Before we get into building content and thinking about delivery, there’s a question you want to ask yourself. 

‘Who is this for?’

It’s a simple question, but not always an easy one to answer.

‘Who is this really for?’

One of the most commons pitfalls I see workshop creators fall into is not having a good handle on who their audience actually is.

Too often people create great content but have their sessions fall flat because they’ve failed to understand who the workshop is for, and why their audience is showing up in the first place.

Getting this right sets you on a solid path, and keeps you aligned – even if you may miss the mark with some other parts of your session.

Getting this wrong means you’re going to struggle, no matter how snazzy your content may be.

Knowing who your workshop is for will make everything else easier.

And besides, why make life harder for yourself?

Let’s get started.


Identifying your audience

To start getting a better handle of who your workshop is for, you can ask yourself 5 questions.

  1. Who are they?
  2. How many of them are there?
  3. How experienced are they?
  4. Why are they showing up?
  5. What are they not (yet) voicing?

You may not know all the answers right now. That’s ok.

For example, if you’re designing a workshop to be sold to a company or advertised directly to an audience in a new market you probably won’t know how many people are going to show up.

These questions are starters to get you thinking about the makeup (no, not that kind) of the audience/audiences you want to reach.

Pro Tip: If you’re doing any marketing for your workshop, the responses to these questions will help you focus your marketing message

Example

Here’s an example of how I answered these questions for a workshop on using Sustainability as Innovation:

  1. Who are they?: Established professionals based in New York City who are curious about demystifying sustainability concepts and being able to use sustainability principles in their businesses / with their clients. Several of them have a marketing background. They all work at different companies. A few are independent consultants.
  2. How many of them are going to be there?: We’re limiting this session to 20 people. We’re expecting to sell 12 seats as a minimum.
  3. How experienced are they?: Most of them are experienced professionals in their respective fields, but very few of them have any experience in sustainability. A couple have done some climate change consulting so may have strengths in this area. Some of them have got strong experience in innovation.
  4. Why are they showing up?: They see sustainability as something that matters to them in their personal lives, but they’re mainly showing up because they’d like to learn more about the topic to help their clients/company with creating new initiatives. It’s something a lot of businesses are both curious and concerned about.
  5. What are they not (yet) voicing?: That this is a complex and probably a bit of boring topic. They may also have concerns about their time – they’re busy and they don’t know us or the topic very well, so there’s some risk that they won’t get value. Some of them may also have concerns they don’t know enough about this topic, and their boss or client needs them to.

Even with just a few short answers, we’re quickly able to start getting to the audience’s underlying drivers for attending, the gaps in their knowledge, and what they’d like to get from the session.

Some other questions you could ask yourself include:

  • What have they done before that’s similar to this?
  • How does this topic relate to what they do in their company/department/practice/life?
  • Where else would they go for this kind of material?

If you want to dive deeper into audience discovery you may want to sketch out some user personas, or even map out a customer journey.

These methods can be particularly useful if your workshop is for a group with time or location constraints (a few examples here are healthcare professionals, teachers, stay at home parents, and very senior corporate execs).

If you’re new to customer personas or user journeys there are plenty of guides – to get started here’s a persona guide from UserTesting.com and a customer journey map by Ideo.

We’ve also got a more workshop-specific Learner Persona which we often use. Drop us a note to get a copy.

Managing your assumptions

During this process, you may notice yourself making a few assumptions.

The best way to validate (or invalidate) these assumptions is to speak to the people you’re looking to serve.

There are many ways you can do this (again there are lots of good resources available online to help with this). You can do this well in advance as a form of customer development, or through a pre-event survey or registration form after attendees have signed up.

Note: I prefer using a survey form only after people have committed to attend, or at least already registered some interest in the session. If I’m looking to learn more about an audience before I’ve created a session that’s available to register for, I’ll either build a landing page asking for an email address, or just go and chat with people.

Resource: pre-event survey / registration form

Here’s the pre-event survey we sent out for our most recent Sustainability as Innovation workshop. It’s simple and only takes attendees a few minutes to complete, but gets us a good bit of insight about where they’re at and where they’d like to get to.

Feel free to copy these questions and adjust for your needs.

  1. Your Name
  2. On a scale of 0 (very low) to 10 (very high), how would you rate your current overall knowledge and understanding of sustainability?
  3. On a scale of 0 (very low) to 10 (very high), how would you rate your current knowledge and understanding of sustainability in relation to your business/clients/customers?
  4. Tell us briefly about a sustainability issue you’re interested in or curious about
  5. What’s one key takeaway you’d like to get from the session?
  6. How did you find out about this workshop?
  7. Do you have any visual impairments, learning difficulties, allergies, or anything else we should be aware of? (leave blank if none)
  8. Is there anything else you’d like us to know?

Reflection Time

By the end of this exercise, you should have a much better handle on who your workshop is for.

Here a few reflection questions to consider…

  • What do you notice showing up once you’ve spent some time identifying your audience? 
  • Is there a concern they have about this topic you’ll need to address upfront? (in a later lesson we’ll use some facilitation skills to address this!)
  • Do they have a high level of experience in a particular area?

Resource: To get deeper into Audience & Topic ideation, check out this bonus resources

With this information in hand, you can more confidently move on to creating learning outcomes and a structure to give your audience the best possible experience and maximum value.

And that’s exactly what we’ll be getting into during the next two lessons. Stay tuned!

Any questions so far? Drop me a line – I’d love to hear from you.