Regional Dissemination Workshop Planning Toolkit

This toolkit features a range of resources and tools that can be used when planning for a regional dissemination workshop — or any event related to the Clinical Trials Network. The toolkit was originally developed for planning in-person events, but has been updated to include some information related to virtual events as well.

Click the sections below to explore each topic.

Workshop Purpose

Planning a workshop is a complicated task — it will be helpful to have a planning committee to help you brainstorm your content, logistical needs, and outreach/marketing. You should include node members, but also consider inviting other stakeholders/collaborators who will want to contribute to the day’s activities and presentations.

Purpose and content

  • Is your purpose to inform a large group about new research results or provide in depth training in an intervention?
  • Are you planning multiple tracks, breakout sessions, or small group discussions?
  • What size audience is ideal for the purpose you have in mind?

Answers to these questions will determine whether you need:

  • a large banquet or lecture space,
  • a space with available nearby breakout rooms
  • a group of rooms where several small groups can meet

Make sure that those who are asked to plan content are involved in decisions about location. If possible, visit potential locations to determine if your needs can be met.

If the training agenda involves moving people during the day (e.g., doing small breakouts within a larger room, or moving to other rooms within the facility), make sure you have a workable plan for how that move will be accomplished.

Consider your desired audience

  • Your conference venue should be conveniently located for your potential audience. It also needs to be in a location that is comfortable for potential participants. For example, will your audience be excited or intimidated by the prospect of attending an event on a university campus?
  • If you are targeting a wide geographic area, it can be beneficial to locate in a place that people might want to go for other reasons (e.g., shopping, dining, or entertainment). Coming to your event can be an opportunity for fun as well as learning.
  • Remember, if participants are driving to this event, convenient and available parking will be an important consideration.

Identifying regional trends

The advantage of attending a regional dissemination workshop is that the topic can focus on a recent trend in your area. What are some timely topics of interest to your target audience? Here are some questions you can consider:

  • Has there been a rise in the use of a certain drug, or the appearance of a new drug or substance? Have overdoses related to a specific substance been increasing?
  • Is there a new population seeking certain drug effects?
  • Is your state considering changes to regulations or requirements?

Not only can the event you create address topics and issues that are particular to your region, it can be an opportunity for state officials and local experts to be called upon as guest speakers.

Choosing speakers, trainers, and materials

Choosing speakers can be a two-street process, the availability of certain experts might determine a plenary topic or you might seek out a renowned speaker based on a topic you think is particularly relevant.

The CTN Directory provides contact information for CTN members whom you might wish to invite to speak on their research.

The Addiction Technology Transfer Center (ATTC) may also be a good source for presenters who are knowledgeable about adoption and implementation of science in practice. Find your regional ATTC here.


Logistics are a surprisingly big part of planning a dissemination or training event. They play a significant role in how your attendees experience the event. If they can’t find parking, are hungry or cold, or can’t hear the presenter, their attention to the training content may be affected. If there is a group of you planning your event, designate a subgroup to focus on logistics and meet with that group on a regular basis over the months prior to the event. In addition, it is wise to designate a single person from that group as the main communicator with venues, contractors, and trainers.

Training location/platform

The venue for your training is in large part determined by the training purpose, content, and desired audience. It is also affected by budget.

Similarly, for virtual events, there are a range of platforms available that can facilitate hosting a large online workshop. Consider what functionality you are interested in (breakout groups? virtual exhibits? a chat space for networking?) and find a platform that can accommodate those functions while remaining affordable.


Most venues will cost something, and some venues will be quite expensive. Comparative shopping is a good idea. Before you do this, you will want to estimate numbers of participants and what you will need from the venue. Some venues include refreshments, parking, and audiovisual equipment in their estimates, and some have these as additional charges. Knowing what you need will enable you to do a side-by-side comparison across potential sites.


The rule here is “keep it simple.” If the purpose and target audience for the event have been determined by good research about local or regional training needs, it will not be difficult to attract attendees. As soon as you have determined date, venue and topic of your event, send out “save the date” information. This can be distributed as a one page flier to various email lists. To limit attendance to a select group (i.e., affiliates of your organization) send only to the email list for that group. Be aware, however, that recipients will forward these if they believe the training will be valuable. If your organization has a website or social media, you can also post event information there.

Once you are ready to register participants, send out a second, more detailed one-page flier that includes information on how to register. For both “save the date” and “time to register” fliers, make sure to have multiple members of your planning team review these in advance of sending them out.

If you are open to national attendees (particularly if this is a virtual event), the CTN Dissemination Library can also help distribute information about your event via its social media and blog, the monthly CTN Bulletin newsletter, and other avenues.

