10 steps to hosting a successful online workshop
30th April 2020
Hosting an online workshop/webinar doesn’t have to be scary. Now more than ever, many businesses (including us) are adapting their offering to cater to an online audience.
If part of your business does (or can do) some form of training, then this guide is for you.
Online workshops are a great way to reach more people as you’re not constrained to one geographical location. They’re also more flexible in terms of catering to those with childcare or other commitments, especially if you can offer a recording of the workshop afterwards.
Over the last month, we’ve hosted 30+ online workshops and social events, which are all completely free to ICE members.
Below, we share an overview of the steps we’ve taken to make them work for us.
Note: This guide is focused on the facilitation side of hosting a workshop, rather than creating the content but should hopefully still have some helpful tips for things to consider for everyone!
1. Find out what people want
Seems pretty obvious, right? But it’s absolutely crucial to consider this when choosing a topic for your online workshop. (For us, this means reaching out to our community).
We’re lucky to have a super active Facebook Group of around 500+ members who will happily and regularly engage with posts. We usually post a poll with a few suggestions (gathered from previous feedback -more on that later) plus anything we personally think might go down well. We’ll keep the poll open so that members can add and vote on their own suggestions too.
We also regularly encourage our community to suggest workshops they’d like to see (or present) via email or phone, so being approachable, available and easily contactable is important.
Emailing out an annual survey to gather feedback on workshops people enjoyed or would like to see in future is also very valuable (so make sure you’re building a strong mailing list!)
2. Find the right trainer
Finding the right trainer to deliver your workshop should be your next step. We’re fortunate at Welsh ICE to have a bunch of experts in the community and rarely need to search beyond that. However, we’ve had some great success with referrals from our community and LinkedIn, so building a strong network is important.
Get in touch with the trainer plenty of time before you want to host the event (we recommend at least 4 weeks if possible).
Outline the topic you’d like them to cover, perhaps with a few bullet points on particular points of interest and ask them for at least:
- A title (if you haven’t given them one)
- A brief description of what they’ll be covering (100-200 words depending on the topic)
- A headshot
- A logo
- Their social links
Agree the date, time and payment and make sure to confirm via email if you’re conversing by other means, so that there’s a record. You don’t want any confusion further down the line.
3. Choose the right platform
You’ll want to do this before taking any bookings so that you have the link ready to go out to attendees immediately as they book on.
We’ve been using GoToMeeting which is a reasonable price and works well for what we need but there are loads of great options available (other popular choices are Zoom and Microsoft Teams). A quick google will bring up a bunch of results, most of which will offer a free trial, so do a few tests and see what works best for you. Try and find something that works well across laptops, phones and tablets.
4. Set up a booking management process
We use Eventbrite which is perfect for what we need. People are familiar with it, it has a good user experience and integrates well with other platforms such as Facebook. It’s also important to us that we can include a field for a discount code as our community has access to all of our events for free. Eventbrite will also send out reminder emails to everyone who’s booked on, so that’s one less thing for you to have to worry about.
Again, if Eventbrite isn’t for you, there are other platforms out there, or you could always set up a trusty excel spreadsheet. It’s all about finding out what works best for you and your event.
5. Promote your online workshop
Much like when you sell any product or service, where you promote your online workshop will be determined largely by who your target audience is.
Our workshops are specifically for the ICE community, so our promotion is done largely via weekly newsletters, Whatsapp and through our private Facebook group. We publish events to our Facebook page through Eventbrite so that they’re easy to find too.
If you don’t have an audience or mailing list built up yet, then (again depending on who you’re targeting) you’ll want to utilise your social media channels.
Remember to also reach out to any partners/relevant people and ask them to share your event. Consider writing out some suggested posts/tweets and supplying them with photos and graphics.
6. Send out email reminders
Don’t let your delegates forget about you!
You’ll want to send out a few reminders before your event, including the link to your online workshop and any resources or information they need to know beforehand. (For example, we request attendees join with their mics & cameras turned off to avoid overwhelming anyone’s connection).
Fortunately, this can be automated on platforms like Eventbrite and Mailchimp but the important thing is to get them out there, so do whatever works best for you.
7. Make sure your trainer is familiar with the software you’re using
It’s hard to avoid technical issues completely for every event (you never know one someone’s internet is going to drop off) but there are steps you can take to make sure everything runs as smoothly as possible.
Book in some time with your trainer before the workshop to run through how the platform works and test screen sharing/ chat functions and so on. Go over the agenda for the session including timings, breaks and any resources that need to be sent out to delegates before the event.
8. Be on hand during the online workshop
Make sure you’re there to welcome attendees and introduce the trainer. Go over any ground rules (such as keeping mics and cameras off) and familiarise attendees with the platform such as pointing out chat boxes and other features. If you’re recording the session, don’t forget to hit record before the trainer starts.
During the workshop, the trainer will be busy presenting so keep an eye on any questions coming in that they might miss and help with any technical issues that arise. Try and make sure that you also remain available via email/phone in case anyone has any trouble getting onto the platform and needs help.
9. Follow up
Super, super important. After the workshop, send a follow-up email to your attendees to thank them again for booking on (always BCC everyone!) This should include:
- Any slides/resources from the trainer
- Links to upcoming events
- A link to the recording (if applicable)
- A feedback form (we use Google Forms)
Your feedback form should ideally be kept as short as possible and ask for at least:
- General feedback on the workshop (this could also include a score out of 10)
- The convenience of the length & time
- What workshops they would like to see next
Don’t forget to thank your trainer too!
10. Take that feedback on board
Whether it’s positive or not, taking on feedback will give you a solid head start on your next event. Consider changing the times and lengths if needed and pass on feedback to the trainer.
You should also have a good amount of suggestions for your next few workshops so head back to step 1 and start all over again!
And there you have it! We hope you’ve found this guide useful. Good luck with your upcoming event!
If you’re interested, you can check out our upcoming online workshops here (these are free for ICE members or £10) Drop an email to firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions.