How to run a successful masterclass or workshop event

I’m finding my email inbox and my social media accounts are flooded with invitations to “the best” or “the most important” workshop, masterclass, or event I’ll ever attend. And, while I am absolutely certain there’s some merit to this correspondence, I’ve attended a few of these “very important” events over the years; in fact I’ve even run a few of them, and I can tell you now, not all masterclass events are delivered equally – some are brilliant, while others bomb, so while I have your attention, I wanted to share a few tips around what makes for a successful masterclass.

Know Your Audience

Step one to delivering value at a masterclass or workshop is to determine who your audience or attendees will be.

In an article for the Musicians Union, British composer, Paul Harris wrote about Franz Liszt, detailing that Liszt was among the first of the great composers to deliver masterclasses to young, aspiring musicians. In Liszt’s lessons, Harris suggests the attendees at the masterclass fit into one of three categories – master (Liszt), learner (the aspiring musicians), and audience (family members, onlookers, those with an interest in the class).

When all three categories were in attendance at his masterclasses, Liszt would provide education and share ideas with the audience, thus demonstrating acknowledgement of his audience, and sharing information relevant to them.

Like Liszt, acknowledging and understanding your audience will allow you to provide them with information that appeals to their interests – let the people in attendance know you understand their needs – this is the most basic, yet probably the most important principles of masterclass delivery.

One other key point in delivering a masterclass and demonstrating that you understand your audience is to speak to them.

The American Society of Mechanical Engineers address this exact topic in a post titled, Public Speaking: Know Your Audience.

In this post, author, Tom Ricci summarises this by stating: “Prior to the meeting or event, speak to the organiser or sponsor of the meeting and find out the level of knowledge the audience has on the topic for discussion. Ask about the audience expectations as well as their demographics – age, background, gender, etc. If you are presenting at an industry event, research the event Web site and familiarise yourself with the mission of the event and typical attendees.”

Understand how they communicate and keep them engaged by communicating at a level they are comfortable with – if your masterclass is targeting school aged children, you’ll present to them in a very different way than you might speak to a room full of scientific researchers.


When speaking to your audience, there are a host of ways to drive engagement.

Step one for any speaker, when looking to engage an audience is to proactively observe them – do they look interested, or are they falling asleep?

Being aware of the audience and their vibe throughout the day will certainly help in delivering value to them. If they need a break, give them a break; if they are tired get everyone to stand up and to shake it out, or start asking them some engaging questions – change it up a little bit throughout and you’ll set yourself up for a win.

Another great way to engage your audience as a speaker is to get them involved. Deliver controversial statements or questions that pique responses from the audience – controversy will drive engagement, lead to opinions being expressed and often initiate debate or conversation that you can facilitate.

Value to the attendees

My whole aim is to offer the attendees as much value as possible, and whether you are running a media focused masterclass or are targeting a certain demographic of people, it needs to provide them with some real, tangible value. This will keep people engaged, result in good feedback and deliver the most value from the workshop or masterclass session – this means that next time you run a masterclass people are more likely to come back!

One last thing, while the masterclass might be super important to you, it doesn’t mean that it is the “most important” masterclass the people on your email list can attend, so don’t use this gimmicky language – let the quality and value offering of the masterclass speak for itself.


If you are interested in coordinating a masterclass or an event, please get in touch today as we’d love to help you get this right. This could be speech notes, presentation development, media, training or a through event management.

If you enjoyed reading this blog, why not check out this blog post from one of our Communication Coordinator’s Jeremy Steven around the value of brainstorming.

If you want to get on the front foot with your business success stories, milestones, staff profiles and information about your brand? Contact Elevate today!

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