Behind the Scenes: From Transactional to Transformational Workshop Creation

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Do you have a signature workshop that showcases your expertise? 

If not, I strongly encourage you to create one because what sets a live workshop apart from other marketing activities such as Facebook Live, and short videos that are embedded in your site talking about your offers is that people get to see you in action.  It serves as a good sample of what their experience might be to work with you.

I have met too many agency owners and service business owners who have never considered this as part of their biz dev effort or their sales funnel.  That is truly a shame.  

Think about this for a second by putting yourself in your prospects’ shoe:

When someone speaks to you about his or her services, the stage is already set.  That is the person telling you what he or she can provide to solve your problem, and you are basically asking yourself, “Do I take this person’s word or not?” 

Simply put, the stage is set, by design, to make you feel skeptical.  This calls for having you to do extra work a.k.a. due diligence to check out his or her competitors, testimonials, requesting for case studies and so on.

This is far from a frictionless onboarding process, which is what you want for your business.

On the other hand, nothing is more convincing than you seeing this person actually offering solutions right in front of you.


It would be much easier for you to determine whether you like the way this person delivers his or her solutions. You feel you are given the power and enough amount of information to make a sound decision on your own terms without relying on what this person tells you or other sources.

Unless you are an established mega influencer in your area of expertise where people would approach you with their mind already made up about 98% to work with you (if this is you, just stop reading this post), you would be doing disservice to yourself and your business for not giving a live workshop a chance.

Oh, wait, you are working on creating a webinar instead?  Put a pause on that if you haven’t done any live, in-person workshops as they trump over webinars. Period.


Webinars do not help you to check the temperature of participants. You can’t see them.  You don’t see their facial expressions and body language.  Moreover, you don’t get immediate feedback from these people in person.

Once you’ve done a few workshops, the experience will help you craft your webinar.  So once again, put a pause on that.

In this post, I am going to share my experience by taking you behind the scene of putting a workshop together and presenting it, including the following key points:

1.     How I prepped for a workshop - what worked & what can be improved,

2.     How I ran a workshop - what worked & what can be improved,

3.     What to do next.

Let’s begin!


The Background

First, I want to set the scene for you so that you understand how this workshop thing came about.

I have a meetup group called Growth-Driven Entrepreneurs Worldwide in NYC where I host live events 6 times a year to create engaging opportunities for entrepreneurs to meet other growth-minded entrepreneurs.

Fireside chats and panels are the core format for this group.   Mostly, I bring in leading figures in different areas of entrepreneurship to share their knowledge with attendees.  My main role is the host and facilitate in this setting.

However, in this past December, I saw a perfect opportunity to host a solo event without any guest speakers by providing a workshop, so I took it and ran with it. 

The venue was already booked at that time, and I wanted to devote less effort by not bringing a guest as this is a large chunk of work when it comes to hosting an event. In other words, I wanted to make it easier on myself.

Normally, I do a recap post incorporating the actual nuggets of takeaways after an event is over. But, I'm mixing it up a bit this time since I hosted my own workshop for the first time as a meetup event.


My Why for Hosting a Workshop

I've done a few workshops in the past.  The difference between this workshop and the rest is that this one was not a promo piece.

Some workshops as well as webinars are designed to be a promo piece known as a lead magnet, a trip wire, a freebie (to get people interested enough to learn more about what the host is selling.)

Mine wasn't one of those.

My plan was to test-run a real program that offers a solution eventually for people to pay.  Here is the logic to conducting a full-on workshop first that is a little controversial:

I am quite bad at dialing back on anything; I am a gung-ho type of person.  There are pros to this personality, but at the same time, there are loads of cons that I am keenly aware of.

So, first I wanted to do a full-on display of everything there is to the topic.  I figured it would be easier to cut down what is already there as opposed to doing a skeleton workshop first and add meat later. Sounds rational, right?

Then why is this controversial?

Well, there are 3 major risks that are associated with this process.  

1.     It is time-consuming to prep a full-scale workshop with visual aids, specifically in this case, slides,

2.     You are making one large assumption that you are giving what participants need,

3.     In case you need to pivot, it’s harder to drop what you feverishly worked on and move on.

Instead, if you go with the opposite route of coming up with the core, bare minimum, or you might say, MVP (minimal viable product), it is definitely easier to maneuver a pivoting process.

That is the reason my route is controversial, and some experts in this field would advise against it.  You will find out how this turned out later in this post.   


Main Purpose of This Workshop

Previously, I mentioned that the reason for this workshop, From Transactional to Transformational: 5-Step Formula to Up-Leveling Your Business in 2018, was to test-run a full, stand-alone workshop.  I want to add a little more detail to this idea so that it helps you to plan yours.

