Choosing a workshop duration

When thinking about your workshop duration, there are a few things to consider.

Choosing a workshop duration

What are your limitations?

No matter how everything else goes, you need to consider your limitations.

This includes:

  • How much availability do you have? Remember that you will need set up time and pack down time.
  • How long can you sustain energy before needing a long break?

What are your audience's limitations?

It's important to consider your target audience's limitations.

Perhaps you know that they'll be strapped for time. Or that the content is dense and attention will wane after an hour or two.

Think of who you'll be expecting to attend. What limitations are they likely to have?

Sometimes, you can adjust your content to cater for these limitations. In other cases, you might not be able to.

What do you want to cover in the workshop?

Take a look at the topic you want to cover, what you want to talk about, and the activities you have planned. If you haven't made an outline yet, we recommend that you put one together. It can be quite simple. Here's an example:

  • Arrive and set up
  • Introductions
  • Go over theory
  • Activity #1
  • etc.

Got that? Now add time estimates. Continuing on our example:

  • Arrive and set up (30mins)
  • Introductions (10mins)
  • Go over theory (10mins)
  • Activity #1 (10mins)
  • etc.

Once you have your time estimates, match them to actual times. Here's what our example would look like:

  • 9:30am-10am Arrive and set up
  • 10am-10:10am Introductions
  • 10:10-10:20 Go over theory
  • 10:20-10:30 Activity #1

Lastly, we reckon it's worthwhile to test your estimates. Borrow a friend to do a dry run. If no one can spare the time, try it with a stopwatch. You'll soon find out if your estimates are off (you'll probably also find a heap of improvements you want to make to your workshop!)

Putting it all together

The above 3 sections should give you a pretty solid foundation for the duration of your workshop.

Sometimes you will not be able to cater to your limitations, your audience's limitations and the content you have to cover. If this happens, you may need to consider cutting back on the content you want to cover. This is better than playing with your or your audience's limits.

If in doubt, just go with your best guess - you can always improve it the second time.

Other things to consider

  • You may need breaks if your workshop runs over a meal time
  • You can build in breaks to refresh your energy and your audience's attention
  • You can have a hard or soft finish - depending on what you cover and how long your workshop goes for, the last 15-30mins can be Q&A and/or mingling