Running a learning event

Hand writing in a speech bubble

There are many practical issues to consider when you’re putting a learning event in place. Whether you’re planning a learning stall, an online learning session, a short lunch and learn activity, a one-day workshop, or a longer course this checklist goes through key things to consider.

Interest / Need 

  • Who is it for?
  • Why is it needed?
  • What do we want to achieve?

Before you organise anything big, you should find out if people are actually interested in attending! You should be able to get a good idea from responses to learning surveys or requests for learning.


Do you need to gain agreement or approval before the activity can go ahead? You might need to seek permission from management, or, if you’re applying for external funding, there may be some kind of approval process.


  • When will it be held?
  • How long will the activity / course / last?
  • What will your start and finish times be?
  • How much time to do you need to plan and prepare for the event?


If your event will be run entirely or partially online, there are more aspects to consider, for example:

  • What platform will you use?
  • Will participants need to download any extra software?
  • Does the employer’s IT policy place any restrictions on the software that you can use?
  • Do you, the tutor, and any guest speakers know how to use the platform?
  • Can you provide accessibility features, such as subtitles?


  • What venue will you use?
  • How suitable is the venue? Consider location, safety, transport connections, and so on.
  • Is the venue accessible? Does it have step-free acess, lifts, accessible toilets, etc?
  • How many rooms will you need and what size?
  • How will the rooms be laid out?
  • What equipment is needed and will this be provided? (e.g. wi-fi, flipcharts, laptop and projector)
  • Are heating, lighting and ventilation adequate?
  • What arrangements will you make for refreshments and meals? 
  • How much will it cost? (check cancellation fees, and support/security)

Who will be involved in leading or running the activity / course?

  • Someone from within the branch? A lay tutor? A member of UNISON staff? Someone from an external provider? Other?
  • Will there be any costs involved and how will they be funded?


  • Do you have the materials you need or will they need to be ordered or devised? Allow enough time to gather what you need.

These will depend on the activity or workshop but might include:

    • learning survey
    • leaflets and flyers
    • tutor notes or activity outline
    • course-books or handouts
    • participant packs/folders
    • paper and pens
    • post-it notes
    • blu tack
    • name badges/cards
    • UNISON membership forms
    • UNISON ‘freebies’
    • attendance list
    • evaluation forms.

If your event is online, you might need to consider posting hard copies of materials to participants, or uploading documents to a site from which learners can access them.

Attendees and applications 

  • agree number of attendees (minimum and maximum)
  • agree who to target
  • can they be released from work or will they be expected to attend in their own time?
  • decide the application process (email/paper, members only/all staff, how to deal with oversubscription)
  • ask for dietary and access requirements
  • set a deadline for receiving applications
  • send joining instructions with travel directions or advice on how to log in to an online event
  • produce an attendance list
  • prepare packs/handouts for participants
  • keep a register of attendees (including levels achieved if applicable)
  • collect evaluation forms

Publicity / Promotion

  • Which method(s) will most effectively engage your target group? For example…
    • posters on notice boards
    • website
    • leaflets
    • personal contact
    • branch newsletter
    • email
    • employer intranet
    • social media
  • Remember to include the date, times and location plus contact details and UNISON logo!
  • When will you start promoting / recruiting?

During the event

  • take photographs (remember permission forms)
  • get quotes from participants

After the event

  • write a press release or article
  • share photos and quotes on social media (only with permission!)
  • write a report for the branch and employer 

UNISON presence

Even if an external person is running the activity/workshop/course, make sure someone from UNISON can attend to:

  • welcome people
  • make sure people know UNISON has arranged the activity
  • talk about the union and other learning opportunities
  • congratulate people on completing the activity
  • look out for recruitment and organising opportunities including talent spotting potential activists


How are you going to pay for this activity? Speak to the branch about using branch funds. Or your region may be able to support learning activities. Additional funding is available from a number of sources but may only pay for certain items (e.g. Scottish and Welsh Union Learning Funds cover tutor costs).

Choosing and working with a provider

Working with external tutors and providers can allow you to offer training on subjects that are outside your expertise and that of your branch and regional colleagues. But there are a few things you should clarify with them before you agree that they’ll deliver an event for you:

  • data sharing agreements
  • provision of materials
  • evaluation
  • aims and objectives of learners
  • equalities
  • minimum and maximum numbers
  • cost and payment arrangements

After the event

How will you evaluate the event? Here are some things you might think about:

  • How will you collect feedback from attendees?
  • What went well?
  • What could have gone better?
  • What extra help might have been useful? Who could you ask for help in future?
  • If you invited non-members to the event, how will you follow up with a view to their potentially joining the union?
  • Were there any issues with the venue, catering, or equipment? How might those be resolved in future?
  • Would you consider running the same event again?

Good luck!