Do you find Marketing your Workshops a Pleasure or a Pain?

The open workshops that I run are designed to help participants learn how to put a great workshop together. Feedback has been brilliant and people have come away with all sorts of wonderful ideas to put into their own amazing workshops. But there is one thing that I get asked all the time – how to market your workshop. For many people this is not a pleasure but a serious pain that sometimes prevents them from setting up their workshops in the first place.

marketing your workshop

Let’s face it, unless you are doing an in house workshop, getting bums on seats is hard. It’s all very well creating a dazzling workshop but if no one comes along to join in and and benefit from your expertise and knowledge then you might be left wondering why you bothered. It takes a long time to lovingly craft a workshop, so you really need to make sure people are going to turn up.

I’m not a marketing expert by any stretch of the imagination, but here’s what I have learnt so far:

  1. Find out what people want, it’s sounds simple, but make sure you listen. My workshops are all about how to structure and design an engaging workshop. I have spent a lot of time listening to what is needed, and tailored my workshops accordingly. This continues with every workshop as I collect the feedback at the end of each one.
  2. Be clear when you are advertising your workshop exactly what your are offering. And – make sure you have worked through your workshop plan before you advertise it so you know you can actually deliver what you say you are delivering! Although you are able to offer great expertise, will this all fit into the time you have given to your workshop?
  3. People (by which I mean your target audience) need to know why they might want to come on your workshop and what’s in it for them. Just because you think your workshop is just what everyone needs, it doesn’t mean the rest of the world does. What about writing blogs and articles and perhaps doing some videos (if you are brave enough) about your subject and linking this to your workshop? This not only gets people thinking, and understanding how your workshop can benefit them, but also shows that you know what you are talking about.
  4. The whole world doesn’t actually need to know about your workshops. Only a curious selection will be interested. So work out who they are and where they hang out and go and start a conversation. Remember though that a conversation is a two sided affair so rather than bombarding everyone with information, be interested, and when they show an interest in your workshop then talk about it some more.
  5. Ask for recommendations and referrals from past participants. If your workshop really hits the mark, most people are happy to give you a testimonial. But you could also ask them if they could recommend you, and if they could point any future enquiries in your direction.
  6. Give your workshops the edge. If there are other people doing similar workshops to yours, but you are the one who has a more creative workshop, that is far more likely to interest people. Think about how you can inject come some quirky and fun activities and include some especially engaging content that will make your workshops just a little bit different.creative workshops
  7. Think about how frequently you are going to put on your workshops and how much time in between them you will need to market them. In part this depends on what your market is like – for me, there are only so many people that may want to learn about workshops, so putting them every month wouldn’t make sense.
  8. Watch out for events that are bigger than yours on your chosen date. If you know a lot of your target audience is going to be going to a business show the same day as you propose doing your workshop, you may want to rethink when you do it. Check this in advance as changing the date will only induce a headache!
  9. In general workshops are best done on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday. This is because Mondays are often a catching up day and on Fridays people are often thinking about the weekend. Think carefully about the time of year and things like school holidays. However, this does depend on your target audience. My next Workshop Essentials is on a Friday because I was asked to do one on a Friday by two of the people who have signed up!
  10. Sometimes venues will help you advertise your workshop – ask them about it when you book in, and tag them in Social Media posts. They will benefit as well as you from the publicity.

There are so many things I have learnt since I started putting on open workshops two years ago. Marketing them is hard and does take up a lot of time and effort, particularly if you are not a marketer yourself. It may turn out to be fun, but even if it is it can be very time consuming.

So, for the new year, in response to the question of how to effectively market your workshops, I have teamed up with an expert! On March 6th 2018 Kimba Cooper from Kimba Digital Marketing and I will be launching our very first  Marketing Your Workshop – Made Easy! 

Image may contain: one or more people and text

This workshop is aimed at helping you market your workshops to the right people by learning who your customers are and where you might find them so that you can create some robust and pain free plans. If you would like more information on this then please comment below or e-mail helene(Replace this parenthesis with the @ sign)jewellfacilitation.com or hello(Replace this parenthesis with the @ sign)kimbadigital.com

 

 

 

Fidget Spinners – annoying fad or a great workshop fiddle toy?

