There are probably as many answers to this question as there are workshops and workshop presenters but, in general, a workshop is a single, short (although short may mean anything from 45 minutes to two full days) educational program designed to teach or introduce to participants practical skills, techniques, or ideas which they can then use in their work or their daily lives. Most workshops have several features in common:
- They’re generally small, usually from 6 to 15 participants, allowing everyone some personal attention and the chance to be heard.
- They’re often designed for people who are working together or working in the same field.
- They’re conducted by people who have real experience in the subject under discussion.
A presentation doesn’t have to be limited to one person. Co-leaders or co-facilitators are not only common, but can greatly expand the possibilities of a given workshop, and can make everyone’s job easier. Each co-leader might be responsible for particular parts of the workshop, or all may work together throughout, depending upon the structure and purpose. In any case, finding one or more co-leaders or co-facilitators is always an option if you’re planning a workshop.
- They’re often participatory, i.e. participants are active, both in that they influence the direction of the workshop and also in that they have a chance to practice the techniques, skills, etc. that are under discussion.
- They’re informal; there’s a good deal of discussion in addition to participation, rather than just a teacher presenting material to be absorbed by attentive students.
- They’re time-limited, often to a single session, although some may involve multiple sessions over a period of time (e.g. once a week for four weeks or two full-day sessions over a weekend).
- They’re self-contained. Although a workshop may end with handouts and suggestions for further reading or study for those who are interested, the presentation is generally meant to stand on its own, unlike a course, which depends on large amounts of reading and other projects (papers, presentations) in addition to classroom activities.