How to Plan a Workshop in New York (and not be called a scammer).
On Sunday afternoon, I was scouring Peerspace to find a venue in New York where I could host a Brunch Club: Goal Setting Workshop for People with Side Hustles in February. My requirements were simple:
An accessible location in Manhattan
Enough tables and chairs for 25 people to sit and write without spilling their coffee
Room to serve a light breakfast and mid-morning snacks
Cost of $100/hour or less to keep the financial risk low
My plan was to take my Eve of the Eve Goal Setting workshop, which I facilitated in Chicago on December 30th, to a new audience on my next trip to New York. As I was messaging venue managers, a thread on Twitter caught my eye and probably caught yours as well. Kayleigh Donaldson, a writer for Pajiba, was adding to her thread about an Instagram influencer's creativity world tour and how it was going horribly awry.
As an event and retreat facilitator, every detail in the thread made me a little sick to my stomach. She hadn't rented venues, she didn't hire caterers, and she miscalculated how much space 1200 mason jars require. Donaldson wrote a summary in Pajiba and the whole debacle, which ended in refunds of over $15,000 to people in multiple cities, has also been covered by Buzzfeed.
I launched my company, Natiiv Facilitation, to help people plan retreats and workshops that move groups forward through introspection and difficult conversations. If you want a peek into my checklist to avoid having to cancel and refund tickets to workshop participants, here's how I plan an event in another city.
Triple check the calendar for conflicts. Are you free the day of the event and the day before for travel? Is it a holiday or major event where you're going? Does the date work for any speakers or guests you want to have participate?
Draft an agenda for the event including ample time for food, moving between spaces and using the restroom. If you are hosting an event for 50 women with one toilet, what are you even doing?
Find a space that fits your budget. I like to use Peerspace to find workshop spaces, but if you are a member of a coworking space with a national presence (Soho House or WeWork) that's a great option.
Reserve the space before you sell any tickets. In Chicago, my friends trust me to say a venue is TBD, but I can't rely on that level of trust in another city.
Make a plan for food. You might hire a caterer to think through everything for you or use delivery service to drop food off throughout the day. Make sure you plan for utensils, plates and napkins. Also make the garbage can easy to access for people as they finish eating.Make a second plan for coffee and water. At the bare minimum, you need to offer people water and coffee or tea. If you opt for plastic bottles of water, make sure they are 12-16 ounces. Nobody can pay attention if they are parched!
Launch your online registration. I'm using Wix ticketing these days, but am a long time Eventbrite user as well.
Make a plan for supplies. Do you want to schlep sticky notes and Sharpie markers from Chicago or have some delivered to your hotel the day you arrive? Will your venue manager accept shipments or offer concierge services to pick up supplies for you?
Every event I plan is different depending on the audience, but no event I'm involved in happens without a venue, catering or fresh packs of sticky notes.
Join me in New York on February 23 for the Brunch Club or drop a note to plan a retreat or workshop together.