Monday, June 12, 2017

The nuts and bolts of running a singing workshop – 10 practical tips

I ran a day of singing last weekend and whilst I was setting out the tea and biscuits and putting up tables, I realised that the practical side of running a workshop is at least as important as the singing.

Felden 2016 (5)

Here are 10 handy tips from my experience over the last 20 years.

I’ve written before about How to plan and run a singing workshop. The focus there was on the content and structure of the workshop itself, and I only spent a little time looking at practical matters like venue, refreshments, collecting money, etc.

In some ways the practical nuts and bolts of running a singing workshop are at least as important as the singing. If you don’t have enough tea or the toilets don’t work or nobody can find the venue, then no amount of great singing is going to make things right.

Here (in no particular order) are some of the boring but practical details you need to consider when running a singing workshop.

  1. get enough milk – I always seem to miscalculate this! I reckon that for a whole day of singing and about 30 people, you’ll need three pints of milk. So recently when I had 60 people I got six pints of milk, but ran out! One pint per ten singers for a whole day is a reasonable estimate (you don’t want to end up with loads of leftover milk), but make sure there’s a shop nearby if you need a top up.
  2. incorporate tea and coffee into the workshop price – not only does it save having to deal with money (“pop 50p in the box”), but it’s a nice feeling for participants that unlimited tea and coffee (and biscuits – I always have biscuits) are free.
  3. persuade people to pay in advance – saves having to collect money plus you’ll know who’s coming, both in terms of numbers and male/female split. You can offer sweeteners like discounted advanced bookings (my one-day workshops are £20 in advance or £25 on the door). Make sure you have simple and varied methods of payment. I take PayPal through my website and put my bank details and address (for cheques) in publicity emails to individuals.
  4. make sure you know the venue in advance – especially if it’s not local. I’ve made a big mistake in the past by booking a singing venue without actually visiting it! You’ll get a good sense of the workspace (what shape is it? how is the acoustic? are there pillars in the way? how does the heating work? are there enough chairs?), plus see what kitchen facilities there are, where the toilets are, etc.
  5. let participants have practical info – how to get there, what to expect, timings, parking options, if there’s a shared lunch, etc. I usually send an email out a week before a singing day or a month before a singing weekend (for weekends people often need to book trains in advance).
  6. check access – disabled access and loos? nearby parking? is it on a hill? is there another local event on the same day (I.e. road closures)? nearest bus stop?
  7. have a plan B – what if something goes wrong? can you contact the venue owner? is there an emergency phone number? do you know what to do in case of a fire?
  8. keys? – make sure you can get in and know where to drop off keys afterwards. You can sometimes have a problem if you need to collect keys in advance and you don’t live locally.
  9. rubbish – what to do with your rubbish? One venue asks me to take it home but we live in Suffolk! Another requires specific council bin bags which you have to buy from them.
  10. are there basic amenities? – loos, kitchen, water, enough loo rolls, chairs, heating (how does it work?)? Can you open windows if it gets too hot? Make sure what is provided in the kitchen. One venue I used forgot to tell me they didn’t provide crockery or cutlery or cups so I had to rush to the pound shop and buy loads of paper plate, cups and plastic cutlery!

don’t be afraid to ask for help

If you’re trying to run a successful singing workshop, it’s hard to do it by yourself (although that’s what I often end up doing!).

Singers will usually rally round to help wash up, make tea, clear up afterwards, etc. but it can be useful to have someone to take names on the door or take photos of you in action. You might think of offering a free place in exchange for assistance.

any other tips?

I’m sure I’ve forgotten some really important practical issues. I’d love to hear about your own experiences of running or attending a singing workshop. Can you think of anything I’ve left out? Do drop by and leave a comment.

other useful posts

You might find these other posts of interest too.

10 things to consider before choosing or planning a singing workshop

What’s in a name? Creating good singing workshop titles

How to plan and run a singing workshop

How to pace a long singing workshop effectively

How to plan a singing workshop when you don’t know who’s coming

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Chris Rowbury



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