If you are a parent or someone who spends much time with school aged children, the fidget spinner can’t possibly have escaped your attention. If you are a teacher, I can almost hear you cursing under your breath!

If you have no idea what I am talking about, I got my 9 year old to do a demo:

 

I believe they were first created as a sort of stress reliever and are potentially useful for children with ADHD or Autism. Whatever their origins, they are now the latest playground craze set to drive any teacher up the wall and something that every child seems to rather love.

When I was at school we used to flick bic biros round our thumbs, but that was back in the dark ages……

I can imagine 28 children in a classroom all playing with these and not doing their maths, showing each other their latest moves (my daughter can make it spin on her head) and very much not paying attention. I am not about to enter into the ban them/not ban them in school debate.

I’m more interested in workshops! Could they actually be a good thing for a workshop full of eager adults?

I often provide my participants with fiddle toys, so now I’m wondering if these may just hit the mark.

A fiddle toy (or perhaps fidget toy) is something for a workshop participant to play with. It is something to fiddle with while they are learning. This could be something simple like lego or plasticine, or something more custom make for the job like stress balls, or bendy plastic figures. So, why are they helpful?

  • They are useful to keep people focused on the content of the workshop while giving their hands something to do, rather like doodling whilst talking on the phone to someone. Increasingly we are not great at paying attention these days and having some kind of small physical activity can be useful.
  • We all learn in different ways, with some people being predominantly kinaesthetic learners. These people need to touch and feel and play with things to learn, it helps information go in. Other people are happy to just listen, some people prefer things written or drawn and in reality we are all a bit of a combination.
  • There is some suggestion that regardless of how fidgeting helps to keep people’s attention on the task, it also helps with memory and retention of information.
  • Some people are just natural fidgets, and this is a good way to channel their fidgetry if you need them to sit down for a bit! We all know people who just seem to have excess nervous energy, well for those people having something to fiddle with can be an outlet. I actually think there is probably a fidget in us all…….
  • Some participants may be a bit nervous or anxious, and having something as a moderate distraction can be useful to put them at ease. It deflects a bit from a room full of expectancy that sometimes comes with a workshop!
  • I always think that fiddle toys are brilliantly adaptable for an ice breaker or energiser. What better way to get people talking than put some funny looking objects or toys on the table? I can already think of at least 3 different activities I could use them for…..

I’d love to know what you think.

Do you use fiddle toys in your workshops, and will you be trying fidget spinners? Or are they just another annoying fad?

To find out more about my nest workshops click here.

 

How do you create a communication environment that’s right for you?

I’ve just been trying to organise a night out with a group of friends – can’t be that hard can it? Well, Christmas aside, yes it is. And it’s not because we’re all busy (although we are, of course, isn’t everybody?) but because we’re all on different channels. By which I mean, everyone’s on Whatsapp except one person who can’t get into it because she’s forgotten her password. Not an unsolvable issue, but certainly one that might make you not really want to bother. Everyone’s on Facebook messenger except one person who doesn’t like Facebook. Everyone’s able to text but we can’t do a group text/reply and we all have different phone systems. See where I am going with this?

I do rather love a bit of technology, and I wholeheartedly embrace a whole host of Social Media. I am not one of the naysayers, despite my overwhelming love of face to face communication. But amongst the myriad of different issues the world may have with hi tech communication, it is the number of options available that often leave me frustrated. Too much choice can definitely scupper our chances of doing what many of these things are set up to do  –  allow us to communicate effectively.

When you are in a social group, the stakes are low. Someone may get a bit peeved that they didn’t get an invitation to something, and someone else will probably make sure they get the message a different way. But imagine this in a workplace setting. The stakes are far higher; frustration amongst employees, huge amounts of time wasted chasing things, and worse the haemorrhaging of important information. The possibilities for how to communicate are almost endless; Whatsapp, e-mail, texts, Facebook messenger, Slack, Skype, Snapchat, Yammer, the good old fashioned phone, and a whole lots of other things that I don’t even know about. There is rarely just one system, but there are always a lot of different preferences. We all like different things, and we all like to do things in slightly different ways.

