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Doing It Offline: In-Person Workshops

by | Dec 28, 2015 | How To, Leadership, Strategy

It was spring, though a slight chill still persisted in the air. This was why we elected for indoor seating when we met for lunch.

My two lunch companions and I chatted about this and that, plans for the summer and the usual catch up topics.

“I’m thinking about running a workshop,” I said. “I’ve met so many incredible women with such varied skills, and I want to show them how to take it online.”

I had been working with individuals one on one for a while now.  I was either showing them how or building WordPress sites for them. I had also done a number of health checks on existing sites for coaches and freelancers: life coaches, health coaches, language teachers, consultants.

It occurred to me that I could get them all in one room, and go through the essentials of online presence.

My lunch friends were enthusiastic. One of them pulled out her agenda, and, pen poised and ready, said: “When?”


It’s one thing to talk about running a workshop, and quite another to actually begin planning it.

It wasn’t the workshop content or even the delivery that had me fretting. I had been training groups since my early twenties, and being in front of crowd wasn’t really a problem.

I was worried about the planning and the sales part.

What if nobody came?

What if the key people I wanted to have come could only make it on conflicting dates? What if …?

“So … when?” My friend’s expectant stare pinned me into place, until I stammered out a date about two weeks out.

“Great,” my lunch companions said in stereo.

And that’s how the Expat Edge workshop series started to become reality.

Sometimes the catalyst is something as simple as someone pulling out their gorgeous planner and a pen, and pinning you to a date.

Here’s how it happened.

What Went Well

  • Multiple Displays: I ran the workshop in my home. My Apple devices cooperated for the most part, and although I had no overhead projector, I had my slides running on both a large monitor and the TV.  Attendees could see the slides or the demos I ran, regardless of where they sat.
  • Informal Atmosphere: The attendees were attentive, enjoyed the cozy atmosphere of a workshop in a living room, rather than a formal training room.  Shoes were off, some sat on cushions on the floor.  It was comfortable.
  • Outsource: The choice to have the workshop catered was a wise one,   I knew I couldn’t handle hospitality duties on top of delivering the workshop contents, so chose to have someone else look after the food and drink.
  • Feedback Forms: The feedback forms were fantastic. Definitely brag board material, and gave me some interesting insights on what to incorporate the next time I’d run the same workshop, as well as give me ideas for topics for other workshops.

What didn’t go so well

  • Too Much Content: The content was too much. Just too much for the attendees to absorb. The workshop may have been scheduled for three hours, but between the networking and the activities, I only managed to get through 2/3rd of the content, may be even less.
  • Powerpoint Quirks: Turns out Powerpoint doesn’t like to project to two separate screens, in addition to the Macbook screen. I ended up frantically transferring everything over to Keynote in the early hours of the morning.
  • Not Enough Hands: As a large portion of the workshop involved hands-on activities for the attendees to do on their laptop, it also meant a ton of individual attention was needed, and I had no assistants.
  • Varied Audience: I also noted a large spectrum in terms of the digital literacy within the group. Some were quite comfortable with a variety of apps, while others were still getting comfortable with basic apps like Finder / File Explorer. This meant some of the content was way over their head.

Take Aways

I learned a lot from the workshops. Granted, by the time I delivered my 5th or 6th one, I was so comfortable, I didn’t even set up the living room until an hour before everyone was supposed to arrive.

Nonetheless, here are the hard lessons:

  • Get Commitment: Nailing people down to a date and time is just as tricky as I had anticipated. However, if the date is far enough out, then people can plan around it.
  • Compensate: Last minute drop-outs are inevitable, so it’s a good idea to oversell places by about 15%. The numbers even out.
  • Pare Down Content: When you’re done with your outline, cut it down in half, and work with just that. If you finish early, you can always cover the “bonus” content.
  • Stay In The Groove: The high I get from delivering training is still the most rewarding feeling ever. I would do it every day, provided I was teaching the stuff I get all crazy about: digital productivity and online presence.

So Why Not Do It Everyday?

Funny you should ask. While running workshops in person on a daily basis is not particularly practical, running them as virtual courses totally is!

And that is the venture I have embarked on.

Yes, I already have a couple of Udemy courses in place from when I experimented with teaching on video a couple of years ago.

This past month I’ve been busy repurposing the workshop(s) material into stand alone online courses.

But just like the workshop, I am faced with the same question: if I build it, will they come?

In the next set of posts, I will write about the thought process and the steps I’m going through in putting together and launching a membership site wrapped around the online courses / workshops.

You will find out how knowledge is not power. Only knowledge put into action is.