I promised that if I came up with a solution I would post it, so here it is. Actually it's a bit early to tell if it's a solution, but it's an idea anyway, and one I am happy to share with workshop organisers.
I, like most workshop providers, used to publish a list of workshop dates ready to receive bookings. The dates would go in my diary and I would keep those days free, often for months, all the while not knowing if those dates would suit anyone else but me. Meanwhile prospective students would visit my site, find that the only dates I offered clashed with their holiday, or a friend's wedding, or a cup final, or the date was fine but not the workshop theme, and go away again without ever contacting me and letting me know they were interested.
So here's the new plan:
My site now suggests a list of dates and invites students to pick one and register their interest via a form* on the page. Once I know that at least one person wants a workshop that day I will add it to the shop as a bookable class and fix it in the diary. The list of available dates will then be adjusted (for instance if someone wants a one-day workshop on a Saturday then that weekend will no longer be an option for a two-day workshop), but I will also add new dates as a calendar begins to take shape.
*Crucially only one date can be picked from a drop down list. The idea is to reach a decision, not be back where we started with nothing being settled.
ChoiceStudents now have much more choice and will find it easier to fit a workshop into their other commitments. New dates will be added frequently instead of a schedule being announced a couple of times a year.
Result: happy students
Meanwhile I don't have to keep a date free and turn down other opportunities and invitations. If something comes up for a date which has not yet been fixed as a workshop then I can simply remove it from the list of possibilities.*
Result: happy me
*As if to demonstrate, this actually happened while I was writing this. An invitation to an event popped into my Twitter inbox and I nipped off to amend the dates on my website.
Now I can respond to people's wishes instead of having to try to guess what they might be. If someone is interested in woodcut they can pick any weekend on offer; nothing will be already earmarked for linocut. If they want a linoprint class on a Sunday instead of the usual Saturday then it's no problem. They just need to let me know, and now they can without having to feel awkward.
Result: everyone wins
Result: everyone wins
TransparencyIt has always been the case that a workshop would run only if enough bookings were received, but this system perhaps makes that a bit clearer and more understandable. Site visitors are encouraged to choose an already fixed workshop if at all possible and will know that if they suggest a new date they are, so far, the only person on that date. The ball is in their court and they are an active participant in arranging the workshop.
Result: (hopefully) less surprise and frustration for students and less guilt for me.
So what do you think? How about you workshop organisers out there - is this helpful?
And for those of you who might like to come to a printmaking workshop, you can check out the dates now available by clicking here.