How to plan and organize a workshop

Written by 
Jim Kalbach
Farrah Buhaza
May 9, 2024
An image with a photo showing two people planning on the left, with an illustration showing two people balancing objects together on the right
How to plan and organize a workshop
Written by 
Jim Kalbach
Farrah Buhaza
May 9, 2024

Have you ever sat through a lengthy workshop wondering if there were a more efficient way to learn and engage? 

Enter the flipped classroom approach‌ — ‌a revolutionary teaching model that emerged in the 2010s, proving especially effective in boosting retention and engagement. 

In a nutshell, the approach “flips” the traditional cycle of lectures and homework: instead of sitting through lectures while together, students watch recordings of lectures at their own pace in between class sessions. 

Then, during class time, they focus on exercises and activities to apply their knowledge. The lectures become the homework, and the homework takes the place of the lecture.

Why not apply these same principles to your workshops? 

In this guide, we'll cover:

Benefits of the flipped workshop model

In our post-pandemic world, optimizing "together time" is more critical than ever. Let's explore how the “flipped workshop” can transform your sessions into dynamic and efficient learning experiences.

The key is bringing asynchronous work styles into your playbook. We’ve found you can cut your synchronous workshop time in half simply by offloading preliminary presentations and readings to pre-work, as well as getting started collecting input and feedback for the session itself. 

Proponents of the model — whether for the classroom or workshops — point to many immediate benefits: 

Enhanced engagement and participation

The flipped model turns participants from passive recipients into active contributors. With foundational knowledge already in hand, they can dive deeper into discussions, ask more informed questions, and collaborate more effectively during live sessions.

Efficient use of time 

By offloading preliminary presentations to pre-work, you can cut your synchronous workshop time in half. This makes workshops not only shorter but more impactful, focusing on applying knowledge rather than imparting it.

Flexibility for participants

Participants can engage with pre-workshop materials at their own pace, on their own time. This is particularly beneficial for teams spread across different time zones, allowing for a more inclusive approach.

In the end, it becomes a win-win for both the workshop organizer and the participants, with an increased likelihood of the team reaching its goals. 

Principles of the flipped workshop model

Let’s be clear: the effort into planning a flipped workshop is significantly higher than for a more traditional synchronous session. That burden lands on the organizer. It may even feel like you’re over-preparing at first, but the planning gets easier over time, we’ve found.

Here are some recommendations to consider before planning a flipped workshop.

Break it down

Think about your workshop in small sections and take inventory of the entire flow. Then, determine what could be done asynchronously and plan around that. Strive to offload 30-50% of the session to pre-work and post-work. In a recent workshop we ran, we reduced a four-hour session to two hours by introducing polling, pre-work assignments, and videos. 

Break it up

Consider how a series of two or more shorter sessions on different days — along with a heavy dose of async work — could cover the same ground. The advantage is that you’d be able to continue with async work in between sessions. If working with a remote team, it’s generally easier to keep engagement in a shorter time. 


If it feels repetitive, it’s probably the right amount of communication. Don’t assume everyone is following. Get things moving, and keep the energy up. Critically, following up with people who haven’t completed pre-work is key for making sure everyone shows up prepared. Also, send a calendar invitation to workshop participants to hold time on their calendar for time to complete individual work. 

Think digital-first

Plan for a digital outcome from the beginning, even if working analog. Keep the creative momentum going no matter where the team is by building in digital captures of content and follow-up steps online.

How to plan and organize a workshop — the Mural way

Part 1: Understanding

Set and align on your goals and objectives

When you start planning a workshop, you must begin with a goal. The clearest path starts with understanding what you aim to achieve, whether it's facilitating a team brainstorming session, sharing insights to inspire strategy, making key business decisions, or training employees in new processes or ways of working. 

Knowing your goals gives you a blueprint for planning your session and drives all later design decisions in the workshop planning process.

