Workshops have long been a great way to communicate ideas, bring people together, or get closer to accomplishing business goals. But as events have moved online, the status quo doesn’t work anymore.
After too many Zoom calls and webinars, we’re tired. We need something new. So we started digging into how we could make virtual or hybrid workshop ideas more engaging and productive. What surprised us was that, even though the human connection might feel different online (or just awkward at times), there are many benefits to virtual workshops.
So whether you’re preparing for in-person workshops again or if you plan on running virtual breakout sessions this year, we’ve put this list of workshop ideas together to inspire your next event.
What Is a Workshop Event?
A workshop — often used in B2B event marketing — is an event that gives attendees hands-on experience with the subject matter. Workshop topics or themes are often specific to a certain industry or niche. Attendees participate in workshops to acquire a new skill or specialized knowledge that they can apply to their day-to-day life or profession.
Why Is a Workshop Event Valuable?
Workshop events are valuable because they enable attendees to learn new skills and work toward their goals. This can include certification courses or unique networking opportunities. Workshops also provide opportunities to break up larger events — virtual or in-person — into smaller sessions with more hands-on and interactive activities.
It can be overwhelming to start planning an engaging workshop from scratch. After you’ve identified the goals and desired outcomes for your workshop, read this list of ideas to inspire your next event.
19 Workshop Event Ideas
1. Get Personal
Nike has gone all-in by offering personalized experiences and workshops to its large fanbase. After downloading the Nike app, fans don’t only have access to personalized promotions or new products. They also receive personalized invites to upcoming events and workshops. Nike’s workshops are both online and in-person, depending on the purpose of the workshop.
For one virtual event, Nike created personalized welcome pages for its attendees with tailored messaging from keynote speaker and tennis pro Serena Williams.
Source: Nike News
For one of its biggest events of the year, Air Max Day 2021, Nike hosts an immersive virtual experience with keynote speakers, musical performances, product drops, and creative workshops. Attendees will get the opportunity to learn from Nike collaborators and designers in smaller groups even though the event is global and all-virtual.
2. Blend the Physical and Virtual
Virtual reality (VR) used to be an expensive idea for workshops, but over the years the sticker price has gone down. For marketing teams using account-based marketing, sending a VR set to a list of top accounts could be a great way to impress and interact virtually with key decision-makers.
VR still might be slightly obscure, but it won’t be that way forever. About 20% of Facebook’s employees now work on VR and AR technology. The social media company plans on greatly accelerating the technology over the next few years.
The use cases for VR are vast and vary greatly across industries. For B2B companies working across manufacturing, energy, or complex fields, the technology could be used for improving training workshops. VR will help workshop organizers train attendees in a safer environment while lowering costs.
3. Teach By Doing
Source: Facebook for Business
The best way to learn new skills is often by doing them. At Facebook Blueprint Live workshops, Facebook leaders teach agency leaders how to best leverage Facebook for their clients. Together, they engage in interactive experiences and build media plans for theoretical clients. There is no sitting back in these invite-only, one-day workshops. Participants are expected to collaborate and apply their learning in real-time.
4. Leverage Social Media
If your workshop is designed for marketing purposes on some level, remember to tie it together with your other channels. Social media skills are extremely helpful when it comes to promoting your workshop, but they also are beneficial for creating engagement and participation opportunities during the workshop.
Add interactivity to the workshop by enabling Live Q&A on your streaming platform, offering rewards and incentives for sharing content or hashtags, polling your audience, or more.
5. Build Connections
In a similar fashion to networking, B2B businesses can provide clients with direct access to new leads or prospects by bringing together individuals in their network. Base your workshop on a common interest they share and coordinate scheduling so that businesses and potential customers have plenty of time to meet.
The premise behind Wine Pleasures: Buyer Meets Cellar is to bring together boutique wine producers and serious wine importers. To facilitate personal discussions, the organizers behind Buyer Meets Cellar set up one-on-one business meetings between attendees according to mutual interests. Post-workshop networking events serve as an additional opportunity for attendees to expand their networks within the industry.
Source: Wine Pleasures
6. Add to Your Conference
If you’re hosting a conference or summit, consider implementing a few workshops into your schedule. Workshops serve to fill slow event times with high-value content, and as an event type, these are completely flexible to any space. This strategy works as part of a broader multi-touch event marketing plan or the idea that a variation of event types can be strategically placed throughout the multi-touch funnel for each one to be most effective.
The Adobe Max Conference for instance continuously hosts a “Community Pavilion” outside their main event. This space showcased a variety of vendors, interactive technology booths, and creative workshops for attendees to choose from.
7. Make Networking Natural
Using a dedicated networking platform or event app, workshop attendees can upload their business headshots, bios, and interests into a LinkedIn-esque website. From there, participants can easily message and interact with each other before and after the event. Bringing together like-minded people is a great goal, but helping them stay in touch after the workshop ends is an even more challenging task.
Nanotexnology 2019’s B2B Matchmaking Event lets attendees upload their cooperation profiles. Through their system, users can request meetings and finalize agendas with help from event coordinators. Because their workshop participants are located all over the world, a dedicated communication tool helps overcome the barrier of costly international cell phone plans.
8. Champion Collaboration
People are tired of online meetings where the conversation is dominated by one or two people. Project development is optimized when multiple participants chime in. The challenge is that not everyone can contribute at once — especially using a video conferencing tool.
One solution is to use sticky notes. This is common practice in traditional workshops, but can also be applied virtually. Tools like Miro enable participants to create, organize, store, and export sticky notes created in a workshop.
If you’re running internal workshops to build and develop projects, sticky notes are great because they add an asynchronous element to the meeting. Participants can add notes before or after the workshop to optimize the development process. Digital product agency Crema uses sticky notes to collaborate on projects, such as its webinar series, “Collaboration after COVID-19.”
