How to put together an actor workshop

As someone with seven years’ experience in the training world, I regularly feel frustration when attending, or even simply trying to attend acting workshops. Organisation does not appear to be a skill that many acting teachers have, so here I will share my experiences in the hope that together we can raise the standard of acting workshops!

Prepare, prepare, prepare

Firstly, there is no magic answer. The answer is, in short – get yourself prepared! Be organised and you will take some pressure off yourself. Here are my top tips;

Design the workshop

It’s really not a good idea to wing it, especially if it’s your first workshop. Even if you don’t come unstuck, the chances are you’ll appear disorganised and end up looking unprofessional. Even if you know the subject inside out, this will plant a seed of doubt in your learners’ minds, and could result in a damaged reputation.

Firstly, decide on between 3-5 clear learning objectives for the workshop. These should all start with “By the end of the workshop, learners will…” examples could be: “have a basic understanding of Coward’s style of writing”, “have developed clearer vocal resonance”, “be able to use peripheral vision” or “recite the three rules of improvised comedy.”

Sit down and write a session plan in full. A good session plan should consist of a number of columns: The activity itself (i.e. physical warm up), what the teacher will be doing (i.e. leading by example), what the students will be doing (i.e. breathing in through nose and out through mouth), an estimate of the time needed for the activity, and any resources that may be needed (i.e. props, scripts or handouts). Be sure to include time for registration and housekeeping announcements at the beginning, and include a break if the workshop is physically demanding or goes on for several hours.

Book the venue

Only book venues that you have seen and are confident can accommodate your needs. I speak from experience when I say booking venues because their website or brochure looks impressive can be disastrous.

Check the cancellation terms and conditions. Try to book at least three months in advance of the workshop, as this will give you time to promote the workshop. If you need to cancel the workshop due to low or no uptake, you need to minimise the cost to you. A lot of venues, particularly popular ones, will have a minimum one-month notice period for cancellations. Be sure you’re aware of the terms and conditions before booking.

Promote, promote, promote!

Assuming that you have ascertained that there is demand for your workshop, be clear who you are targeting and select the appropriate medium to reach them. If you’re targeting professional actors, advertise in professional publications. If you’re targeting local amateurs, print some fliers and put them in local theatres and community centres. Be sure to utilise social media whoever you are targeting. It’s free, and even if you don’t reach your target audience you will be sure to reach people who are in contact with your audience.

Remember that on Facebook, only roughly 25% of followers of a business page will see a particular post. This means that you can potentially re-post it up to four times without the same person seeing it. On Twitter you post will get lost in a sea of noise, so you can post the details of the workshop far more often.

Remember though – social media is just that – social. Be sure to interact with your followers and don’t post purely promotional material. Give them something to talk about too. If you are able to film a short promo video for your workshop – even better!

It’s worth considering paying for advertising on Facebook too. I recently advertised a show on a pay-per-click basis. I ended up spending £20 on an advert that appeared over 11,000 times in people’s advert bars. This translated to roughly 40 clicks – but the 11,000 impressions helped drill the show into peoples’ subconscious. The show sold out before we even got the posters printed.

Evaluate

Before the workshop, design some simple evaluation forms. You only need ask a few simple questions, such as “On a scale of 1-5, did the workshop meet your requirements?” You can ask them to comment if they answer lowly. Also ask whether they feel you met the stated learning objectives, what they thought of the venue, and what they would change about the workshop, if anything.

I don’t think I’ve ever been asked to evaluate an acting workshop that I have attended, and I find this absolutely shocking. Participant feedback is essential if you are to maintain a good reputation and continue to develop workshops to meet participant need.

Ask the participants to complete the workshop at the end, or use a website like Survey Monkey and email them a link after the workshop.

The cycle starts again

If your workshop was successful, you could use the evaluation responses to advertise the next workshop. For example, “95% of participants said they would recommend this workshop to other actors.” Or by using a quote: “The workshop exceeded my expectations, I never knew Shakespeare could be so much fun!”

I’ve barely touched the tip of the iceberg with this article. Feel free to contact me if you would like further help or advice, or assistance with any training courses!