Workshop Must-Haves: 5 Essential Components of Live Learning Experiences

Lifelong learner/perpetual student/knowledge junkie. You could use all these terms to describe me. I love learning new skills and taking classes, devouring content and how-tos from all kinds of sources.

Because of my addiction to learning new things, I’ve attended countless webinars and workshops. As an educator, I’ve also given my fair share of trainings! I love in-person workshops because of the energy that comes out of multiple people interacting simultaneously with each other and the presenter, and I love webinars because it’s the closest thing we can get to a live workshop from the comfort of our home (or office). Webinars are extremely accessible, and with increasingly powerful webinar technology, fairly simple to set up, which makes them a fantastic option for sharing your expertise with a wide audience.

As an instructor, it’s impossible for me not to notice the hits and misses of all the trainings that I’ve had the opportunity to experience. Since my expertise is in instructional and curriculum design, I can’t help but take note of the elements that make an excellent training; there are certain components that are absolute must-haves when it comes to providing an effective workshop or webinar. There are some nice-to-haves, as well, (there’s always room for improvement, after all), but the absolute workshop must-haves are the foundation for developing and delivering a phenomenal learning experience that accurately reflects your expertise and capacity for helping others learn.

Based on my experiences and observations I’ve created the following list of workshop must-haves (or, what make or break a training!):

Workshop Must-Haves

  1. Relevance. The topic and content need to be relevant to your audience and actually help them learn something they want to learn, or solve a problem that they’re experiencing. One way to make sure that the content of your training is relevant is to send a survey to your potential attendees before the event, so you can get feedback on specific questions or concerns they’re facing. Another crucial element is having an accurate workshop title; don’t say you’re going to deliver a content marketing management strategy and then just go into a very brief introduction of social media platforms. Know what your audience will want to hear, and make the title straightforward and accurate.
  2. Clear objectives. Along with making the content relevant, it’s your responsibility to ensure that attendees know what to expect out of the training. Be as specific as possible about what the objectives are so attendees can be prepared to fully digest the information you’re presenting.
  3. Make it hands-on! Workshops and webinars shouldn’t just be lectures. Allow opportunities for people to interact with each other and with you. If there’s an opportunity to divide people into groups to collaborate on a small project, then do it. Soliciting questions is one way to facilitate engagement, but it’s just one way, and you shouldn’t just leave it until the end. Many people learn best by doing, so if there is any opportunity for people to actually complete the tasks you are talking about during the training, then take it.
  4. Concrete examples. Theory’s fine, but concrete examples that demonstrate why that theory is relevant will be how people make the connection between your presentation and their own situation. You don’t need to bog down the presentation with tons of examples, but one or two concrete examples per point you are presenting is a good amount to give people some context for your insight.
  5. The best trainings I’ve been to give explicit instructions or guidance for what you can do after the training to make sure you’ve absorbed the knowledge and feel comfortable in applying it. Call it homework, call it a request, call it a challenge. Don’t let people just listen to your words—make sure that they use the knowledge you’ve shared with them for its intended purpose.

So how do you make sure you include all five of these workshop must-haves in your presentation?

My suggestion is to provide a worksheet (not presentation slides!) to all my webinar or workshop attendees. This one sheet of paper lists the summary of the workshop and any resources that I refer to. It also includes a list of learning objectives with space for participants to indicate whether they’ve attempted (or understood) the task, and whether they have successfully completed the task on their own. The final column is a place for people to add their own notes, like connections they’ve made during the presentation, questions they want to ask, reminders or comments that the audience has shared. Lastly, I include a space for homework—a task that attendees can complete within one day of the workshop to ensure absorption and application of information. This worksheet benefits you because it serves as a checklist to make sure you include all the needed components, and it helps your audience because they have an organized, compact outline of the workshop content.

mustClick below to get an example template to start off with; this is intentionally a very simple template — add anything you’d like!

The next time you organize a training of any sort, make sure you have these five workshop must-haves — not including these elements in your next workshop or webinar puts you in danger of missing a valuable opportunity to engage, to teach, and to effectively communicate the skills or knowledge that you know can benefit others. You know your stuff, now show it well!

Related: Are you attending a workshop or conference? Get the Conference Toolkit — it’s free!