The current trend for workshops is a wonderful way for us to learn from the skills & experience of others, often in a less formal setting than a traditional training course. There is a plethora of subjects to enjoy, from the creative and artistic to the technological and theoretical, and just as many types of workshop – luxurious residential events, coffee shop get togethers and everything in between.
I’ve hosted many workshops now in addition to having attended lots myself and have a few thoughts on how to get the most of your investment in time & money.
Finding The Right Workshop
You may simply stumble across an event which instantly appeals to you whether you were looking for something or not. It’s likely that you have been drawn in by words and images that resonate with who you are, your interests and goals. Alternatively you may have comprehensively searched online to find the right workshop, trawled through Eventbrite, hashtag researched Instagram/Twitter, lost hours on Facebook or simply googled!
However you have found the workshop, I highly recommend spending just a little time on research before you commit:-
- Checkout the facilitator’s website and social media, you’ll be able to tell a lot from the way in which they communicate online as to whether their approach will suit you. Are they formal or relaxed, do they respond to comments in a way that appeals to you, would you feel comfortable posing a question?
- What is the content of the workshop? Is there a comprehensive description of the skills or knowledge you can expect to cover during the day?
- Is it a carefully planned and structured format, or will it be more organic – and which do you feel more comfortable with?
- How many participants will be involved? Do you prefer the intimacy of a small group or the anonymity of a larger crowd?
Identifying exactly what you hope to get out of the workshop is hugely helpful for both you and the facilitator. If there is something specific you hope will be covered do get in touch and let them know so they can keep in mind to cover it if possible, or direct you to alternative resources if this is not their area of expertise. Nobody wants to let a workshop attendee down by leaving them feeling unsatisfied.
If you find the thought of meeting new people nerve wracking it’s a good idea to have thought ahead of time what you might say about yourself and why you’re attending the workshop. It can also help clarify what it is that you are really hoping to get out of it. If I may offer a candid piece of advice, it is to avoid using the words ‘just’ and ‘only’ throughout the day. You are not ‘only’ an anything; you are many things. You haven’t ‘just’ started; you have begun – and that’s the point.
If the workshop is practical or technical it’s worth checking whether you will need any specific skills or tools in order to get the most out of it. For example, I once attended a beginners Lightroom workshop in which approximately 1/3 participants hadn’t yet downloaded the trial version we had been given access to via email. This wasted precious learning time for those of us who had to wait for them to do so.
Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need to look after yourself in terms of diet, access or learning support.
If you will be more comfortable in a soft chair, need to be near the speaker to hear or require really good light to see well then don’t hesitate to say so. Venues aren’t always able to work magic, but given the opportunity I think most places will do their very best to try and help.
If you will be attending a workshop given in a language other than your mother tongue, if you have processing or memory issues or suffer from anxiety or anything else that you feel could make the day more difficult for you, just let people know. Allowing others a little time to think about these circumstances gives everyone the opportunity to prepare and offer the best they can to support you.
Likewise, if you have dietary preferences, allergies or intolerances do give the host/venue the opportunity to try and accommodate them by letting them know in good time beforehand.
On The Day
Without wishing to be too simplistic… Before the morning of the event do check the start time, the address and whether you have been asked to prepare anything or bring anything along on the day. I highly recommend that you put the facilitator/venue’s telephone number into your phone so that should you be running late or get lost that it is easy to call.
Pen, paper, phone, camera, charger. But, pop your phone onto silent when you arrive both to allow yourself to be fully present for the day and to afford others the luxury of not being subject to irritating pings.
Harness your courage, your curiosity and remember there are no stupid questions. Above all, enjoy spending a day with others who clearly share your interests to some degree, absorb the energy and allow yourself to be lifted and enthused.