WE begin with a conversation
A conversation with workshop participants . . . building a foundation for a successful workshop experience
In order for a workshop to have its maximum impact on your photography both you, the workshop participant, and the workshop leader have to be prepared. Prepared for what you might ask?
To answer that question, let’s look at the workshop from two perspectives – your’s and your workshop leader’s. It may seem obvious that workshop participants need to know what they want to get out of the workshop they are attending. But, I can tell you from experience many people arriving for the start of a workshop have not given this much thought if any at all. Often, the workshop is approached much like a vacation, with most attention placed on what to pack, transportation to the workshop venue, and the schedule before and after.
Many workshop leaders will kick off their workshops with a question. Answers to the question about what participants hope to get out of the workshop are often shallow, most often repeating something likely read in the material used to market the workshop in the first place. By the time the leader has gotten around to the last couple of people, we’ve heard the answers before. This is comforting to workshop leaders because most of the expectations are generic enough they are what we have come prepared to address.
It would be more telling, however, if, rather than an opening question asking what the gathering of participants hopes to learn, the workshop was to end with a question about specifically what each participant has learned. Even that, however, is likely to result in answers that share thoughts from other answers and not specifically address what has been learned by individual participants, that address why they participated in the workshop in the first place, what they had hoped to learn unless those goals and objectives had been identified ahead of time.
This leads me to the second part of this equation, what is the workshop leader prepared to accomplish on behalf of participants? Leaders often have spent considerable effort deciding what the workshop will provide participants. Detailed presentations have been developed to share the workshop leader’s knowledge and experience. Shooting venues have been scouted, likely many times. The leader’s knowledge of what’s available as subject matter is impressive. Alternative venues have even been scouted as back-ups in case the primary venues don’t work out for one reason or another.
Often, what the workshop presents to its participants is pretty much preordained even before registrations start coming in. The “success” of the workshop pretty much depends on the leader’s ability to address spontaneous questions, the weather, the beauty of a sunset, the personalities of participants, as well as the workshop leader’s. Experienced workshop leaders become quite good at answering questions, identifying potential subjects, suggesting compositional elements, and reviewing images to add spontaneously to the group’s take-aways. Add the chemistry of a group of people passionate about a common interest and everyone goes home feeling pretty good about their experience.
Now for the big questions.
- What did each participant learn?
- Was it what they hoped to learn when they paid their deposit?
- Did it enhance their ability to deliberately create the photographs they are anxious to garner?
Was it what they had decided they needed and/or wanted to learn?