As some of you are very familiar with this concept of “repurposing your content.”  You may write a blog post first, then turn it into a short video with the same content or expand it to a mini-eBook. This is “repurposing your content,” and it’s the best way to leverage what you already have and turn into different formats in order to reach a wider audience in your market.

Make sense, right?

I had this in mind before starting to prep for the workshop. See below for other possibilities by creating a 1 to 2-hour workshop:

Workshop Repurposing Chart.png

Because of this reason, although I did say that I was designing this workshop to be full-on, I was mindful of the following:

1.     Don’t obsess over making it perfect and complete. I would say this version was about 60% complete. 

2.     Keep webinar format in mind when I am creating slides.  An average number of slides required for, say, 45min to 50min webinar is around 70 to 80 slides. Mine turned out to be 77 slides total.

3.     Keep each concept simple but offer more than enough examples.

4.     If I am unsure about some parts of my workshop, leave them in.  Include everything I generate and let attendees tell me what they don’t want.


The Prep

Here is the low down on the prepping process:

1.     Timeline – I had about 3.5 weeks to create a workshop starting from coming up with the title and concept to creating worksheets.

2.     Time spent – Total approx. 35.5 hours.

3.     Step by Step Process:

1) Outline the workshop (2 weeks & revised 3 times, total 5 hours)
2) Creation of skeleton slides based on the outline (3 hours)
3) Filling the skeleton slides with contents & design (25 hours)
4) Creation of worksheets and making final adjustments (2.5 hours)

Here is the simple Gantt chart to outline the above process:

Workshop Creation Process.png

What worked:

By far, mapping out the overall process in 4 steps and sticking with it helped me to get it done without wasting time and energy.

Here is what I absolutely recommend for those who are planning on creating a full-scale, value-packed workshop:

Allocate a longer timeframe (as much as 50% or more) to work on your outline.

Notice that I said “timeframe” and NOT “time.”  This is the secret to put a workshop together efficiently.

From the Gantt chart, you can see that I spent 2 weeks working on my outline, yet I only spent 7 hours total over 2 weeks. 

Outlining is the backbone of any projects i.e. workshop, sales presentation, product creation, and writing a book. If you don’t allocate a longer timeframe allowing yourself to have breaks in between to formulate your outline, you will end up spending an unnecessary amount of time and labor to course-correct your work at a later stage. No one wants to find himself being in this situation.

What you need is not a large amount of time; what you need is an ample “thinking period.”

If you already plan out that you will allocate 2 weeks outlining your work, you get to walk away from it time to time to give your brain enough breaks. That’s luxury you will not have if you don’t map out your process in the beginning. 

In my case, I ended up making major revisions 3 times.  I cannot tell you how satisfied I was with the process knowing I gave enough thought to my outline without stressing myself out.

On a side note, I did not spend a min outlining my workshop at a desk. I did all my outlining on my cell phone while I was in transit during the first 2 weeks. Once I felt I was done outlining, I emailed it to myself.

Why do I bother to talk about how I outlined?

It is because I want to make a point by saying that many things can be done on your smartphone nowadays. Often, what stops people from getting things done is because they feel they need to set aside a chunk of time to get things done.

This is so not true! 

You can outline your work while you wait in line at Trader Joe’s.  You just need to stop looking at your Facebook account.

What can be improved:

I would have liked to get this whole thing done under 30 hours specifically cutting down the process #3 where it took me 25 hours.

The reason behind this is I tend to spend too much time on aesthetics of my slide decks.  One of my pet peeves is shitty, boring slides that contain a massive amount of texts with uninspiring graphics, and I am pretty public about it.  As a result, I tend to overwork my design. 

For most of you, I am guessing, designing slide decks is not your strength.  In that case, you would probably outsource this work.  I must warn you, though, if you are going to outsource this part, you will need to allocate 3 additional hours or more figuring out the best way to articulate how you want your slides to look before you even hire someone to do the work. Otherwise, you are forced to spend more time with this person to troubleshoot.

I am sure you thought, “She should have outsourced the slide creation to save time.”

Totally.  I could have done that.  But, this was a conscious choice not to go that route because graphics is my secret skills. I did not want to spend 3 hours formulating how to convey what I want knowing I would have to hop on a few calls with that person to go over my slides explaining why I don’t want a lot of texts on them and what I would be talking per slide.

What I need to do, instead, is to cut down the actual slide creation time is to let go of the frills. This, I will keep in mind for the next time for sure.

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Actual Running of the Workshop

In the nutshell, there were 3 challenges I found during the workshop:

1. AV issue where the projector fell asleep constantly disrupting the flow. It's hard enough to get people focused, and this did not help.