9. Provide One-of-a-Kind Resources
One of the most important tools for any business regardless of their niche is real-world data and case studies. This information is often difficult to obtain. Hosting a workshop that offers these materials plus expert analysis on the given topics creates a truly unique experience for attendees and can easily be added to any of your corporate event ideas.
SmartCities’s Clean Air Through IoT Networks Workshop is dedicated to improving air quality with statistical data and examples of success stories they’ve personally witnessed. Part informational meeting, part brainstorm session, this workshop is a great example of just how important events of this kind can be.
10. Explore New Technologies
Not only is new technology incredibly interesting, but it’s also a lot of fun to use. Give workshop attendees firsthand experience with gadgets and software not yet on the market or newly launched. Once they’ve had a chance to experience it for themselves you can use the workshop to further explain how these tools can be integrated with their business practices shortly.
KneeVR’s Workshop on Virtual Reality in Healthcare helps professionals understand that VR is not just for gamers. Their workshop gives attendees a glimpse into the many practical uses for VR through speakers, inspiring cases, and live demos. This is just another example of how VR can be used in live events.
11. Foster Partnerships
Partnerships are a popular way to increase reach and revenue for any business type. At partnership workshops, attendees with similar interests and business goals have an opportunity to meet through these industry-specific events. Knowing who to invite will largely depend on your larger business goals. For instance, if you’re targeting specific accounts in a specific industry through an account-based event marketing strategy, you may want to bring in a specific partner. As you’ll see in this next example, there are lots of ways to facilitate interactions with this goal in mind.
The Euregional B2B Brokerage Workshop uses speed dating to help entrepreneurs, SMEs, and institutions spark potential relationships. They also offer matchmaking services in the form of small-group workshops.
12. Get Educational
Your product or service can be the main theme for a series of workshop events. If your business is constantly updating or improving its offers, hosting educational workshops helps keep users engaged for the long term. Bonus points if you offer insider tips that will only be shared during the sessions.
13. Answer Burning Questions
No matter what profession you choose, they probably have a set of questions around their most challenging stumbling blocks that require advanced training. Workshops are a great way to give them the answers they so desire. ImpactHub’s Sales Workshop keeps this fact in mind as they walk participants through their biggest pain points and present a variety of solutions, tools, and tips. They even invite a panel of experts to weigh in on the issues.
14. Offer Mini-Workshop Sprints
Sometimes a topic will be important enough to do a workshop on, but so specific that it doesn’t fit into the standard 1 hour to 90 minute session time we’re all so accustomed to. The good news is you can offer a series of niche interest workshops in 20-30 minutes sprints in a single day. Covering a lot of topics in a short amount of time will be extra appealing to attendees who can cherry-pick the lessons most pertinent to them.
15. Make It Quirky
B2B workshops don’t have to be all business, all the time. Whether you choose a playful twist on a well-known topic or bring a fresh perspective to an old issue, there are no limits to how creative you can get with your workshop topics. For creativity exercises and other prompts, Dave Birss has developed plenty of resources to get you started.
Source: Dave Birss
16. Target the Right Prospects
Instead of telling your prospects how much you know about a topic, you can show them through a workshop. If you choose a specific need of theirs to address and combine that with an impactful set of tools, you’ll have a greater chance of converting them later on.
NASSCOM’s Deep Insights Workshop is mostly interested in improving brand awareness among top-of-funnel clients like entrepreneurs with a certain level of funding. They help answer the top two questions every customer in this category has at this stage of growth. This approach helps NASSCOM build lifelong relationships through their workshops.
17. Provide a Free Evaluation
Sometimes it’s hard to determine the success of a business when you’re working inside of it. Businesses with lots of clients in a particular niche have a broader view of the industry. Based on observations from real customers over time, you may have a better idea of a company’s relative health than even they do.
The Place Berlin’s B2B Prospection Workshop offers a free diagnostic of each participant’s lead generation process and gives specific advice on how to make improvements. Attendees also enjoy lectures on broader topics so that they can get both big-picture knowledge and personal recommendations from the same event.
18. Think Big … and Small
Regardless of your current audience reach, workshops are an opportunity to introduce your brand to international or local markets. Whether you’re a small-town company spreading its wings to other countries, or a globally recognized business reconnecting with its roots, there are lots of ways to target specific communities through workshops.
Hoteliers European Marketplace (HEM) 2019 caters to a niche audience: hoteliers in Europe. And although their name might imply they stick to a single region of the globe, the one-day B2B workshop invites international wholesalers, tour operators, and online intermediaries. In doing so they are helping their European clients reach newer markets and form partnerships they might not have otherwise had access to.
19. Use the Best Tools
If there’s one thing we know by now, it’s that online versions of live events have the potential to be very successful. They’re highly measurable: you can track the number of views, participants, and CTAs. They are also very accessible so audiences don’t have to travel to join in on the fun.
Now that virtual events, breakout sessions, and workshops have become normal, you need to be using the tools that can help you give the best experience to your participants.
Tools like Zoom, Miro, and Dropbox Paper are great for collaboration. If your workshops are part of a larger event, you’ll also want a modern end-to-end event success platform that can support in-person, virtual, or hybrid events.
Key Takeaways: Master the Art of Workshop Events
Here are some big ideas to keep in mind when planning your next business workshop:
- Make workshops fun by choosing cool themes and cutting-edge tools and tips.
- Provide a high-value experience with useful extras and a curated guest list.
- Foster relationships between participants who can benefit from doing business with each other.
No matter what your event strategy is, focus on helping your attendees accomplish their goals and you can’t go wrong.
Editor’s Note: This blog was originally published in January 2019 and has been updated for relevance.