How To Run A Workshop

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When Jeremiah and Jacob first asked me to run their photo + video workshops in Bali, I was petrified.

The cost was going to be over $4,500, and I didn’t even have that much in my savings at that point in time. How could I create an experience worth more than I was?

A year and two months later, we’ve run four workshops, served 33 guests, and created a meaningful community of people from 12 different countries. And the thing we keep hearing? The creative community is the most valuable part.

I see two main principles that drive the success of these workshops. I believe they can be applied to any retreat, cabin weekend, kids camp, or the like.

Here they are: people become close by proximity and shared values.

Proximity is the arena for change to happen. Car rides up the mountain, downtime between events, leaning back at the dinner table. Environments shape us to a very strong degree, so designing environments that subvert traditional communication patterns is essential. Create spaces where people can connect as friends instead of strangers. For our workshops, this looks like family style dinners around one table, photo editing sessions on the couches, and long car rides.

Shared value is the fuel that drives the change. When there’s a common goal, there’s a language that develops, and a culture that’s created. Status is achieved and given away. A deeper sense of meaning fills the gaps, leading to more listening, more generosity, and more connection. For our workshops, this looks like 1-on-1 meetings to discuss goals, technical workshop sessions, and content deliverables.

Events, sessions, workshops, seminars, keynotes, games, fire-pits, breakouts—all of these exist to bring about a sense of shared meaning. But if we don’t leave space in between our itinerary, the most important moments can’t exist. The moments of human connection.

Looking back on my initial fears, I realize I was way too focused on the amenities. I was worried about the workshops, the accommodations, the food, the transportation. All of this has a price and a trackable ROI. Now, I focus more on helping foster the creative connection amongst the guests who come.

Because relationships are priceless.

Joshua Reese