So what’s the answer?

Well, one of the things that can be done in a proactive way, to prevent this discombobulated communication is to have a conversation. Get your employees together and create an opportunity for discussion. Whether this is a meeting, or workshop, or discussion forum, face to face communication is definitely the way forward if you want to alleviate misunderstanding and ambiguity.

  • Ask people what they think works
  • Ask them what they think doesn’t work
  • Tell them what the business needs
  • Find out what they need
  • Look for some common ideas
  • Consider some action steps and agreement use

By getting people to work together, face to face, person to person to share their views you will be providing everyone equal opportunity to get involved. That’s not to say you can’t use technology to hold a workshop or meeting of some kind, and how you do it is important. How you have that discussion matters if you want to get the most out of it. But the getting together of people and engaging staff in this way shows that you care what they think. It demonstrates that you want to find the best way of doing things for everyone. And this matters because they are the ones who will be using it.

The only sure way to make sure that you find out exactly what everyone thinks, is to ask. If you do this right you will have:

  • Had an opportunity to share with everyone the systems that are currently in place
  • Found out which ones are used most and which ones are disregarded
  • Deduced which ones work best and in what situation
  • Given everyone the opportunity to say what they think and to ask questions
  • Involved you staff in creating their own solutions, and to have a say in what happens next. This buy in is probably the most crucial aspect. You need people on board, to use the system in the first place for it to work.

If this type of communication conundrum sounds familiar then why not give me a call. I have been working with Gerald Crittle from GAcceleration, an expert in business communication technology to create some workshop packages. The focus of these workshops is internal communication, and more effective meetings, and both workshops have an employee engagement phase, followed by a technical training. The workshops are carefully designed to make sure everyone that needs to be is involved, engaged and on board so that you can create a communication environment that is right for everyone.

 

Workshop Essentials – One year on and going strong

As we seem to be hurtling fast towards the end of the year, I find that I am already starting to reflect on what I’ve been up to these past 12 months. A lot has happened, but one very important thing sticks out – the fact that Workshop Essentials is one year old!

first birthday

November 2015 was when I held my first workshop, attended by a group of 8 people at the Easton Business Centre. While I have designed and delivered many different workshops in my time, this was the first time I had created an open workshop; one that people had to sign up to come to. The majority of my workshops are in house and the participants (usually staff members) are all organised for me by the client. I had no idea if anyone would come, whether I had the skills to market my workshops or whether enough people wanted to learn how to do a workshop in the first place. But like many of these things, you just have to give it a go and see what happens…….

The workshop itself was born out of conversations with a number of different people, mostly small business owners about the best ways to do workshops. Commonly there would be questions about ice breakers and activities, as well as confidence in putting a workshop together, and how to keep people interested. So, my informal research told me that yes, there were people out there wanting to learn about workshops. While I would happily talk workshop all day, it’s much easier to show you. If you want to learn a new ice breaker you might as well see it in action. If you want to know how to get a great discussion going it’s more memorable if you have been part of one. And if it’s about confidence then a good place to start is arming yourself with the right knowledge in the first place.

So, the idea to hold a workshop, on how to do workshops moved from being a niggling idea at the back of my brain, into a reality.

I have now run 4 of these workshops, so let’s see how they are going:

Who came?

While I aimed this at small business owners (as this is where my conversations started), I found that they actually only made up about 70% of the participants. The businesses they came from were: styling, nutrition, coaching, social media, PR, marketing, interior design, health and wellbeing, business process improvement, law, web design and IT.

But I also had several people from charities, representing: refugees, dementia research, back to work and unemployment, and families in need.

As well as some public sector workers.

So – my evaluation tells me that there are in fact a broad cross section of people wanting to know about workshops. Although the most heavily represented sector so far has most definitely been social media and marketing and digital/IT work.