2. Just to get to the finish line, I rushed through a few areas. 

3. Central air (heat) was not adjustable, and the room was a little too warm. 

With an exception of #2, it is difficult to predict tech related challenges as well as environment related issues.  The only thing I would suggest is to stay calm and be flexible to handle these obstacles.  I must admit the challenge with the projector was quite frustrating, and it showed on my face as I would have wanted a seamless slide navigation.

Ideally, if you can arrange a real walk-through at a venue of your choice, that would be best. If you can’t, adopt.

Good news is, once you tweak and solidify your signature workshop by doing it a few times possibly at the same venue.  By then, you would know how to get around some existing challenges.

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What worked:

I made a choice not to cover the promotional side of hosting a workshop as I wanted the focus for this post to be about creating and presenting a workshop.  However, I will say that allocating enough lead time to promote your event is absolutely vital especially if you are hosting one in a very competitive market such as NYC.

Mind you, I decided to host one in the middle of December when people are busy with their holiday planning and other holiday-themed events not to mention how cold it can get in NY. From the beginning, I knew I was up against a steep competition.

Having said that, the turnout was fantastic!  Total 14 people attended out of 35 signups. Exactly 40% show-up rate, which is nothing to scoff at. The rate was actually pretty high considering other events I have hosted last year.

It was a perfect size for a class. Overall, I felt very fortunate to be able to try something new with a great group of people who were committed to spending some time with me.

Another big win was I made a mission to remember what I needed to execute right after the workshop ended.  There were 3 tasks:

1.     Take a couple of video testimonials,

2.     Ask for quick feedback from as many attendees as possible.

3.     Reach out to them via email within a few days for more feedback.

I was able to do all the above, and this was crucial that I did them all.  Forgetting to do these would undo all the effort that went into creating a workshop. 

Pre-planning what I need to do after the workshop was over undoubtedly paid off.  

Just to give you a context in case you have never done this, it is difficult to stay focused after you deliver your workshop.  Trust me on this one as I have done a few.  You may think you are not a forgetful person, but you will forget a thing or two because of the excitement of finishing something and the interaction you will have with some of the attendees coming to speak to you.

So, I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to just do these 3 simple tasks.

What can be improved:

Hands down, the length and the number of repetitive examples must be cut down.

Although I did a couple of walk-through using my slide decks on my laptop when I was prepping, I grossly underestimated the time required for the participants to digest worksheets (total 7 sheets.)  Moreover, I ran out of time to go over the last step (Step 5) in depth. The total time for the workshop was 1.75 hour.

I was relieved to hear some positive feedback from the participants. At the same time, I realized I sacrificed the amount of interactive time to keep all the lecture-heavy examples.

In the beginning of this post, I shared my logic behind creating a full-scale workshop without worrying too much about the workload or the time required, and how this was a controversial method.

After giving much thought, I have concluded that the controversial route was the right choice. To be clear, I am being a true strategist here by not trying to confirm what I want to believe or trying to justify my decision.

Let me explain. 

As much as I would want all my test-runs to go smoothly and receive rave reviews as a result, that was not my true intention.  I wasn’t there to satisfy my own ego; I was doing this to test a product.  It was more important for me to see and feel what did not work, in some cases, validating my own skepticism. For this reason, I am happy that I did not offer an MVP version.

The only regret I have is not giving enough consideration to put more emphasis on engaging activities.  I know all too well how hard it is to sit through a lecture-style workshop. The balance between the time spent to go over the concepts accompanied by examples and engaging exercises/discussions among attendees must be recalibrated.

Here are some key takeaways you may find useful:

1.     The focus must be to design a workshop that makes participants forget time.

2.     Consider the existing workshop to be a half-day workshop while working on the 1.75-hour version.

3.     Cutting down does not mean reducing the value. Take time on figuring out how to preserve the value while cutting the amount of information down.


You Might Also Like: Behind the Scenes 2: Create Your Signature Workshop from Scratch (Updates & 3 Tips for Digesting Feedback Effectively)


What’s Next?

Here is what I lined up as my assignment for the first half of this year.

1.     Get more feedback as some of the participants agreed to help out,

2.     Create v2.0,

3.     Run v2.0 with a new group of participants,

4.     Tweak further,

5.     Plan a sales funnel for the workshop and execute accordingly,

6.     Book them.

7.     Repurpose the content with a few formats.

As you can see, there are many more steps to go from the first run. My plan is to update you with the process throughout the year so that you get to witness the whole journey of creating a signature workshop that can help grow your business. 

Spoiler alert:  Watch out for my future post covering the work of “repurposing” because each format requires quite a bit of overhauling to be appetizing to serve different audience.  Understanding how to modify effectively is the key here.  I am secretly excited about sharing this one as I think this can be a great example that you can immediately implement for your content repurposing projects.

As always, share with me your own experience of putting your signature workshop together.  I am here to help!