Designing Workshops That Work

Jun 5, 2018

Nothing strikes fear into the hearts of marketing folks quite like an all-day workshop. Hour upon hour locked in a windowless room, staring at the unloved poppyseed muffin, desperately hoping that the icebreaker isn’t too painful and counting the minutes until the next break.

Workshops have gotten a bad name over the years but the truth is that workshops can be incredibly effective and energizing for a team if they are executed properly. The problem isn’t that workshops are bad, but that most workshops are poorly designed.

At Genuine we are strong advocates for workshops because we are all about collaboration and workshops can be a great way to engage a team. Here is our (no longer) secret approach to designing workshops that work:


Many workshops fail due to a failure to establish clear outcomes for the session. It’s crucial for you to determine the ultimate goal of the session and to make sure that you achieve that goal by any means necessary. Workshops with vague objectives often seem like successes in the moment but reveal themselves to be of little value in retrospect (kind of like meals at “small plate” restaurants).


Like solving any strategic marketing challenge, start by understanding the target audience. Who is in the room and what are their personal motivations? What is the political dynamic between the participants? What expert perspectives are covered and where will you need to fill in the gaps? Your mission is to get the most out of each and every person and you can do that by consciously amplifying the quieter voices while discreetly neutralizing the dominators and making every participant feel valued.


The fun part of designing a workshop is in figuring out how to get the specific mix of people to deliver the outcomes in a way that is both productive and entertaining. You will want to consider the size of the group, the amount of time you have, and the physical space you can leverage.

The key is to design an experience that subtly manages people’s energy throughout the session. Start with something easy and fun. Alternate active exercises with passive exercises. Give people plenty of phone breaks so they stay focused in the session. Mix up large group, small group and individual exercises. Move around a lot. Provide lots of positive feedback and even more snacks and candy. And always end on a high note.

Now that you’re down with O.P.E. (outcomes, people, experience) don’t be afraid to use workshops to inspire team collaboration and participation. If you are still worried, please feel free to drop us a note and we’ll be happy to give you some suggestions on how to design a workshop that actually works.

Mitch Blum