Commission workshop suppliers

In this article, we'll be sharing easy to follow step-by-step instructions, and example communication templates, that will help you to select and commission external suppliers to meet your specific audience's needs, which can be more effective than off-the-shelf training solutions.

Alongside these guidelines, you will need to check out the specific procedure at your institution for commissioning suppliers.

1. Identify the learning objectives

What is the topic?

Before commissioning a workshop, it is important to identify the specific learning objectives that you hope to achieve. For example, do you want to improve leadership skills, job applications, or grant writing?

What are the goals?

Clarify the goals and objectives of the workshop, as well as the desired outcomes. For example, if the goal is to develop leadership skills, a format that includes role-playing and interactive activities may be more effective.

2. Consider the audience

Identify the target audience

Consider the demographics of the target audience, such as their age, experience level, and learning style. This can help you to choose a format that will engage them effectively and provide the best learning experience.

Consider the number of participants

The format of the workshop can be influenced by the number of participants. For example, if there are many participants, a lecture-style format may be less effective than a workshop that includes group activities and breakout sessions.

Evaluate the resources available

Consider the time and resources available for the workshop, such as the venue, equipment, and facilitators. This can help you to determine the format that is feasible and achievable.

Choose the format

Based on the above considerations, choose a format that aligns with the goals and objectives of the workshop, the target audience, and the available resources. Some common formats include lectures, panel discussions, interactive workshops, and online webinars.

3. Choose a supplier

Research suppliers

Look for workshop providers who specialise in the topics that align with your learning objectives. Research the provider's background and experience, and read reviews or testimonials from previous clients to ensure they can deliver the results you're looking for.

Contact suppliers

Communicate your expectations and goals to the workshop provider, and ensure they understand the audience and learning objectives. Provide clear guidance on the expected outcomes.

After initial contact, asking a supplier for a quote can be done through a formal email or a phone call. Here are some steps you can follow:

  1. Clearly state that you are interested in receiving a quote from them for the workshop/s you require. Be specific about the format and any other requirements that you may have.
  2. Provide necessary information: Provide the supplier with any necessary information such as delivery requirements, and payment terms. The more information you can provide, the more accurate the quote is likely to be.
  3. Ask about times and dates of when the work can be schedule and delivered.

How to identify suppliers

Are there suppliers who have been employed by your institution before that others can vouch for?

Check out Prosper's suppliers list.

Are you a member of any researcher developer network or mailing list who you can ask for recommendations?

Lastly, if you can’t get a personal recommendation, search the web, especially LinkedIn and even Twitter.

Contacting multiple suppliers

If you’re contacting multiple suppliers keep them warm by sending a holding email to those fast to reply and gentle reminders to any slow to reply. 

Set clear expectations about collaboration

If you wish to collaborate with the supplier to develop the workshop content and structure make this clear from the outset. Provide feedback on the supplier's proposed materials and ensure that they align with your objectives.

Send successful or unsuccessful emails

Send emails to the supplier that you have chosen* and those that you have not chosen on this occasion.

*Note that depending on the cost and the local rules at your institution you may have to get a number of written quotes or complete a single supplier justification form in order to select a supplier.


4. Plan the logistics

When you have made a decision and identified a supplier and quotation that meets your time and budget requirements, you will need to set up the paperwork for your selected supplier.

This may include:

  • Setting the supplier up on your HEIs internal payment system. This may include steps such as confirming that the supplier has the right to work in the UK, appropriate liability insurance and that the HEI has the correct contact and banking details. Often this only needs to be done once and you can use a supplier set-up on your HEI’s system without having to go through this every time. 
  • Setting up a legal contract capturing the details of what the supplier is contracted to supply, by what date and your HEIs terms and conditions. Your HEI is likely to have a process and standard consultancy contract you can use. 
  • Issuing a purchase order from your HEI to the supplier. 
  • Confirming delivery of the work and payment once the supplier has delivered the work specified in the contract and issued you an invoice. If the work delivered doesn’t match what you contracted, raise this with the supplier.  

Agree on terms

Agree on the terms and conditions with the supplier, including the workshop agenda, the trainers' qualifications and biography, the materials and equipment required, and any other necessary details.

Coordinating logistics

Coordinate the logistics of the workshop, including the venue, catering, and accommodation for trainers and participants, as well as any other necessary arrangements.

5. Evaluate the results

After a workshop has been delivered, it is worthwhile reviewing how it went. This can dictate whether you decide to use the supplier again in future. You have a few options for evaluation.

Survey participants

Feedback from participants is the best way to evaluate a workshop. You could do this in a few ways:

  1. If the workshop is being delivered in-person, you could leave feedback forms on tables and ask participants to complete them.
  2. If virtual, you could schedule a poll to appear as participants leave the meeting. You typically must be the host to do this.
  3. Whether it's in-person or virtual, you can send a follow-up survey by email to registered participants.

Be respectful to the supplier. You could make them aware that you are collecting feedback and offer to share the anonymised results if they would like them.

You could create your own survey or use a website such as online surveys. Here is an example survey.

Feedback from host/organiser

It can be useful to get feedback from the person who organised and/or hosted the session. This could be a researcher developer, an organisational developer or another member of staff.

They can offer a different perspective to the participants. This person may also know some of the participants and can gather some informal feedback.


  • Plan commissioned sessions with as much advance notice as possible as suppliers’ diaries get full quickly. We’d suggest a minimum of 2 months’ notice typically. 
  • Check that suppliers only use images (or music) in any legacy resources that they have the copyright for, or have an appropriate license (public domain image or suitable creative commons license)  
  • Consider accessibility for legacy resources. If the supplier has included closed captions ensure that these can be toggled on or off. A work-around if this is not possible is to request them to supply videos with and without captions embedded allowing users to choose the most suitable for them. 
  • If you need a session delivered at very short notice clearly communicate this to your supplier, as they should be able to tell you quickly if they’ve got any availability on your timescale or not.
  • Expect anything bespoke to have an increased cost to anything 'off-the-shelf'.
  • Expect in-person sessions to cost more than sessions delivered virtually.
  • If you’ve requested any legacy resources ensure you’ve been extremely clear about if these will be publicly or widely available, as some suppliers may not be comfortable with this.
  • If a supplier hasn’t worked in the HEI sector before they may not be clear on exactly who your audience is. You may have to take a little time to explain what a postdoc is, for example being clear that they are not a student or a synonym for a PGR. 
  • If you’re using any specific terminology at your institution that you’d like your supplier to mirror, let them know about this and share the specific details with them well in advance of the session. See the terminology guide for how Prosper detailed this. 
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