We by and large did workshops offered free to community members through local councils, libraries and community centres. Most of these, the marketing and venue was organised by the faciliator, we turned out, taught the workshops and went home. Some we organised as part of grant run projects, others we initiated ourselves as stand alone events.
These were workshops that we did for specific audiences. For example, a series of workshops in different rooming houses in St Kilda. Workshops at an aged care facility. Workshops for people from particular cultural groups. Corporate workshops as part of green training, AGMs and shareholder events.
A pop up workshop is a seemingly impromptu workshop which appears at a somewhat unlikely place. These were commonly as part of a bigger event (such as a sustainability event, market, festival or series). We did many of these across a number of states over the years. They were usually outside and required trudging a large amount of equipment to a public space. Some examples included:
Why do a pop up workshop?
A workshop can be a means of teaching a topic but it can also be a great means to engage and promote your organisation. I actually think that a workshop is a far more effective way of engaging with community over a stall. We constantly got asked to do stalls for various sustainability events. I contend that unless you have a very visual based issue or product to promote, it is very easy for people to walk past a stall, or grab a brochure and not really engage. Don't get me wrong, we met thousands of renters (and rental landlords) over the years through stalls, but we also have I also think that sustainability (in whatever capacity) workshops need to be embedded into regular cultural events, particularly those run by local councils. If the purpose of a stall or workshop is to engage new cohorts of people to an issue or cause, then you're best service positioning yourself in spaces beyond those of your traditional audience. We did pop up workshops in all kinds of spaces including bars, community space, outdoors, shopping centres, bookshops, cafes and pubs. Perhaps one of the strangest was in a tent next to a reptile stall! They were a great way to engage with a diverse range of people who may not come along to a traditional sustainability event. After the first few years we were less inclined to engage with pure sustainability events as they were very much a case of preaching to the converted with stalls being primarily commercial and the same faces attending each year.
We conducted a series of four different workshops which we taught in commercial kitchens over a two year period. These workshops were:
These workshops originally started as a concept after meeting with the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival. They were interested in what we did and the way we wanted to make food an accessible part of sustainability. We did our first (Jams, pickles and preserves) at CERES. The cost of venue hire and entry into the Melbourne Food and WIne Festival 2013 (along with the usual costs of ingredients, transport, materials etc) meant that we only made a small profit. However, when we changed venues, and opted out of expensive advertising we were able to make the masterclasses a good profit maker. We charged substantially more for the masterclasses than other classes, usually around $130. These workshops were of 5 hour duration and including morning tea, lunch hands on cooking and teaching, full instructions, supervision and of course hand outs and recipes. People would often come along with friends, make friends or even as part of a date which I thought was lovely.
We received a lot of criticism from one or two renters for offering these workshops but the reality was that out of the 200 plus workshops we offered each year, we only did three or four masterclasses. The proceeds of these meant that we were able to pay a presenter when we were asked by a community run group or not for profit to provide a workshop but they were unable to pay. We actually think it's important to pay a presenter for their time, knowledge and the work that goes into a workshop which includes shopping for supplies, packing equipment, writing and printing handouts (these changed depending on topic and season), getting to a premises early to set up, presenting/teaching a workshop, then packing up. This meant that we could do free workshops for a refugee group, community organisation or small not for profit and cover the costs of materials, printing and pay the presenter.
Our workshops were often listed in The Saturday Age and Sunday Age and in publications like Melbourne Weekly, Broadsheet and other online news. When we did workshops in conjunction with MFWF this meant a listed in their Festival guide and workshops would sell out very quickly. With other masterclasses, we tried listing with a (paid) sustainable food series promotion in The Age Good Food Month 2013 but got not one booking as a result. By contrast, in 2014 a listing of our roast class in The Age meant dozens of enquiries. Unfortunately through a typo the wrong phone number had been listed in the MFWF printed guide and a poor elderly lady got dozens of enthusiastic vegans called her. We felt terrible! We also had our workshops listed on a range of 'what on' websites, ours and others newsletters and blogs, our website of course and Facebook. We tried flyers but found them to be difficult to control in regard to whether they were being picked up, and whether it lead to a person attending a workshop. Listing in Community newspapers were particularly popular with older people and we had good luck with promoting our workshops during radio interviews. Over time, Facebook became a vital source of marketing. Boosted facebook posts meant that our posts promoting workshops were seen by the friends of those who already liked us. Targeted Facebook advertisements based on location and interests were also a great way of getting us noticed. It's worth noting however that this worked because our audience was already using Facebook.
It's worth noting that our workshops were correct at the time they were developed. When we worked in different states we would update each workshop with relevant state based information where practical. We'd also change links and connect with local government resources. Think of these as the bare bones of a presentation rather than the presentation.
We tried really hard to do workshops in rural areas. We'd talk to councils, community centres and neighbourhood houses. Sometimes they were widely attended but I'd have to say our most common cancelled workshops (due to no one booking in to attend) were in rural areas.