Assess your audience 

Before designing your workshop, understanding your audience is paramount. Firstly, you need to decide who needs to be in your workshop. You need to be intentionally selective of who you choose to invite, in exclusion, based on the objectives you set.  You should be clear on the role that everyone invited has, in terms of their contribution to that goal of the session.  

Once you have the audience determined, you need to dig deeper into the makeup of that audience. 

Who are they? Are they your colleagues, clients, or‌ a mixture of both? Are they experienced c-suite execs, or more junior employees, or a combination of experience levels? Will they be attending the session in person or remotely? What are their preferred learning styles and personality traits? Are there cultural considerations to take into account with this group? 

Knowing your audience helps you tailor content, format, and delivery to meet their needs and harness optimum engagement.

Part 2: Workshop design

Crafting an engaging agenda

Effective workshops inspire, inform, and prompt action. An engaging agenda is fundamentally more than a chronological outline of activities‌ — ‌it’s a roadmap that helps navigate and achieve the goals and objectives that you have set out to accomplish.

Choosing the right balance (sync/async)

In a hybrid work environment, where people have flexibility to work remotely or from the office on different given days, and in a global environment where teams collaborate across multiple time zones, it's become increasingly important to embrace synchronous and asynchronous collaboration. 

Synchronous, or live sessions provide real-time interaction, while asynchronous activities allow participants time for self-paced work and reflection. Striking the right balance between synchronous and asynchronous, and understanding how best to leverage each of these approaches is essential. 

The Placeless Taxonomy provides great guidelines for which activities are best suited to synchronous vs. asynchronous collaboration. 

Choosing the right tools and materials

Technology can enhance the workshop experience, so it’s key to select the right tools. These looks will also vary if you are communicating synchronously or asynchronously. During your workshops, you'll need to leverage tools from video conferencing platforms like Zoom or Microsoft Teams, including (their chat functions) to collaboration and online whiteboard platforms like Mural. 

For async communications, you may use channels such as Slack or Microsoft Teams channels, video recordings platforms such as Loom, along with collaboration platforms like Mural to track activity and keep momentum with your collaborations. If you’re running sessions in person, you'll also need to consider in-person technology such as Surface hubs and projectors. 

Nota bene: Each tool must serve a specific purpose correlating with your objectives.

Part 3: Preparing for your workshop


Invitations aren't merely practical; they can be a tool to build anticipation. Provide attendees with a clear understanding of the workshop goals, structure, and importance.


Pre-work allows participants to familiarize themselves with the subject matter before live sessions begin. Useful ideas for pre-work include providing pre-reads, async introductions, individual brainstorming, etc. 

This way, workshop time can be used more efficiently towards connection, discussion, collaboration, and decision making, which are a lot harder to do asynchronously.

Conducting a tech check

Before the workshop, it's recommended to trial-run all the tech involved, including things like breakout room functionality if you are splitting the group into smaller breakouts. 

Make sure everyone has access to the platforms you'll be using and that they're comfortable operating them. You can incorporate the tech checks into your async prework. 

Pro-tip: "I like sharing the agenda, rules of engagement, how to get started in the platform, and a little activity to get people using the platform." - Farrah Buhaza

If you’re using Mural in your session, ask questions and have people add a sticky or images in the mural. For a training workshop, you could ask, “What are you hoping to get out of this training?” Or you can make it more fun. For example, when planning a space-themed kick-off event, I asked participants, “What’s the last meal you’d have before traveling on a space mission?” 

Both these examples got participants to access and familiarize themselves with using Mural ahead of the session. 

Preparing a run-of-show

Creating a detailed schedule or 'run-of-show' will help you manage time effectively and set clear expectations for the participants. It'll also help you have the detailed plan of your talking points for each segment of your workshop, as well as help you and your co-facilitators keep track of time. 

If you go over during a specific segment, having a run of show will help you plan where you might choose to steal time back from.  


