There are many different types of gatherings that you can participate in to help you learn and increase your skills. Some can be enjoyed as an employee while others may be chosen by you simply to hone your skills. As in any learning experience, what you bring to the event will have a huge impact on what you take from it.

Masterclass vs Workshop

Workshops = Progress

A workshop is led by a facilitator. The attendees of a workshop are generally invested either in the topic or the product that the workshop is focused around. Facilitators are not teachers, though they need to have expertise in the primary topic.

Often, a workshop is held by a company or organization for the benefit of the entity. The goal of such a workshop is to make progress on a problem or an issue that has become problematic for the organization.

A workshop can also be held when it’s time to make a large change or improvement, such as a rebranding or a new product launch.

An online workshop will take different preparation than an in-person event. One of the fun parts of a workshop is that ideas can stack.

When you can look to your left and see a co-workers face light up as a new idea is born, a workshop gets even more exciting. It’s not uncommon for folks to blurt out new concepts.

The facilitator will need to monitor this so nobody’s input gets plowed under. An online workshop may take more time to make sure everyone is heard.

The key to an effective workshop is to provide a space of intellectual safety. There is a topic but no agenda; there is a facilitator but no leader. It’s based on an idea rather than an agenda. The goal of a workshop is to toss perspectives at a central idea.

Even if no big decisions are made by the end of a workshop, progress will be made and more ideas will come. A workshop is not a meeting.

workshop sign on a table with coffee and a pen

Meetings…

Meetings are often hated by attendees. They’re frequently not much fun for leaders, either. Because meetings are generally focused on an agenda and led by folks high in the structure of the organization.

This hierarchy can often get in the way of idea generation; if you’re not comfortable speaking up in front of the entire room or speaking truth to the leader of the meeting, your ideas won’t get any oxygen.

There are points in time when meetings are necessary. If leadership has a particular message that needs to be shared by many team members, a meeting can provide the ideal setting.

It is the responsibility of the meeting leader to publish an agenda and share it with all attendees, particularly those who may be asked to speak.

The problem with meetings often comes when leaders ask for feedback. Not everyone feels comfortable expressing an unfinished thought or a simple idea. It may not be part of the agenda; it may not be well received or expertly expressed.

If the meeting leader isn’t able to step back and become a facilitator of ideas, the meeting will not be a place of intellectual safety.

What Makes a Masterclass?

Unlike a workshop, a masterclass has a leader in the master teacher behind the podium. While a traditional class can focus on beginners who have a long learning path ahead of them, a masterclass is led by a highly skilled expert and all the students are already advanced.

Masterclasses are extremely focused. If you are a skilled baker, you might take a masterclass focused only on pie crust making. While a beginner would flounder in such a setting, someone who’s already good at rolling out biscuits could learn a great deal from a pie crust expert.

chef instructing students

As a general rule, a masterclass gets you immediate feedback. If you take a screenwriting masterclass, your submittal will likely be read and you will get immediate feedback from your instructor. You may also get the chance of future contact with your instructor to further share ideas and data.

Masterclasses are short-term commitments. If you’re a college student and at least a couple of years into your major, your teacher may be quite skilled. However, attending a masterclass led by another instructor could give you new ideas and a new perspective in just a few sessions.

While a masterclass does indeed rely on a master teacher, it also relies on highly skilled and focused students. Again, a beginner will not gain a great deal from a masterclass.

If you’ve never played tennis before, working with a professional player on your serve will likely leave you confused and sore. Working with a beginning instructor who can teach you how to grip your racket so you can go practice on your own is critical to start.

You need to build and hone your own skills before a masterclass can help you.

Block Out Time for Action

A masterclass may include multiple sessions. Generally, these classes are not cheap. If you sign up for a masterclass, it may include four classes on Monday and Thursday nights for two weeks.

Clear your calendar to have the other evenings free; even if you work during the day, you will want the time to act on what you learned in the last class and what you need to know for the next one. Give yourself the time to both prepare and work on what you learned.

Acting on the preparatory requirements and the classwork after each session is the duty of the student. If you don’t have the time or the passion to guarantee that you are truly going to do the work, don’t take the class.

While your instructor will bring in their expertise and will likely be engaging and interesting, they will not be spoon-feeding you information. Not only will you waste your investment, but you will also waste the instructor’s time and the investments of your fellow students.

If you think a masterclass could benefit you, start by studying the output of the instructor. You may be a musician and have the chance to work with a famous performer.

Does their instrument relate to yours? Are they skilled in a particular time period that relates to your needs? For example, you may be interested in building a specialty in Baroque ornamentation. A masterclass with a performer well-versed in the romantic period may not be your best investment.

Finally, remember why you’re learning. If you’re learning for fun, don’t take a masterclass. If you want to hone in on skills related to your specialty and you can truly appreciate the skill set of your instructor, sign up!

workshop with people sitting at a table with laptops

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