I have kept the numbers to 10 people as I think this strikes a good balance between getting a good participatory buzz, and allowing time for me to give everyone 1:1 attention on their workshop plans.

What did people think?

I have been fortunate to have consistently great feedback from my workshops, which is definitely something I feel proud of! Let’s face it, if the feedback has been rubbish I would’ve stopped long ago. If you’d like to view some testimonials, there are some here and here and a little sample below:

“Helene delivered a fabulous workshop on how to hold a workshop. I learned so much as a beginner. Helene is easy to talk to and very knowledgeable too” Katy Batt, Realistic Holistic

I would like to let you into a secret though – it’s not 100% positive, there were areas for improvement. The first time I put on the workshop I ran out of time, or rather I rushed the workshop along to fit all the content in. One of the participants felt a bit overwhelmed and I realised that while I wanted to tell everyone all that I know, there just isn’t enough time in half a day.

Lesson learnt: I cut out some of the workshop that I thought was interesting, but not essential (like the title of the workshop suggests!). It all fits together beautifully now but it is a good example of something I tell people all the time – don’t put too much content in, less is more…..I did consider creating a whole day, but instead created a Part II (The Workshop Toolkit) to do in conjunction with Workshop Essentials, or as a stand alone half day in itself.

What did the participants learn?

Of course not everyone who came on my workshop was a complete beginner, some of the participants had put on workshops already, they just wanted to do them better. But here are some examples of what people have said they’ve taken on board and what they have done with it:

Confidence to deal with difficult people: One of the participants told me a short while ago that she had had a “difficult person” to deal with at an event. Having been on the workshop, she coped fine having followed my advice. Dealing with “awkward customers” is something we discuss on the workshop.

Learning to be “reactive”: I think that doing a participatory workshop is taking a bit of a leap into the unknown at first because you don’t know what questions will come from the participants, and you don’t know where discussions will go. Of course it’s easier to be in complete control of the situation and just deliver information to people. But it’s not nearly as effective. Although I hadn’t quite seen it in those terms, one of my participants described this as being “reactive” or being able to react to what might come at you from your participants. If you know your subject, and you create a robust workshop you will be able to react well.

Ending the workshop (and next steps): One important topic we cover is ending your workshop. Ending of course is important to tie everything together in a nice tidy package for your participants to go home with. So they feel things have finished properly. But it’s also important for those “next steps”. You need to ensure that accountability and commitment and the “effect of the workshop” continues well after the workshop has ended. This has been a key learning point for a couple of the people who have attended my workshops.

next steps

Getting on with actually putting on a workshop in the first place: Most of the people who come on the workshop are content specialists. They know very well what they are talking about, they have a wealth of knowledge. But converting that knowledge into a particular format, like a workshop can feel like a huge challenge, especially if you’ve never done it before. I wanted the workshop to enable people to bring their ideas and work through them to see how possible they could be. Several people have said that coming along has enabled them to get their ideas together and get on with it!

Other things that people said were the “best bits” of the workshop were:

A framework/structure to plan a workshop

The handout/workbook

Importance of interactivity and ways to engage people

Hearing other people’s ideas

Each time I do Workshop Essentials it’s new and exciting. I have new participants come to join in and find out how to do amazing workshops, and in turn I get to hear all about their workshop plans. As a self confessed workshop geek, this is all rather thrilling! I love it when people have those lightbulb moments, when people “get it” and when people laugh. If there is laughter, then I know they are enjoying it. If there are questions, I know I’ve got their attention. If there are discussions, I know there are ideas igniting. You can feel when you get a workshop right and I love that feeling.

It would be remiss of me not to mention some of the workshops that are being held by my “graduates”, here are a couple I’d like to mention:

Carly Lightbrown and Claire Stone have their Eat Happy workshop next week.

Shereen Pasha has her Business Bootcamp coming up next month, with Becs Miller as a guest speaker

What next?

Of course I am all set to put another batch of workshop enthusiasts through their paces, so if that sounds like you you then please don’t miss out. I have both my Workshop Essentials and The Workshop Toolkit taking place on 12th January 2017.

