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How to plan a workshop in 10 steps

I was helping someone plan a workshop today. While I was no expert in the content, it made me realise there’s a common structure I’ve come to use.

1. Briefly introduce the workshop leaders. You’ll demonstrate your expertise later, and presumably the attendees were impressed enough by your credentials to book a place.

2. Allow participants to say something. It doesn’t really matter what it is, but you could ask them to rank how they’re feeling out of 10, or finish the sentence, “if you really knew me, your know that…”

3. Get participants to do something. It doesn’t really matter what it is, but if you’re using a new tool later, this is a good, low-stakes opportunity to ensure everyone can access it. You could ask people to add a stick note to a physical wall or a Google Jamboard indicating what they’re hoping to get out of the workshop.

4. Go through the structure of the workshop. Explain what you’ll be covering, when the breaks are, etc. Ideally, link this back to the previous activity, outlining how the workshop will meet the participants’ requirements.

5. Provide some input. If you need to explain a concept, go through some theory, or otherwise lecture participants, do it now! Try to keep it to 15 mins, then stop for questions. If you’ve got two workshop leaders (always a good idea!) switch it you need to provide more input.

6. Stop for a 15 min break. Tailor the length of your breaks to the needs of your participants (accessibility, age, etc.) but give them at least 15 mins.

7. Practice. After asking for any further questions after the break* give participants a chance to practice what they’ve been taught. If there’s no immediately-obvious way to do this, break into pairs or small groups to discuss how they could apply what they’ve learned in their job/life.

8. Provide a space to park ideas and people. Deal with latecomers, off-topic ideas, and other miscellaneous things by having a ‘clinic’ breakout room and ‘Parking lot’ board.**

9. Check in after lunch. Ask people what they had to eat. Food is an easy way for a group to bond.

10. Ask participants to commit to next steps. If there’s a follow-up workshop, set homework. If there’s not, ask participants to commit to an action, and then follow up with them via email / social media / pigeon after a specified amount of time.


There’s plenty more workshop advice I could give, but I’ll stop there for now. Perhaps one more bit: although you should have dedicated Q&A time, there should never be a time when it’s not OK for participants to ask a question.


* always pause for longer than you think you need to (e.g. drink from a water bottle or coffee cup to prolong the pause)

** my friend Laura Hilliger calls this a ‘zombie garden’!


This post is Day 53 of my #100DaysToOffload challenge. Want to get involved? Find out more at 100daystooffload.com Posted in 100DaysToOffload

Weeknote 03/2020

I confess to almost forgetting to writing a weeknote this week. Thanks to Mike Cooke for the reminder! It’s funny how, when we’re nudged out of a routine, things can go sideways.


The main thing I did this week was go to Kuwait City to run a workshop for the AMICAL consortium on the strategic development of digital literacies. For a variety of reasons, I flew there on Tuesday, led the workshop on Wednesday, and flew back on Thursday.

Regular readers will know that, despite my efforts to eat well and keep fit, such stresses on my body don’t always end well. And so it was that on Thursday I succumbed to a cold, and then on Friday lunchtime, after a number of meetings for Moodle, I suffered from a migraine that knocked me sideways.

It’s my fault, of course. I should know better than to put myself through these things. It was the lack of sleep that got me, I think, but had I stuck around an extra day, my only option would have been to fly back at 3am local time. That wouldn’t have been ideal either.

The workshop went really well, and I was so pleased to meet such lovely people who were so receptive to the ideas I was sharing. I received some great feedback on everything from ambiguity to managing a workshop of around 25 people.

Kuwait City isn’t a place I’d hurry back to as a tourist, but I will say that the Lebanese food I had on Wednesday night was almost worth the trip in and of itself. Delightful.


I recorded a microcast for Thought Shrapnel about the workshop, as well as publishing an article about hierarchy, context, and ways we approach the question of how we should live. To this week’s roundup of links I added some comments, which I’ll continue to do if I can prioritise it.


Things are looking up for MoodleNet as the feeds (e.g. ‘My MoodleNet’) are now working. There’s still plenty to do, but I’ve worked closely with Martin Dougiamas, Moodle’s Founder and CEO, on the roadmap and resourcing.

We’ve always had the code on GitLab, but now we’ve moved the issues there too. You can view the issue board for the current milestone here. As Product Manager, it’s my job to walk a fine line between idealism and pragmatism when it comes to choosing tools. Everyone seems happier so far.


I’ve responded to a couple of requests for work through We Are Open Co-op this week, both of which sound really interesting. I’m going to start getting stuck into some existing work that my colleagues are doing this next week.

Other than that, it’s ensuring everyone has what they need for MoodleNet, and starting to scope out a new e-book. I was going to revise and expand The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies but, instead, I’m considering one with a similar title as my AMICAL workshop using Leanpub.

The week after next I’m in Barcelona for Moodle meetings and then off to London for a co-op meetup. And no, I won’t be at BETT.


Photo taken by Dimitris Tzouris and shared on Twitter

Join us in London on February 15th for BADGE BOOTCAMP!

Update: We’ve cancelled this workshop as we didn’t get enough sign-ups to make it viable. We’ll be launching something with the same name on the same day — stay tuned!


In yesterday’s webinar, my colleagues and I at We Are Open Co-op announced a live, in-person Open Badges workshop. We’re holding it in London on February 15th.

BOOK HERE

Early-bird tickets are now available and likely to sell pretty quickly, as we’re limiting them to ensure quality of interaction.

We’ll be covering:

  • What are Open Badges – and where did they come from?
  • How people are using badges in many different sectors
  • When it’s a good badges are a great idea – and
  • Why badges are the answer to lots of different problems
  • Who to connect to in the Open Badges community, and where

More details, including ticket prices, are on the Eventbrite page. I’d love to see you there! If you’ve got questions, ask them in the comments below, or tweet @dajbelshaw / @WeAreOpenCoop

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