Developing an event website

It’s good to know ahead of time how many people to expect even if there’s no charge for attending. Having a registration website is extremely helpful. If your organization does not have the ability to develop such a site, check with your collaborators. There are also free platforms you can use to build a simple, temporary site (, Google Sites, for example). If you aren’t collecting a registration fee, Google Forms works well for collecting standard registration information (name, email, e.g.).

For a simple, informational page, the CTN Dissemination Library can also help (we can’t handle registration for you, but can quickly put together a webpage on the Library site that provides information and links out to your registration form and other documents).

Multiple pages or sections (e.g., Welcome, Agenda, Logistics, Registration, and Contact) on a registration website can help interested participants find what they need. Designate one person to keep close track of registration so you can put people on a waiting list or close registration when you reach a target number. If you are giving priority to affiliates of your organization, you might want to place others on a waiting list until you are sure you’ve received all the priority registrations.

The ideal time to do this would be six weeks to two months in advance of your event. The number of people attending will tell you what size rooms you will need, how much food to order, necessary number of handouts, etc. If you are not charging for admission, the general rule of thumb is to assume 20% will be a no-show (for online events, that figure is typically more like 50%).


The purpose and format of your workshop and size of the venue will determine the number of people you can accommodate. For online events, your virtual meeting platform may have attendee limits based on the type of plan you purchased. It can be challenging to predict how many people a given event will attract. One often has to rely on previous experiences and knowledge of the target audience. Because no-shows are often fairly common (about 20% for in-person events and closer to 50% for virtual), you can safely over-register by a bit. Plan to have participants sign in as they arrive at the event gives you a record of attendance, helps with provision of continuing education credits, and provides information for planning future events. Virtual platforms (Zoom, e.g.) will also typically track attendance for you automatically.


If most attendees will be traveling to the event by car, adequate free parking is ideal. If free parking is not available, let trainees know in advance, identifying where the lowest cost parking is located and providing information about alternate modes of transportation. Supplying attendees in advance with a map of your venue that has parking options labeled can be extremely helpful (this is a good thing to add to your event webpage).


Hungry or thirsty attendees are dissatisfied attendees. Most people have come to expect that coffee and tea will be available at in-person events, and this is often accompanied by appropriate morning or afternoon snacks. If your event is funded through a Federal grant budget, the type of food you can charge to the budget may be limited; check with your budget coordinator to determine what is allowable.

If the venue is close to a variety of low-cost dining alternatives, it may be simplest to allow time for participants to go out on their own for meals — in this case, supplying attendees with a list of nearby restaurants can be very helpful. This can be posted on your event webpage or provided in a handout at check-in.

If providing a meal, plan to ask about special dietary needs (e.g. vegetarian, gluten-free) at registration so you have enough time to plan ahead. If you’re planning to serve a meal while a plenary presentation is also taking place, make sure the meal service doesn’t delay the presentation and won’t interfere with attendees’ attention to the speaker — a buffet line is not a great choice in this situation and a served meal or simple box lunch may work better.


Events lasting more than a day or drawing participants from a wide geographical area will necessitate overnight lodging for at least some attendees. You’ll want to make sure no other major regional events are taking place at the same time that could cause problems with lodging availability. The writer of this section once (inadvertently) planned an event to take place in a university district the day before the main graduation for this large university. Fortunately, the number of people requiring lodging was small, and we were able to find rooms in a convenient location!

If your meeting venue is a hotel, the easiest option for you and your attendees is if you reserve a block of rooms in the same hotel. If attendees are on their own for making lodging arrangements, you should provide a list of nearby affordable options. If you have funding, and you want to attract individuals who are on very limited budgets, offering a limited number of travel awards is a good idea.

Print materials for in-person event packets

For in-person events, you may want to prepare printed versions of your materials that can be picked up at registration, like your event program or agenda, handouts corresponding to speaker slides, and evaluation forms. If attendees will be on their own for a meal during your event, include a restaurant list in their packet. For multi-day events, you might also consider including a list of nearby drug stores, grocery stores, or even tourist activities. Also consult with your speakers/trainers about what materials or handouts they would like attendees to receive, and make sure you have all of these ready in time to copy and collate prior to the event.

Audio-visual equipment

Technical difficulties can detract from attendees experience, so audio-visual equipment (e.g., microphones, projectors and screens, video equipment) should be carefully planned and confirmed with the venue. If the venue is providing this equipment, make sure they will have someone available to set up and assist, if needed.

