So you wanna plan a super trendy gathering where you can teach people a thing you know how to do… (Basically a cool party that you have to pay to get in!) Of course you need to provide your participants with a valuable skill, but have you given in-depth thought to the overall experience you’re selling?
There are a few seemingly-obvious considerations that can easily and understandably go amiss when you’re putting together a workshop for the first time! Details can seriously elevate the affair into something people will be dying to share with their friends (and audience). As a workshop photographer and guest, I’ve seen what works and what doesn’t (IMO), from the perspective of the participant and behind the scenes.
So what separates an unremarkable event from one people will be coming back for every year? I present to you a rundown of six things you may wanna have covered before you open the doors to your DIY workshop.
I’ll also include some inspiration photos from a workshop I photographed by Kelsey Williams Weddings + Events.
1. Choose a venue that makes your work easier and the experience more enjoyable.
Of course you have to plan within your budget and location, but also keep in mind your guest count. Provide for just enough comfortable space for the amount of people you want to attend. You want to allow for elbow room when crafting, but too much space and it will feel a little awkward for your attendees. Like… “Where is everyone else? Where can I stand without feeling like I’m on an empty stage??”
Try to find a location that includes multiple rooms for use. This really comes in handy for storing all your over-flowing bins and bags of extra supplies. You can also appropriate a room for hors d’oeuvres or help-yourself materials for guests.
The more decor, furniture, and wall art included in your venue, the better!!! This makes it SO much easier when prepping your “studio” day-of. Trust me, you do NOT have all day to spend essentially designing an entire space from scratch before your event’s designated time slot!
2. Construct a realistic, solid timeline and stick to it.
Personally, I’d suggest keeping your activities within the 2-3 hour mark, depending on how much you have planned. Under 2 hours, and it’s not really worth the ticket price. Over 3, and people tend to want to get on with the rest of their day without having to abruptly leave!
A good flow for your event might be mingle -> eat -> lesson -> craft. The trick with this is to transition from one activity to the other while people are still having fun (in other words, BEFORE they get bored). Keep up the momentum of your event, to ensure you finish on time and avoid uncomfortable moments.
3. Provide a full and unique experience by making the space your own.
I think when folks pay money by choice to take a class on their precious Saturday, it should be more than just a lesson. Make it feel like they stepped into your world for a day! Transform your event space by knowing your theme and using it to prepare a decor plan.
As mentioned earlier, this becomes so much easier when you’ve already chosen a place that plays into your theme well. But a great thing to cover on your own is to make sure there are no bare tables! Include some sort of centerpiece or table runner everywhere you can, while still leaving enough room to function at the table.
Will your guests be eating? If so, don’t forget the vibe of the place setting or the tableware. Even if they are just grabbing their own plate in a short buffet line, those details either add to or take away from the indulgent experience. Maybe use an eclectic assortment of plates already in your family; or are there some great trendy-but-inexpensive options at Target? Think outside the box.
4. Create an inspiring atmosphere with handmade details.
Remind guests why they’re here by sprinkling examples of your expert craft throughout the room. Whether this is custom signage, floral arrangements, or other artwork, use it to your decorating advantage!
Give your guests something to talk about. Browse Pinterest for other creative (and cost-effective!) ideas to spruce up the place. People went crazy for these flowers frozen in ice cubes pictured below! Personalized touches like these seem to get us in an innovative mood and make guests feel like they’re part of something really unique.
5. Be prepared for lots of photos!
If you only have a small pool of resources with which to decorate, seriously consider having one great photo opp for social media posts. Whether it’s an art wall, a great couch, or a prop photo booth, give people an excuse to show off the fact that they got dressed up all cute (AND show off their creations)! This goes hand-in-hand with choosing a hashtag for the event that everyone can use to create buzz!
Just my opinion: if you haven’t sold out the event in the last few days, start filling those seats with friends (discreetly!). For photos’ sake it’s better to look bustling. When you have a full house it also makes it easier for folks to mingle and feel comfortable, which is great when most people will be a little apprehensive about trying something new.
6. Delight your guests by demonstrating your appreciation.
I say plan for hunger no matter what time of day. Someone in your party will always be hungry (okay… I speak for myself). To me, when you’re requesting that someone spend a few hours of their day with you, it’s respectful to offer refreshments of some sort. It could be brunch or finger foods, or we all know that cocktails of some sort tend to win the day.
Don’t let your new fans leave without something to take home! They have just had an exciting lesson and hopefully acquired a new skill; this is a great opportunity to give them a few tools to practice on their own. They will love their hostess for this!!!
Attentiveness to intricacies like all of the above is what takes a workshop or party to fabuloso level. It makes it much more fun for the photographer to take photos (woohoo!), which in turn helps you look GREAT on your blog. But most importantly, careful consideration of the experience as a whole will really make your patrons feel like it was money well-spent.
Feel free to drop any questions below or let me know if this helped you! Here’s to never settling for ordinary!