Run workshops

Prepare

Be consistent

To nurture a community, it is important to be consistent. Designate a regular schedule i.e. weekly, biweekly, monthly and stick to it. Frequent cancellations will scare off attendees. Plan activities and speakers for the next several sessions in advance. [4]

Modularize content

Break content into short, self-contained modules. It is easier to retain small chunks. Each module is a fresh opportunity for students to learn something new, even if they did not completely understand the previous module. [3]

Keep sessions short

Limit your session to one and half hours. The shorter your session, the more likely people will be able to fit it into their schedule.

Consider spreading your class over multiple sessions.

If your location requires that you reserve the room for longer than a single session, consider holding multiple sessions with different sets of people in tandem.

Validate configurations

Publish the list of requirements, possibly with unit tests, so that each student can install the required packages before the day of the workshop. Reserve time before the workshop in case students have trouble installing packages.

Make reservations after enough people have confirmed registration

Decide on a time and place convenient to the people who have registered. Make sure you have enough people who have committed to attending before you make reservations. [1] When reserving a room, estimate your audience count conservatively.

Market

Promote with real content

Publish the detailed content online to improve the credibility of your tutorial. Answer questions on technical mailing lists with a signature describing your upcoming workshop at the bottom.

Promote early

Prepare your content and promote at least one month in advance. [1]

Go to other events

Go to other group meetings and announce your event. [4]

Collect payment early

Collect payment before your workshop and commit people to attend. Early bird specials encourage people to pay early. [1]

Give clear directions

Make sure that people at the front desk know how to direct people where to go. [1] Make signs. Clearly indicate the room and floor of your workshop in all publications.

Teach

Meet expectations

Ask each student how he or she expects to apply the skills learned, preferably before the day of the workshop. Then you can tailor content to specific applications, emphasize relevant points and strategize on how to best solve his or her problem during the workshop. Students are more likely to leave feeling they have learned what they needed.

Share control

Prepare a collection of modules and let students choose what they want to learn. Give topic choices regularly during the course of workshop instead of running autopilot. Students will feel in control of their learning process.

Distribute teaching

For larger workshops, it helps to pair students so that they can teach each other while you are helping someone else. Knowledge and skill transfer is like heat transfer and flows down a gradient between people until they have no more to learn from each other. Rotate pairs to reset the gradient of knowledge transfer. [2]

Review agenda

Review the agenda of topics at the beginning and have a visual roadmap readily available so people can see where each topic fits in a broader context.

Maximize one-on-one interaction

This is a workshop, not a lecture! Walk around, evaluate each student’s situation and give personal feedback. [2] Personal feedback is the reason people are coming to your workshop instead of watching a video or reading a textbook.

Encourage participatory performance

Give opportunities for students to perform. For the most part, students will love it!

Follow-up

Ask for feedback one-on-one

People are more likely to be honest with their feedback in a one-on-one setting.

Encourage criticism

It is the only way you will learn how to improve.

Footnotes

[1](1, 2, 3, 4) Thanks to Cathaleen Kaiyoorawongs.
[2](1, 2) Thanks to Brandon Levi and his Muay Thai class, formerly at FightHouse and now at Evolution Muay Thai.
[3]Start Your Own Seminar Production Business. Entrepreneur Magazine, 2008.
[4](1, 2) Thanks to the Community Organizers BOF at PyCon.