Are you running a meetup or a workshop?

Are you running a meetup or a workshop?

The corridor of uncertainty, and not getting what you came for.

A few weeks ago I ran a pilot of a new event.

This event came about because of a blog post. I’m not sure how often blog posts are the catalysts for events, but that’s what happened here.

I knew I wanted this particular event to be fairly unstructured; more akin to a get-together or a salon as much as it was a workshop (I really like workshops, but I also really like salon-style events) 

With this event, I had put some learning objectives in place, but it didn’t have a hard skills approach as most educational workshops do.

As I prepared to launch it into the wild, the event hosts tweaked the copy I’d put on my brief one-page website, and I didn’t really pay any mind to the headline including the word ‘workshop’. The copy looked good and definitely improved on my previous version. Page approved, let’s go and get some signups.

Fast forward to the start of the event, and I asked everyone what had compelled them to sign up.

Almost half said something about the event title. Which included the word ‘workshop’.

At the end of the two hour session I’d learned a lot; one of biggest learnings being that what I’d run was something pretty different to what I thought.

This wasn’t a workshop. It was a facilitated meetup.

Now, nothing wrong with this – not at all. But that title on the event page mis-sold it to my attendees.

They came expecting a workshop: specific exercises, tools and methods to take away, work being undertaken, something tangible in their back pocket.

I tried to facilitate it like a workshop, then swayed back to meetup mode, and then again into workshop mode.

It was confusing. They didn’t quite get what they came for.

Overall, everyone enjoyed the session, with good conversation and connections being made, but something was missing. 

I’d placed the session into the murky middle, the corridor of uncertainty. They didn’t know whether they would get what they came for.

When this happens it make things hard. For you as a designer and facilitator, and more importantly for attendees.

Pilots are called pilots for a reason, but something to get clear as early as you can is knowing what you’re creating. It’s surprisingly easy to miss.

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