Hosting Student Workshops: Part 1

Clubs like the Marketing Society prepare students for the real world by:

  1. Connecting them with professionals who may offer mentorship or job opportunities
  2. Providing knowledge on subjects not adequately covered in school
  3. Providing work experience opportunities

At the Marketing Society we host workshops because a single workshop supports all three goals. It’s like hitting THREE birds with just ONE stone. If you were a cat, this would be a no-brainer.

So what’s a workshop? We’ll define it as: an event in which an experienced professional shares their knowledge of a topic they’re passionate about (eg. Google Analytics). Typically they last 30–60 minutes.

Students learn about subjects that aren’t adequately covered in our lessons and the act of promoting the event is in itself a perfect chance to apply marketing skills.

Sounds awesome, right? Right. They totally are.

But there’s some challenged involved too. You’ll be working with a tight budget. Plus, a poorly organized event can be disastrous. When things go wrong it can sink your relationship with that professional and your if your event sucks, you attendees won’t forget for a long time.

After years of organizing university workshops I’ve made a zillion mistakes. From those, I’ve come up with a system that attracts an audience, ensures a good experience for the speaker, and a good learning experience for the marketer.

This post is a doozy so I broke it into three parts:

  1. Organizing your event
  2. Promoting your event
  3. Executing your event

Part 1: Organizing your event

Start three weeks before your estimated event date. You have one week to get your details straight and then two weeks to promote the event! I use the ‘5 Ws’ approach to make sure my bases are covered.

Who:

List who NEEDS to be there. For a workshop that typically means the:

  • Workshop guest speaker
  • Event organizer
  • Marketing Society president

Choose your speaker carefully. Ideal professionals are subject matter experts, experienced presenters, and have hiring authority or influence.

This is also an opportunity to impress someone you want to impress. If you pull it off well, you can make a great impression with someone interesting.

Things are more complex if this is a networking event. If it is, start 3–5 weeks before the event and organize your contacts in a Google Sheet. Ask other members to invite their contacts. The Google Sheet helps track your RSVP numbers and ensures no one is double-contacted accidentally.

When:

Find a time that works for your key people first. That means the speaker, the organizer, and the organization’s president.

The best times for workshops tend to be Monday to Thursday between 11 am and 5 pm when the most students are on campus.

If it’s not possible to find common time in this window, try to get as close as you can. It’s tough to get students back on campus after they’ve left for the day. People are also more tired in the evening and less likely to participate.

What:

Understand what the workshop is going to look like. It’s not enough to know that ‘it’s going to be about social media’. You need to know exactly what the speaker has in mind to determine what materials will be needed.

Some questions to answer: Is a TV/projector required for a presentation? Do we need desks for working on? Paper for sketching on? Will the presentation be loud or quiet? Do students need laptops or specialty software?

Decide if food is needed. Generally I’d avoid the expense unless the workshop is particularly long or at an awkward time of day. Food is nice, but it doesn’t drastically affect how people will perceive your event.

Where:

Choose a room that contains the resources you need and adequate space for your attendees. I’ve found boardrooms are best as they’re quiet, look professional, and have projectors that occasionally work.

For larger events such as networking events, the Lincoln Park Room is great and the maintenance team will set up the furniture however you need it.

At MRU there are a few great room options that are free to reserve:

  • Unused classrooms (Book through second floor administration desk)
  • RBC Slate (EB 3121) (Book through office within Slate)
  • Bissett Boardroom (EB 2061) & Sinclair Boardroom (EB 2027) (Book through second floor administration desk)
  • Lincoln Park Room (J301) (Book through SAMRU Clubs Coordinator)
  • Library Classroom (Book through SAMRU Clubs Coordinator)

Why:

Understand why your event is worth someone’s time. This is the story you’ll be using to attract an audience.

For instance, if this is a social media workshop:

“1 in 3 marketing graduates will end up running the company Instagram. Learn how to spend money on social, educate old people, and measure your results.”

Use the credibility of your speaker to build credibility for your event. If your guest built and sold a dozen companies and made millions you should communicate that clearly. Or if they landed a huge client. Or won a cool award. Whatever it is, people want to know that your speaker knows her stuff so don’t be shy about sharing her accomplishments.


Once you’ve got your details straight, you’re ready to make this thing official! In the next post we’ll focus on proper event promotion so you fill the room and everyone has a dandy time.

Cheers,

Wade Lahring

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