If you are doing a virtual event, you may want to have presenters do a dry run with you in the weeks prior to the event, so you can check sound and video quality and explain the plan for sharing slides, transferring control of the screen, or other, similar functions. For lengthy events with numerous speakers, putting all the speaker slides into a single PowerPoint deck can help save time during transitions and reduce the risk of technical difficulties on the speaker’s end. Platforms like Zoom allow you to pass control of the screen over to presenters so they can advance their own slides.

Workshop Program

Choosing a format

The format for your program will be determined by your goals for the workshop, who is most likely to attend, and your speakers and their presentation topics and availability.

A common program design is to present lectures in the morning to a general audience, and then provide a more intimate setting in the afternoon which often includes experiential or interactive learning in a workshop setting. Adult learners prefer this kind of continuing education so that they can add their own experience or expertise to the discussion and more hands-on and interactive learning can help make new skills stick. Check out some of the sample agendas in the Sample Documents section below to get some ideas on how to organize your program.

Previously held regional dissemination workshops have typically been one or two day events. The length will likely be dictated by content, but also by available funds.

For virtual events, keep in mind that a full day of didactic lectures on a computer screen can be extremely tiring for an audience. Consider adding more breaks to your schedule, and including more interactive sessions or functionality, like breakout groups or polls, to keep people engaged.


Your agenda should break sessions down by room, location and time increments, including things like breaks, lunch, poster sessions, etc. Agendas for virtual events should include information on how to connect to each session.

When thinking about your agenda, it’s always good to consider a welcome & introduction from a state agency or sponsoring organization. This person will speak briefly, but can help set the tone for the event. They should be aware of what might be currently pressing on the minds of the audience: budget cuts, job security, new credentialing, changes in drug use trends, etc. It can also be this person’s job to create a sense of expectancy for what is to come. They can even acknowledge the initiative of those in attendance, their willingness to learn more job and career skills.

If the afternoon involves smaller workshop sessions, consider whether or not to bring the large group back together for a summation/discussion of what has transpired and get audience feedback. This can also be a time when you ask for completed evaluations and/or distribute certificates of completion.

Depending on the size of the event, you might also need staff or volunteers available to assist people with directions.

Check-in/Registration on the day of the event

Ideally, you will have a printed list of the names of registrants and can check attendees in as they arrive at the event — this is particularly important if you plan to follow-up later with certificates of attendance or CE credits. Consider also preparing printed name tags in advance with each attendee’s name and affiliation.

If your event is large, you’ll want multiple volunteers staffing your check-in/registration table so you can get attendees checked in as quickly as possible. You may also want a floating volunteer who acts as a troubleshooter — problems will always arise! Depending on the availability of space, the check-in table can get very crowded, particularly at the start of an event, and standing in line makes people irritated. Unfortunately, this kind of logistical situation can reflect poorly on evaluations. Opening the registration table 30-45 minutes before the start of the workshop can help stagger check-ins a bit more, reducing the risk of a long line.

Continuing education credits

The type of continuing education credit offered depends upon the needs of your audience, but you should definitely make every effort to be able to offer credit to the majority of the audience, even if it’s just a certificate of attendance that notes the event title, date, and length. You may have collaborators that are already CE providers; check with them in advance to find out what types of credits they offer and what information they need to collect from attendees for this process. Partnering with your regional Addiction Technology Transfer Center can help in this regard, as ATTC centers can offer NAADAC credits for addiction treatment providers.

On the day of the event, you will want to have those seeking CE credits sign in and, depending on requirements for different types of CE, you may also need to have folks sign out with the time they left the event. This can create a log jam at the end of the day as people all leave the training at once, so make sure you have enough volunteers available at the registration desk to facilitate this process.

Program evaluation

It’s always good to provide some sort of evaluation for your event. In addition to providing you with important information you can use for future planning, it also helps the audience feel you are receptive to their needs in all areas: content, logistics, comfort, etc.

This can be done with a simple printed questionnaire attendees complete at the end of the event and put in a box on their way out, or you can create a digital survey using Google Forms or a platform like SurveyMonkey and provide a link to attendees on the agenda or on a slide projected onscreen at the end of the event. Including a QR code for your survey makes it easy for folks to use their phones right on the spot to fill it out. If you’re doing a virtual event, post the link to your evaluation in the chat.

To make sure attendees complete the evaluation, consider setting aside some time toward the end of the day for that task — possibly right before the final presentation — rather than leaving it until the very end, when folks may be in a hurry to leave. If your evaluation form is online rather than in print, you might also want to follow up with an email to all attendees thanking them for coming and reminding them to complete the survey.

The information you gather will be of help as you prepare for future events, and will help you to understand what is considered important to your audience.


