How to engage your workshop audience

Got an audience of shy characters, or the strong, silent type? Running a workshop can be challenging at times, especially if you feel like you’ve got a room full of reluctant participants. Don't worry, we're here to help!

It’s useful to bear in mind that sometimes concentration can look like boredom or lack of interest in people, but they may just be trying hard to take on a new subject or even just feel a bit nervous. 

It’s important to keep your workshop audience engaged right from the beginning. And if you feel like they’re slipping away, there are a few things you can try to re-engage the room. 

Here are our tips for keeping your workshop audience engaged!

Warm them up

Get people talking from the moment they arrive, whether it’s sharing their name and their favourite animal, or a little ‘get to know you’ activity like zip zap zoom. Having a central topic for a conversation starter will help people feel part of the experience and start to settle into the room. 

Focus on the learning, not the teaching 

Your workshop should focus on the impact on the participants, and less on an analysis of your teaching skills. Don’t be afraid to mix it up and adapt to how your audience tells you you want to engage. This could look like changing up the setting of the space - working on a paper on the floor instead of a circle of chairs - to small group or pair discussions instead of calling out in front of the whole room. As long as the outcome is the same, it doesn’t matter how they get there. 

Start a conversation

Are your qQuestions to the room are met with silence? Find out why they’re there, and what they want to learn. Walk around the room and ask each person individually, or get them to talk in pairs and share back with the group what they learnt about the other person. 

Take an active break

Get them up and moving, do a little stretching or breathing exercise, and put on some music to change the atmosphere. An active break means keeping their minds on the topic of the workshop and in the space, rather than sending them off for ten minutes. Get your group moving in a new way to shake off the nerves and get the blood flowing, you never know what ideas might strike with a bit of movement! 

Get hands-on

Props can be a great way to get a group involved in your workshop and a useful tool for problem-solving. Whether it’s printed worksheets to draw on, individual whiteboards to share ideas or post-it notes on the wall, or even playdoh to shape their feelings and opinions on the topic, giving your participants something physical to do with their hands can help side-step any nerves they may have about interacting.

Running your own workshop? Check out this article on preparation to do before running your own workshop

Accept all personalities

Some people don’t want to interact and that’s okay. Sometimes people just want to come to an event or workshop to experience the art and try their hand at something new, without the pressure to interact or feedback to the facilitator how they’re finding their experience. As the leader, it’s your job to create a safe space where people can feel at ease to experience what you’re teaching in a way that suits them. 


We’d love to know how your workshop went! Sharing and reflecting on your experience is all part of preparing your portfolio to achieve your Arts Award. Why not set up a profile on Voice to showcase your Arts Award journey to others. 

Header Image Credit: Unsplash

Author

Nici West

Nici West Voice Team

Nici is the an editor for Voice. She loves all things books, theatre, music, art, visiting other countries, anything creative, and sometimes attempts to make YouTube videos. Alongside Voice she writes and edits through her own pursuits.You can occasionally find her running marathons dressed as a black dog.

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