Tips for Programs: Workshops


This page provides tips for organizing workshops for specific audiences:

For tips on how to develop effective practices for specific audiences, see the Changing Public Behavior self-study modules.

Research and findings about Best Education Practices for specific audiences is also available on the Water Outreach website.


In the workshop world, you will meet vastly different kinds of people. They may range from student leaders to special interest audiences. How you approach each of these audiences may differ, but the foundation of the approach can stay relatively the same. In this section, we describe workshop considerations in general and then for different audiences: General Public, Special Interest Audiences, Student Leaders, and Teachers/Home Schoolers.

Setting up your workshop begins with setting up the right date, time, location, agenda, speakers, food/refreshments and even atmosphere. For example, deciding when you are to hold a teacher’s workshop depends on the time of year because a teacher’s year is divided between school year and summer. If you hold it at the end of the school year, you might encounter teachers who are burned out and unwilling to attend something that they may see as knowledge acquired that will just fade away through the summer months. If you hold it at the beginning of the school year, they may be more energized and actually enthusiastic about new ideas that they can bring to new students in a new year.

Think of your workshop group and how they operate through the year. Putting yourself in their shoes and trying to figure out what is best for them and how they could get the most out of what you’re trying to relay to them is the goal.

Concerns like location, agenda, resources, even college credit or appropriate credit to the attendee really depend on the kind of workshop you’re organizing. In the instance when students are involved, make contact with the appropriate teachers or go straight to the Educational Resource Center, or the equivalent in your county. When dealing with special-interest groups, contact their main organizing office. An example would be if plan to put on a Realtor’s Workshop, contact the Board of Realtors to assist you in generating a mailing list, making sure all the necessary regulations are being followed, and taking care of any credit that needs to be acknowledged. Back to top.

General Public

Putting on a district workshop for a general location,

 whether it’s a Backyard Conservation Workshop or a Horse Owners Workshop, requires a clear-cut agenda and good media contacts. Rely on press releases, radio interviews, posted flyers, brochures, and advertising at related events to get the word out.

Usually evenings or Saturdays are the best time for general public workshops because most people have day jobs and are coming to your event because it interests them. Making this a casual event is probably the best course of action, where your agenda is loose and your speakers entertaining and approachable.  

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Special Interest Audiences

Organizing a workshop for a special interest audience

 can be quite complex. Whenever possible, work with a related organizations that could help promote and sponsor your program. For instance, if you would like to hold a Realtor’s Workshop, you could develop a relationship with the Board of Realtors, who would be helpful in providing contacts and information on continuing education credit. Decide who’s paying for what, who’s in charge of sending notification letters to realtors in the county, who’s going to reserve the facilities, contact the media, decide on speakers and so on. Seek sponsorships or donations to help support your event. In a special interest or general public workshop, a sponsor might really enjoy being seen as a major donor by such a diverse group. So when it comes to resources like folders, pens and papers, even food, consider asking other agencies and organizations for some help.

Whatever audience your workshop is geared toward, think of it like some big public meeting you’re organizing where the people attending have come to learn and interact with other like-minded individuals. You’ll need to narrow down some basics like:

    • Who am I aiming to enlighten
    • What will my main focus be
    • How big do I want this event
    • Who will I ask to speak at this event
    • Who will I ask to join me in this endeavor
    • Where and when will I hold this event
    • What items will I need to make it a succes

As for resources, remember you’ll most likely need:

    • Binders/Folders
    • Paper/Notebooks
    • Pens
    • Audio/visual equipment like an overhead projector, VCR, screen, and so on
    • Refreshments/beverages
    • Scissors, construction paper, string, tape, easel with paper, markers, etc.   

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Student Leaders

Months prior to the event,

 after you’ve established a theme and a goal and developed any partnerships with other districts or agencies, contact teachers with a letter indicating date, time, location, theme and goal and as much of an agenda as you have. If this is going to be a countywide workshop, indicate to the teachers that they are being asked to select several students who may be particularly interested in this subject. For example, if the workshop theme may be protecting wetlands and the goal is to get ten high school students from each county school to teach this topic to the younger students in their schools.

Your agenda for this event has to be interesting, quick and fast-paced and probably not longer than 5 hours in order to keep the attention of the students. Each section of the workshop should not exceed 35-40 minutes and, if possible, let the students move about between sessions. Charismatic guest speakers should be chosen and hands-on breakout sessions where the kids can actually touch and create are preferable. Learning by doing, asking others for help and seeing how other kids do things is a great way to cover several bases in social education. Making it fun or providing something “cool” like a snake as an example of wildlife in a wetland is very important, too. 

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Teachers/Home Schoolers

Scheduling workshops for teachers can be challenging

 because of their wide range of interest levels and degrees of expertise. Teachers are very busy, too, so your subject should grab their attention, relate to academic content standards, and provide professional development credits. Planning your workshop during the right time of year is also essential. Early August or on one of their in-service days is a good time, but check with several teachers or administrators to find the best time for the schools in your area.

Be sure to include home school teachers in your workshop promotions. Many belong to home school networks that can be accessed through the Internet.

Work with your Educational Resource Center for a list of all teachers in your county. They can also give you information on professional development requirements for teachers.

How you go about organizing your workshop is entirely up to you. Participating in someone else’s workshop before planning your own is helpful. Don’t be afraid to ask if you can observe or help with another person’s workshop. We all benefit from working together to provide quality programs.   

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Adapted with permission from Soil and Water Conservation District Outreach: A Handbook for program Development, Implementation and Evaluation. 2003. Ohio Department of Natural Resource Division of Soil and Water Conservation.