, class canceled’ sign; both burn out staff and look unprofessional. Get a policy that accommodates unforeseen circumstances in place to protect your staff and your public image.
We realize that some of the above steps may not be universally applicable. Maybe you’ve already (wisely) partnered with a local college, university, or school and incorporated their resources. Some spaces have even arranged work trades for their programming and education.
These are all important things to consider with your team.
Learning and teaching is the most precious of gifts–make sure that the ‘business’ around it is strong through smart planning. That way, you’ll be able to run new and exciting workshops for years to come.
What works for your space?
Ready to run some workshops in your own coworking space? Cobot can help. We’ve got some great features specifically for events and workshops including our Events add-on, External Bookings, and Google Calendar Sync integration.
If you haven’t already signed up, give us a go with a free trial or a live demo. You’ll find that our features can help you run your coworking space more effectively and grow your community. And if you have questions, our support team is all ears!