Guaranteed tips to keep in-person workshop participants energized

We’re out of the Zoom room and in-person meetings and workshops are back! What a breath of fresh air. That means it’s also time to refresh how I design experiences like workshops, meetings and events. With an in-person meeting, very detail of the experience can contribute to a memorable and transformative experience: the venue, connection exercises, energizers, food and drink, breakouts and learning opportunities.

To keep everyone energized from start to finish, these are my guaranteed tips for experience design:

1 – Select an ideal venue

One group I work with had only ever met in a virtual space over the last three years! We needed a venue that had flexible use of the space so we can invite connection between members. We also wanted a bright space with natural light and windows that open for fresh air! Bonus – the beautiful ocean views and city scapes were a welcome change from computer screens.

When choosing a venue, make sure it supports the tone for the event and the agenda. Ask the venue managers how the space can be optimized to fit the unique aspects of each meeting.

2 – Create and set expectations

When working with established groups who meet regularly, I think it’s important to get their input for the agenda in advance. In some cases, I have one-on-one meetings with members to capture their ideas. Pre-event surveys can direct where to spend time while informing participants about the topics for discussion. I spend a lot of time upfront designing clear communication that outlines why attend, what we have planned, and how to make the most of our time together.

Scheduling pre-event communications and reminders for participants are essential tools that set the tone and get participants excited to attend.

3 – Set your team up to win

While I may be tasked with designing and facilitating an event, everyone involved in running a team meeting or workshop has an important role. Regular check-ins and team meetings are key leading up to and right before the event starts. Early on, I clarify roles and responsibilities in writing so we make sure every detail is managed. A detailed agenda, speaking notes, moderator instructions and logistical details are all part of our team planning tools. We review them together and check in to support each other right down to the wire.

Even experienced event planners, presenters and moderators need time to understand the unique aspects of each event or workshop. Never wing it! The organizing team are crucial to the success of an in-person event.

4 – Connect early and often

Planning the details for when participants arrive at an in-person event can really set the tone and energy for the day. In my experience, I offer a chance for people to make connections the minute they enter the space.  Clear name tags with assigned seating opens up the chance to meet someone new. A fun and inviting connection exercise help welcome those who are new to a group, particularly. if founding members can step in and take the lead.

I recently introduced “Samesies” to a group as an opening exercise. Upon arrival, we challenged participants to grab a coffee, find 2 other people and in groups of 3, find 3 things they had in common. We asked that they find commonalities that are not obvious, so the conversations quickly got beyond the surface. We continued the game over breaks so the connections could expand. Adding a prize to gamify the experience was a nice player incentive!

Through the day, I like to add connection exercises that deepen connection and vulnerability. I don’t just add random games or icebreakers – this will result in eye-rolling and shut participants down. Any exercise should be developed to support the theme and objectives of the meeting, while giving participants a boost of energy.

5 – Breakout and regroup

With every workshop, there’s an ebb and flow to the day and the conversations around the room. I always aim to minimize the time spent on presenting ‘at’ a group. The experts are already in the room! Setting them up to have a dialogue and tap into each other’s wisdom keeps every person engaged. With well-planned breakouts and roundtable discussions, the ideas will flow and participants will stay energized.

When planning time for breakout discussions, decide if groups should be pre-assigned to tables or choose their own. I find that a curated discussion at the start can lead to more lively discussions through the day. Mix up how participants regroup to share their table’s findings. Who can best speak on behalf of each group? What tools are idea to convey what was captured? Can you physically move people for the regroup so they are really listening and taking it all in?  I test different options depending on each group to make sure many voices are heard.


Which in-person events and workshops have stood out over your career? Did they keep you energized from start to finish?

Did you leave the room buzzing? Did you follow up with someone you met at the event?

The next time you have plans for a workshop or in-person event, consider this list of guaranteed tips to keep people energized.

Contact me to learn more and discuss how to liven up your meetings!