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« The Productive Artist -- How to Find an Artist Representative | Main | Workshops: Painting in the South of France »

The Productive Artist: How to Get Your Money's Worth From Workshops

In “Painting in France," you learned about organizing an overseas painting retreat. Here’s the flip side of the coin for attending workshops to expand your skills.

Getting your money's worth from workshops starts with being very clear about what you want to get out of the event and choosing your classes carefully, but it doesn't stop there. Before you go, make sure that you check out the instructors, make a commitment to your learning and plan to take care of your physical comfort. Don't forget the importance of networking as part of the learning experience, and make a point of using what you learn once you return home.

To choose the best classes, ask yourself these questions about each seminar before you sign up: 

  • What do I already know about this topic?
  • Do I want to confirm what I know and/or add new information?
  • What else do I need to know?

Then write down you questions when you think of them, and take them with you.

To get the best instruction for your needs, do this research before you pay your money: 

  • What does the speaker bio tell you about their expertise? If there is more than one instructor for the topic, how do they differ?
  • Do you need all of the information in the workshop, or is there another way to get just the information you need, with less investment or time or money?
  • Can you get the information you need in books, e-books, online programs or coaching?

Then ask other artists about their opinions of the topics and instructors.

To get the most out of the workshops you choose, make a commitment to yourself to: 

  • Start with an open mind about what you want to learn. Keep asking yourself how you can use what you are learning.
  • Ask the questions you brought, clarify anything that doesn't make sense and write down the answers.
  • Create a summary list of actions to take to use what you learn. Keep this separate from your workshop notes.

Then make a date with yourself to start taking these actions when you get back to your studio.

To increase your network, take these actions: 

  • Bring business cards and postcards to exchange with others. Write the date and a few notes about each person on the back of the card, as well as any promises you made.
  • Introduce yourself to everyone in the workshop and to the instructor. Find out what you have in common and how you can support each other.
  • Go to the trade show and meet the vendors. Tell them about your art form and ask them how they think their product can benefit you. If you already use their products, let them know what you like about them or what you think can be improved.

Then add this information to your contacts database.

Don't forget to take care of your physical comfort:

  • I've experienced the whole range of temperatures in workshops from arctic cold to desert hot, so I dress in layers.
  • I teach 2 or 3 seminars in a row, and there's often little time in between for a healthy meal, and fast food doesn't work for me so I bring "nibble" food that fits my diet. I find hotels and conference centers dehydrating, and there's not always water in the room, so I bring along my own reusable water bottle and thermos.
  • If I do have a break of a couple of hours, I go back to my room for a brief meditation or nap so that I am refreshed when I return to teach my next class.

You will learn and enjoy the experience more if you are warm enough, well fed and rested.

To capitalize on your investment after the workshop: 

  • Review your summary list of actions and select the top 10.  Make an appointment with yourself once a week to take at least one of the actions.
  • Review the business cards and postcards you collected and take any actions you promised; send a note thanking them for the conversation or information they gave you. It could help plant the seeds to a beautiful friendship.
  • Post an article on your Blog about what you learned and how it helped you improve your art or your art business.

You will get your money's worth, pay it forward because other artists will benefit from your comments, and suppliers will know more about their customers. That's a threefold return - not bad for a little preparation, action and follow-up.

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