The obvious goal of any learning event is to provide or enhance
attendees' knowledge, skills, and attitudes. In preparing to do
this, you need to do your homework and decide many things related
to the format, content, delivery, location, materials needed, and
much more. When designing your learning event, a major
consideration should be when to hold the event and the timing of
Through trial and error, many public seminar companies and trainers
have learned that certain days of the week and time periods work
better than others for conducting training events. Consider the
following when choosing when to hold your workshop.
Day of the week
In many cases, a learner's attendance at a workshop will be
influenced by her job, position, work environment (whether
management supports training), and job responsibilities. Even so,
some days of the week typically work better than others for people
Monday is usually the day when people are returning to work from
the weekend, vacation, or a business trip. This day tends to be
stressful and packed with tasks or catch-up work and
responsibilities. For these reasons, Mondays should probably be
avoided when scheduling your workshop.
Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday are typically safe days to
schedule learning events for most people. Attendees have often
caught up on work assignments on Monday and are not yet focused on
the weekend. In the latter instance, many people take three- and
four-day weekends and use Mondays and Fridays as part of that
Fridays can be good days for workshops because many people get all
their work caught up during the week in preparation for being gone
on Friday. This is especially true when you are holding the
workshop offsite in a desirable location, such as near a resort or
tourist area where families can accompany attendees. Further, if a
Friday session ends early, attendees either go back to their office
to finish last-minute items or get an early start on their weekend.
Saturdays work well for self-development workshops or business
retreats that are followed by a social gathering. If the workshop
is at a remote location, people can arrive early, relax, and spend
the night, then make a weekend of the event with their families or
friends following the workshop. One drawback to Saturday sessions
is that some religions hold services on that day.
Sunday is sometimes used for personal development workshops, but
Saturday tends to work better. Many people reserve Sunday to spend
time with family and friends or to attend religious services.
Business meetings work better on other days of the week.
Time of day
When selecting the time period, do not forget to consider factors
over which you have no control. These might include traffic
patterns (rush hours), your audience (professionals who normally
start work at 8 or 9 a.m., shift workers, or telecommuters who have
flexible schedules), or other organizational commitments (such as
picnics, celebrations, large sales meetings, or annual conferences)
that would require attendance by potential attendees.
Time of year
Various times of the year are more conducive to better attendance
than others. Additionally, it can determine where you hold your
workshop. For example, if you are planning one for winter, you may
want to consider a warm climate location to which people can get
easy transportation or access.
January through May are typically good months to hold a workshop
except for the first couple of weeks of January. This is because
January follows the holiday season and many people are getting
ready for the New Year and getting back into a routine after being
out of the office for extended periods. In addition, if you are in
colder areas of the country or world, travel could be an issue for
people. As for any other months, you should avoid major public and
June through August might clash with vacation schedules while
children are out of school. Depending in which part of the world
you are holding the workshop, the weather can be hot during this
September through early November are often good months for
workshops since travel is not affected by weather and there are few
major holidays during the period - Except for Thanksgiving in the
United States, of course.
Early December works well, but after the middle of the month, you
should avoid scheduling a session because of conflicts with the
major religious holiday seasons.
Half-day workshops are normally scheduled between 8 a.m. and noon
or between 12:30 and 4:30 or 5 p.m. Full-day sessions are typically
scheduled between 8:30 or 9 a.m. and 4:30 or 5 p.m. with lunch and
break included. Keep in mind that trainers who conduct afternoon
sessions often encounter learners who are mentally winding down
around 4 or 4:30 p.m. and starting to think about packing up to
beat traffic and get home.
If you are conducting multi-day workshops, consider when to start
and end, especially if attendees will be traveling. It is often
good to start a bit later on the first day and end a bit early on
the last day. This will allow people who are commuting from a
distance or using public transportation, such as a plane or train,
to make arrangements that will get them to the workshop on the
morning of the session rather than incurring the expense of
overnight accommodations. They can also catch early transportation
to arrive at home and not have to spend an extra night after the
session ends. Otherwise, they would incur additional expenses and
lost productivity time that might dissuade them from attending.
If you are planning an evening workshop, consider the fact that
rush hour traffic may delay attendee arrival. Additionally, unless
you are providing food, people will need to grab something to eat
on their way or bring to the session. Such sessions typically start
between 5:30 and 6 p.m. and end between 9:30 and 10 p.m.
An alternative schedule is to conduct a noontime lunch-and-learn
event for which people arrive at 11:30 and leave at 1 p.m. and
either bring their lunches or have them provided. This is often a
good time slot for quick refresher content, short presentations on
a given topic, or for introducing concepts, policies, products,
procedures, or regulatory information.
Your topic focus will drive your schedule in many cases. For
example, personal development or self-help type workshops are best
as evening events following work or in some cases on a weekend.
Since many people are reluctant to give up their weekends with
family and friends, however, the latter might not be the best
A final consideration regarding the timeframe of your event is that
rather than doing three days consisting of six-hour days, you may
want to consider two nine-hour days. This saves expense because you
do not have to pay staff, purchase food, or rent a facility for
three days. Additionally, learners are not away from their offices
as long and can save travel expenses.
ASTD Field Editor Robert W. Lucas is a managing partner at Global
Performance Strategies in Orlando, Florida. He has written and
contributed to 29 books. For more information on creating effective
training programs, see Lucas's latest award-winning book,
Training Workshop Essentials: Designing, Developing and
Delivering Learning Events That Get Results;firstname.lastname@example.org.
2010 ASTD, Alexandria, VA. All rights reserved.