Before the Course
If you’re looking for speakers, try our Speaker Database. You can encourage your members and those who have presented at past workshops to submit their names.
If you’re looking for venues to hold your workshop, try contacting your local Visitor’s Bureau – if you give them a basic idea of what you’re looking for (size of the space/attendees, etc.), they can usually provide a list of places that are nearby.
Create a budget/expense template so you know how many attendees you’d need to break even or generate income. This will include all expenses associated with renting space, paying speakers/speaker gifts/honoraria, advertising or printing costs, etc.
If you’re renting space from a hotel, they may offer a Courtesy Block (one that you’re not required to fill, but would be available for your attendees). Be sure to advertise hotels where you’ve secured a special rate or provide a list of all local hotels.
Find Sponsors Approach local companies to see if they’d like to host a tabletop at your session or sponsor in another way (giving away their branded items, brochures, etc.), and encourage attendees to engage by providing lunch in the same room. This lunch could be sponsored by those in the room, or provided in the attendees’ course fee. Be sure to thank them during and after the course with a letter or in some other way. You could recognize them on-site with attendees for providing lunch, the notebooks, etc.
Logistics/Details You’ll also want to make sure you provide good directions to get to the venue and any parking details/costs as applicable. It’s usually best to send an email or mailed packet to attendees including all course details they may need in preparation for the course.
Offer a free membership (or a year of membership that’s included in the non-member price) of your workshop. You can market it in any way you think will be most effective – for example, it could be a trial membership (where they get to try membership for free for a year), as a free membership, or you can get creative and come up with your own. If you offer it to non-members, your member attendees may feel slighted – so keep that in mind when you’re planning, and offer an incentive for members to sign up also.
Work on your pricing strategy. 1: Early Bird. For those who register by a certain date (could coincide with your room requirements), they get the regular, or discounted price, and those who register after get a higher price. 2: Price Based on Demand (the price of the education session goes up by a specified rate based on how many people have registered). For instance, the rate starts at $200. Once you reach 5 attendees, the rate goes up $25-50 ($225-250 total). Once you reach 10 attendees, the rate goes up $75-100 ($275-300). 3: VIP/Exclusive Pricing: offer attendance to your workshop at a higher rate, but include some bonuses, such as a front row seat, a free networking lunch with presenters, express registration/entrance, signed copy of presenter’s books and/or STLE publications, free coat check, a gift basket/tote bag, and notebook. These are just ideas of some things you could charge more for – it all depends on what your members value. 4: Pay Less for Fewer Benefits: in this case, we’re going to the opposite spectrum of #3, where attendees would pay less to attend, but they agree to listen to a product presentation from a sponsor. Read this article to get ideas on other pricing strategies.
Get attendees to do some pre-reading before they get to your course. This prepares them to learn more while they’re on site, and retain more after they leave. The more they retain and use, the better impression they have of the section and the Society. You can also encourage them to submit questions before they arrive and/or other demographic/topic information that you can provide to presenters to further tailor the presentation.
Ask attendees to come to the meeting ready to present a 2-5 minute recap of a problem they encountered at work and how they solved it. If they share, they get entered into a drawing for a prize (either provided by the section or a sponsor). To get the conversation started, have your Board come up with examples and kick off this portion of the workshop.
During the Course
Preparing the Space When you get on site, leave plenty of time for you to set up the space. You’ll want to make sure you have a white board or a flip chart and markers (or chalk), a projector, a laptop, all event files (you can get in advance from all presenters, or get on the day of), pencils/pens for attendees, pads of paper/notebooks for attendees, water or other refreshments, and check on any meals that you’re providing. You’ll also need someone to man the registration desk if you allow on-site registration. Otherwise, just check people in and provide a badge, name tag, or tent card (to help instructors identify people during Q&A).
Make Introductions Introduce presenters, section volunteers, and provide time for attendees to introduce themselves. This helps presenters identify who is in the audience and how they can tailor their presentation to those present.
Timekeeping Keep instructors on time, and keep things moving.
Include the instructor’s slides in the handout. If your workshop is very reasonably priced, this is what attendees will expect, at the very least. It doesn’t have to be an electronic copy, but a printed copy of the slides presented. If you include space for notes next to the slides – this document could become a notebook and course handout in one.
To create more value (and merit a cost-increase), create a course book including an overview of basic concepts, a glossary of terms, and other similar resources that attendees can reference after (including relevant copies of past TLT articles). It is also a big help to come up with case studies – and you can tap into your speakers for these. Make them generic (so attendees cannot identify the company), and use it as a learning tool. It may also be a good idea to include a workbook, or activities/exercises that they can do on their own or with colleagues when they return to work, to spread the knowledge sharing. One attendee recently suggested that you could include a quiz for each module so they can test their knowledge a week after the course, a month after, or even six months after the course has concluded.
Survey Include a survey in their course materials and encourage them to fill it out after each presenter/module or at the end of the course. You could offer a prize in a random drawing of all surveys received at the end of the course.
After the Course
Send a follow up email or letter thanking them for attending, and include any wrap-up details including (but not limited to the following):
Utilize your list of past attendees when advertising future programs. Be sure to note what programs they attended and when. You can also tap into STLE’s database and send an email to those in your area based on their technical interests (i.e. bearings, gears, etc.).
Certificates If you’re offering a certificate of attendance, write up a thank you letter and include with the certificate (be sure to include name of attendee, date of attendance, title of the course/topics covered, and PDH/CE earned). If you’d like to offer a certificate that vouches attendees learned the course material, start working on a course exam.
Start working on next year as soon as the course concludes, or better yet, have a location, date (and topic) for next year that you can advertise to attendees that are on-site.
If you have additional tips or best practices and would like to contribute to this article, please send to Kara Sniegowski at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also start a discussion on our LinkedIn Group.