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How To Conduct A Successful Workshop

17th June 2019
Facilitating a workshop group session

How to conduct a successful workshop

Study workshops are a chance for those in the academic community to come together for a thought shower, for interactive learning, building relationships and problem solving. These sorts of sessions are dynamic, engaging and a powerful way to develop ideas and move projects forward. If it's tricky to get everyone together for a face-to-face workshop, there are lots of ways to include attendees remotely. This also means you might be able to expand the reach of your workshop to include remote workers as well as those in different locations such as international workers. Google Hangouts works well for group calls as well as the community chat app Discord which enables communities to come together. Explore different ways of working around this, whether you use a Trello board to post ideas remotely, or even a Google Sheet. 

What happens in a workshop? 

A workshop is a single, short educational session designed to teach or introduce students, lecturers, or academic staff to practical skills, techniques, or ideas. It enables teaching and learning in an interactive environment.


A workshop usually involves discussion and includes a small number of people. It could be run by a department to give advice on coursework for example, or it could be run by a society or university group to teach and develop key life skills. These are usually interactive, bringing and building a sense of engagement and productivity. 


This type of session would usually half a day or a whole day, rather than for a series of days, like a conference may. A workshop could for instance take the form of a presentation which would then involve feedback, with active participation from delegates a must. Even though a workshop should have a structure, the overall feel should be quite organic, with the main topic a ‘work in progress’. Get tips on planning an academic conference, if you’re organising your workshop as part of a large event.


Academic conference workshop discussion

Facilitating your workshop

Define the goals and carefully choose the attendees.


Work out what you want to get out of the day and what you think your attendees want to

This is particularly important if people are travelling a long way for the workshop, for example, visiting lecturers or international students. Give them some strong takeaways and tangible benefits. 


How do the goals help your audience?


Define how the workshop will help students reach the next stage of the syllabus or boost their productivity. Does the workshop have a discernible benefit for grades and results or lifestyle improvements? 

Workshop Structure

Firm up a structure and stick to the broad lines. 


It’s really important when organising a workshop to make sure you have a structured format. It can be very flexible but at least have points throughout the day where you stick to a plan. This will keep the timings in check and make sure that you don’t miss an important section or discussion point. 


Create an agenda


Make a list of all the main points you’ll discuss and provide all attendees with a summary of the form the workshop will take, the activities and timeline of the day. 


The workshop for instance, could be an opportunity to discuss and debate on a topic and there may be key elements attendees would like mentioned before the day itself.  Or the workshop could take the form of a hackathon, in which the delegates team up to produce or solve a research question. In this case, they may want thinking time or a chance to prepare. 


It goes without saying, that you should create a separate agenda too for yourself too. Make a list of visual aids you’ll use for each point. Take time to list exactly which discussion or activity will happen at what point.


Include Ice breakers 


Icebreakers are a fantastic way to maximise engagement and get the best out of your participants, whether it’s your own university students or visiting attendees. Icebreakers help to encourage people to get to know each other and also to get to know the event leader (s) too. 


They help to bring everyone out of their shells and enable people to get to know each other. But remember that the attendees don’t have to end up best friends, it’s simply a tool to get the best out of everyone, so the workshop can be as productive as possible. Focus on the similarities rather than differences between delegates. 


Use icebreakers to buy into the purpose of an event. It’s also really important to consider who is actually taking part in the workshop. There may be peers or completely different stakeholders from different backgrounds and at different stages in their careers.


Ultimately remember that you need to break down barriers and work out how you can create a common sense of purpose.  

You could try these icebreakers for example: 

  • Ask everyone to state a little-known fact about themselves, in amongst the standard introduction. This gives a humanising element to the group.  
  • Start the workshop with an activity involving props. Give everyone name badges. Then ask the group to throw a football to each other whilst they call out their name and the name of the person they’re throwing to. The idea is to time it and speed up the time it takes to complete this, improving team work across the group as a whole. This sort of exercise is great for a workshop, either the delegates work as a team normally just for that afternoon. A workshop should have a collaborative, inclusive atmosphere.

Workshop ice breaker activities


Content and getting people involved


The aim is of course to get full participation from the group. In order to achieve this, you should make the information digestible and fun. 


Bear in mind that people get nervous about speaking in public so counteract this by keeping the size of the group small and only asking for volunteers to share rather than forcing everyone to speak in front of other people. Mixing up the groups during the day is a great way to push people out of their comfort zones enough to energise and challenge the group. 



Set out how you will get feedback from the group throughout the workshop and be clear about it. For example, will the attendees create posters, write key points on post it notes or report back with ideas verbally?  For some spot-on tips to sharpen your communication skills browse this useful careers resource site 


It’s advisable to plan evaluation sessions within each section, so you can sum up what has been learnt and the group has chance to take stock of the workshop at each stage. 


If possible, avoid holding the workshop between 2-3pm as this will catch everyone in their post lunch slump. If the workshop runs during this time, schedule a less taxing activity to easy everyone back into the workshop. 


Follow up plan


When your workshop has ended, be sure to have an effective follow-up plan. Create a questionnaire to ask people what they thought of it. This will establish future workshop success. Let attendees know what the outcomes of the workshop were and find out what they got out of it too. 


Workshop space University of London Venues

Organising a workshop at University of London Venues

As well as the content, the structure and the follow-up to a workshop you also need to consider the location, logistics and facilities. At University of London Venues, we pride ourselves on providing a large variety of meeting, seminar and conference rooms well-suited to workshop events in the heart of London. Find out more about University of London venues as an academic event space.


Our meeting rooms range from small to large and can be with multiple room configurations available. Rooms can be arranged to suit your workshop, whether you need a boardroom style, a cabaret style or a horse shoe configuration. We offer breakout facilities for downtime and refreshment breaks.  Our in-house catering team is renowned for delicious, healthy menus. 


Our in-house events team is also on hand throughout your workshop to provide technical support services to complement our audio-visual equipment. 


Contact us today to find out more about facilitating your workshop at University of London Venues. Drop us an email on or give us a call on 020 7862 8127.

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