Ideally you will look to others to assist you in planning and presenting your workshop. Regional partners from research/academic departments, treatment agencies, professional organizations, community health, and local government/policy domains can help shape dissemination workshop goals and expand the potential audience to include a more diverse group of healthcare providers, policymakers, educators and researchers. Partnerships can also increase the reach of advertising through each collaborators’ own email lists and social media.

Some potential collaborators might include:

  • University Partners – Collaborating with university partners, such as Departments of Psychiatry, Public Health, Neuroscience, Schools of Nursing, Dentistry, etc. can meet the goal of disseminating evidence-based treatments beyond traditional substance abuse treatment providers to reach students, researchers, educators and a range of healthcare professionals.
  • Addiction Technology Transfer Centers (ATTCs) – The ATTC’s mission includes increasing awareness, building skills, and changing treatment practices to incorporate evidence-based practices into community addictions treatment. The ATTC has worked with NIDA and the CTN for many years on a range of collaborations. For example, the ATTC and CTN worked together on the NIDA/SAMHSA Blending Initiative to develop user-friendly “Blending Products” for treatment providers to facilitate the adoption of evidence-based interventions, including those tested within the CTN. They also have a monthly newsletter, the ATTC Messenger, that features a regular “Addiction Science Made Easy” column reporting on CTN-related research. The ATTCs have advanced expertise in implementing trainings, and can often provide infrastructure to assist planning, registration, trainers, and CE offerings. Find your regional network center here.
  • Single State Agencies (SSA) for Substance Abuse Services – Single State Agencies administer the federal Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment (SAPT) Block Grant issued through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) for each state. Collaboration with a single state agency provides opportunities for targeting statewide substance use trends, bringing policymakers and treatment providers together, and expanding your list of potential attendees. The single state agency will have a list of all licensed treatment programs within a state, which may be useful for marketing and outreach.
  • Research Centers – Research centers include NIDA-sponsored regional centers that conduct research on different aspects of substance abuse. Collaboration with research centers may be particularly helpful for identifying presenters of exciting areas of research beyond the usual scope of treatment-related information.
  • Professional Organizations– Professional organizations relevant to your target audience may want to participate in your event, or you might be able to add your workshop to an event they are already planning in your area, which can help save money if your budget is tight.
  • Treatment Programs – Some of the treatment programs that participate in the CTN are large and well-established and may have resources and relationships with larger organizations that promote training and dissemination. They may also be great sources for clinical experts for presentations, printing materials, volunteers, available space, etc.
Sample Documents

Flyers, brochures


CEU certificates

Other handouts

  • Evidence-Informed Management of Co-Occurring Addiction & Mental Illness (6/8/2012, PN Node) – Lunch, Etc. Handout (for packets, with map)
Previous Workshops


Cognitive Impairments Accompanying Methamphetamine Dependence: Pathologies, Clinical Implications, and Treatment Strategies (December 10, WS Node)
Slides – Webinar recording

Texas Addiction Research to Practice Conference (April 26, TX Node)
Agenda – Presentations: Walters | Stotts Part 1 | Stotts Part 2 | Wakhlu

Addressing Substance Use in the Hospital: Building Bridges to Community Treatment (April 9, DV Node)
Agenda – Save the Date Flyer – Presentations: Broyles | Woody | Stitzer

Evidence-Informed Management of Co-Occurring Addiction & Mental Illness in Adults & Adolescents (February 8, PN Node)
Agenda | Save the Date Flyer | Registration Flyer | CEU Certificate


Cross-System Response to the Opioid Epidemic (November 12, OV Node)
Agenda and Presentations

Using the ATTC/NIDA Blending Products to Affect Change (July 13, MA Node)
Agenda and Presentations

Evidence-Informed Management of Co-Occurring Addiction & Mental Illness (June 8, PN Node)
Save the Date Flyer – Registration Flyer – CEU Certificate – Lunch/Other Handout

Texas Research to Practice Conference: Learn How Science is Impacting Addiction Treatment (April 30, TX Node)
Agenda – Presentations: Trivedi | Velasquez | Crowell & Denton | Kosten | Potter | Hien | Spence | Levy | Muir


Methods for Disseminating Evidence-Based Treatments from the Frontlines of Community Treatment Programs (3rd edition) (September 21, RUC)
Agenda and Presentations

Cutting Edge Addiction Treatment Tools from NIDA’s Clinical Trials Network (June 3-4, MA Node)
Agenda and Presentations

Has your node hosted a Regional Dissemination Workshop? If so, we would love to add your materials to the CTN Dissemination Library!
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