Understanding a Workshop Audience when Preparing to Lead Employee Training

Morguefile - mfeinfDear Joni,
I am teaching a workshop next week for an organization and the training manager hasn’t been that great at letting me know who the workshop audience will be.  I feel that I need to understand the workshop audience before I can fully prepare for the workshop. I think the challenge is that she expects many last minute registrations for the workshop so she is dodging my questions about the make-up of the group and even the number of participants registered. What should I do if she doesn’t give me the information in time to prepare?
Thanks,
JP

Dear JP,

I am hoping that your workshop proposal or training agreement with the organization has articulated a maximum number of enrollments for the workshop. And also, that you’ve factored in the cost of handouts or other supplies for that maximum number. If you have done that, then prepare for the maximum number of students and bill for that maximum explaining that you need notice to ensure you understand the audience and can prepare and bill for the actual number of students registered.

If your agreement doesn’t state what your registration cut off date is for prep, then you may want to add a clause that requires training managers/conference organizers to provide enrollment numbers a minimum of 24 hours (or longer, if you need it) prior to the event.
As for the audience make-up and background, you could do two things. One, you could ask the Training Manager to give you background information (experience level, educational level, technical skill proficiency etc.) on those that have registered to date. Alternatively, you can start your training session with an icebreaker that will allow you to get to know who is in the class and what they hope to gain out of the workshop. This will mean you have to be flexible with your presentation style and have extra exercises/content available in case an activity won’t suit them.

An example of an icebreaker that will help you get to know your audience is to ask each person to introduce themselves and state how familiar they are with the topic (beginner, intermediate and advanced) and one thing they hope to gain from the workshop. If there are too many participants to have everyone introduce themselves, you can ask for a show of hands on their familiarity of the topic and ask them to work as a table/group to come to consensus on three things they hope to gain from the workshop and report out by table/group.

Good luck with your workshop!

Joni

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