Finally, preparing a checklist of all pre-workshop tasks helps ensure you've covered every angle and nothing has been overlooked. The best approach is to use a shared visual task manager so that everyone is clear on roles and responsibilities, as well as progress.

Part 4: Workshop delivery

Engaging your participants

Your job as a workshop facilitator is to create an environment where all participants feel comfortable sharing their thoughts, ideas, and questions. Remember to encourage interaction and engagement from all attendees, and consider using activities or icebreakers to start things off on a positive, inviting note. 

Facilitator tips:

  • Try to accommodate for different neurodiverse styles, allowing people to document ideas in stickies and share out. 
  • Use mural features like Private Mode to prevent groupthink and to provide anonymity, especially if difficult topics are being discussed. 
  • As a facilitator, try to read the room and take stock of who has and hasn’t contributed and gently encourage those who haven’t to speak up. 

Managing time effectively

Good time management keeps the workshop on track and ensures all objectives are met. It’s vital to respect both the agenda and the participants' time. Have a clear timeframe in mind for each section of your agenda and use tools like the Mural timer to time box activities and visually keep you and participants on track.

Handling questions and feedback

Allocate specific time for questions and feedback, and be open to any input from the participants‌ — ‌whether positive or constructive. This allows the opportunity for you to bridge any gaps that people are left with and help your participants feel heard and understood.

Allowing buffer time

Always build buffer time into your agenda to account for unexpected delays or prolonged discussions. If you are like us, your first instinct may be to cram ‌as much as possible into your agenda. 

However, we've learned first-hand that building in buffer time is key to success. For example, allowing a minute or two between each section of your workshop, will allow you and your participants to ask any questions between sections, and give them a beat to reframe their mind for the next activity. These minutes add up to quite a lot. In failing to add in buffer times, you'll find yourself frequently running short of time in your sessions.  At the close of the workshop, be sure to clarify any follow-up actions or next steps.

Part 5: Post-session

Post-work: Keeping the momentum

Post-work helps maintain momentum and reinforces lesson retention. Assigning tasks or readings that build on what you’ve covered keeps the learning process dynamic and engaging. 

Prot-tip: "We love building in tiny actions for participants to take after the session. Why not give participants a few choices as follow-up actions and use the Mural voting feature to have them select which tiny action they'd like to commit to? This will help engage them in the sessions and help them feel empowered by the fact they have a choice in their next steps." - Farrah Buhaza

Always be clear on any actions and next steps that come out of a session. Be clear on roles and responsibilities and expected timelines. At Mural, we use the DACI (“driver, approver, contributor, informed”) framework to provide clarity on roles and responsibilities and to make effective and efficient group decisions.

Evaluation and feedback

Collecting feedback is a critical component of the workshop process. Reviews and reflections aid in continuously improving your facilitation skills and perfecting workshop design for future iterations. 

No matter how many workshops we do, we always seek feedback as there is always something to learn. We ‌also always run retrospective with the co-facilitators and the workshop stakeholders/requesters to reflect on what when well and what could be improved. 

You can use mural templates like the retrospective template and I like, I wish, I wonder — both free (and easy to edit) in the Mural template library.


Adopting the flipped workshop model can significantly enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of your workshops. By preparing participants ahead of time and focusing on interactive sessions, you can maximize engagement and make sure that every minute spent together is valuable. 

Consider piloting this approach in your next workshop to see the difference it can make.

If you're eager for more, Mural's Professional Services program, New Ways of Working, can help guide you in building workshops that drive higher engagement, collaboration, and productivity. 

Get in touch with our Professional Services team to learn more.

About the authors

About the authors

Jim Kalbach

Jim Kalbach

Chief Evangelist
Jim is a noted author, speaker, and instructor in innovation, design, and the future of work. He is currently Chief Evangelist at Mural, the leading visual work platform.
Farrah Buhaza

Farrah Buhaza

Senior Professional Services Consultant
Farrah is passionate about transforming customer experiences by helping clients power up their imagination, creativity, collaboration and innovation to help drive better results.