4 Workshop Mindsets

4 Workshop Mindsets

Imagine you get asked to run a workshop. 

How would you tackle it?

Perhaps you’re feeling really confident in your abilities, or you believe the group will instinctively be able to get where they need to go. You can just show up with a loose agenda and a few slides. That may work out just fine. Although it may not.

You could pour several days or a couple of weeks into crafting incredible content that’s going to impress and delight your audience.

But there’s no guarantee this will work either.

You could play it safe and deliver a lecture – tried and trusted. You should be able to provide your audience with some learning, but there won’t be too much in the way of interaction or connection – so it’s possible this approach also won’t hit the spot.

For a lot of people, the process of designing and delivering a workshop is something that’s either vastly over or underestimated.

We can get overconfident and underdeliver. We can feel overwhelmed at all the possible options, at what could go wrong, and at how much is out of our control.

Instead, we can prime ourselves for success by simply taking on the mindsets of a workshop creator to guide us through the process: Thinking, Designing, Developing, and Delivering.


The author and futurist Alvin Toffler famously said:

The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.

This is something many of us underestimate, including those of us creating learning experiences: we also need to unlearn.

Unlearning often means letting go of beliefs or replacing flawed mental models just as much as it is correcting factual errors.

To think like a workshop creator we probably need to let go of some of what we’ve brought with us so far: our views on traditional education (whether good or bad); how we feel about being a student; the variance in learning styles between different people; what success actually looks like.

A few aspects of Thinking like a workshop creator include:

  • Understanding key fundamentals of how people think and learn
  • Acknowledging the wicked problem we face in much of education and learning, and that no solution is ever going to be perfect
  • Being open to unlearning, relearning, and failing
  • Thinking like an apprentice: that doing can be the first step to learning
  • Embracing the power of peer groups
  • Measuring success on how the audience feels (through the experience they’re having) as well as what they learn

When we’re thinking like a workshop creator, all the aspects of design, development and delivery become more intuitive.


Designing like a Workshop Creator may feel like it’s about creating beautiful presentation decks, but this mindset is focused on understanding humans and being able to create the right structures for them to thrive in.

When we’re designing like a workshop creator, we spend time deeply considering the audience we’re serving – we know who they are, what their motivations are, what they need, and how we can design something valuable for them.

We ask ourselves questions to help sculpt learning outcomes and build supporting pillars underneath them.

We can also take a leaf from the book of a movie producer to create structure and arrangement that’s robust and clear, yet also flexible and can allow magic to happen.

When we’re designing like a workshop creator we’re open to using different formats, materials, resources, and blending them in ways that will resonate with our audience.

And last but not least, our designer mindset encourages us to assess whether something is working, and think about how we can adjust a design to meet our audience’s needs.


The Designing mindset provides us with a strong yet flexible structure, like a skeleton. The mindset of Developing like a Workshop Creator is where we add organs, muscles, features and attributes.

To extend the metaphor, when thinking about our audience, this mindset is all about senses.

What do our audience hear? 

What do they see? 

What are they going to say? 

What are they going to do?

And depending on our workshop we may also want to think about what we want them to touch, or smell, or taste.

Using our developing mindset we’ll be creating presentation content, building out activities, and developing narrative and story.

And we’ll be working towards integration: bringing everything together into a whole body that can come to life.


Last but by no means least, the final mindset is that of delivering like a workshop creator.

As with all the other mindsets, this one is human-focused. We’re concentrating on what the audience learns, but also how they feel.

When we’re delivering like a workshop creator, we take an active approach – whether we’re explaining, listening, discussing, or even pausing. 

With our delivery mindset we’re comfortable with space, and allowing the audience to find their own answers. 

We’re also looking out for appropriate places to weave in story, excitement, tension and energy. With this mindset we’re reading the room and adjusting accordingly to ensure we deliver learning, experience, and a learning experience.

When we take on the mindset of delivering like a workshop creator we know that not everything is going to work, and we may need to improvise. 

We also know that our other three mindsets are always at hand to help us, and the work we’ve already done using them means our delivery mindset is best applied when it’s natural and authentic.

Finally, the mindset of delivering like a workshop creator is akin to the spotlight operator. Sometimes we may shine it on ourselves, but more often we’ll light up individuals, groups, or ideas.

And our mindset also lets us know when we don’t need the spotlight at all, and the natural light in the room is plenty.

Want to learn more about these 4 mindsets and how you can develop them?

The Workshop Creator live workshop is running throughout 2020.

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