I am always thinking of new things to add to my workshops, so watch this space…..

 

The Serious Business of Having Fun.

What do you find fun?

One person’s idea of fun is not necessarily the same as the next person’s, but the idea of fun, the notion, the feeling, the concept is pretty universal. It’s that positive experience of being entertained, amused, fulfilled, even overflowing with enthusiasm and excitement. It’s something that makes you laugh.

FUN!

However you define it, it’s incredibly important. Apart from the being part of what makes us human, there is an obvious link between enthusiasm, excitement and getting, holding and maintaining our interest. When we are fully on board, involved and engaged then our interest is held. When our interest is captured, we work much better, we envelope ourselves in what we are doing and achieve far better results. We are more likely to discover that inner creative genius and perhaps have a few lightbulb moments along the way.

There is of course a delicate balance to be struck, too much of a good thing can in itself be distracting. Just doing things because you are having a good time is not taking fun seriously. But if our enjoyment of something, our sense of fun can be captured and channelled in a particular direction to learn something new, complete a task or work with others to create something incredible then that’s productive fun. That’s good fun.

And workshops can be fun, if you do them right. Whether you are doing a workshop to disseminate information in an interactive way, or creating that convivial and cheerful environment to work through some important ideas, you need to get people on board. And a great way to do this is make it enjoyable.

You don’t have to be funny to have fun, and fun doesn’t necessarily mean a rip-roaring, side-splitting constant stream of entertainment. But it does mean doing your best to create the right kind of environment so that people in your workshop have a gratifying and compelling experience.

So how can this be achieved, well – here are a few top tips:

  1. Include some activities – whether these are games that you have made up or tried and tested training or facilitation tools, creating some activities is a good way to inject a bit of fun into a situation. They don’t have to be crazy balloon up your jumper type games, but a few activities will at the very least be interesting, especially if they are new to people.
  2. Ice-breakers and energisers are specifically designed to break down barriers and inject some energy into the room. Try some, but remember not everyone feels comfortable doing super crazy activities, so try a simple one as a starter until you know your participants better.
  3. New things in themselves can be fun – introduce a few things that participants might not have seen before or heard of. Ask people to share their own new things.
  4. Be different – thinking “outside the box” may inspire and motivate people to want more. If everyone uses slides, can you be a bit different? If it’s common to quote certain examples, can you find some new ones, perhaps some that are amusing and will stick in people’s minds?
  5. Encourage people to tell their own stories, or recount their own experiences. Hearing new ideas can be stimulating and fun.
  6. Variety – when we learn we all do it slightly differently. We cannot predict what will be fun for everyone. So mix it up, try different things, include a good selection.
  7. Tell some stories or use anecdotes. They don’t have to be lengthy or even that gripping, but a good story can be fun to listen to and creates an interest in the topic.
  8. If you are feeling brave – try a little humour. Most people have a sense of how their own humour goes down with friends and family, and if you get bad feedback, then maybe this is not your calling. But if you get a few laughs, try it out. Think about who you are aiming it and and whether it will go down well or not, and prepare to be surprised. Sometimes you think your participants might not appreciate humour, but even the most corporate faces like to laugh once in a while.
  9. Learn to laugh at yourself. While it is good to avoid Frank Spencer type moments, sometimes things can go wrong. Whether it is a flip chart stand collapsing or some materials that you’ve left behind – creating a positive out of a negative can often be turned to your advantage. And if such moments are all too awkward at the time, save the story for your next workshop……….
  10. Enjoy yourself! If you are relaxed and happy your participants will be more likely to be too and happy participants who feel positive about the workshop content is what it’s all about.
Workshop Laughter

Workshop Laughter

If you want to add a bit of pizzazz to your workshops or need a injection of some new activities, then come to one of my workshops  – they’re good fun and I promise not to tell any bad jokes. Or contact me to find out more about the types of facilitation work I do and how I can work with the people in your organisation in a fun and enjoyable way.