Working a Workshop
Ahhhh, blogging! I’ve missed being here, blogging my presentations tips – I hope you’ve missed me too! Since I began doing my TipTuesday videos, I find those are a better-received avenue for my tips, so I think I’ll continue putting presentations tips there and reserve this space for things related to my notes, successes (and non-successes), ideas, experiences, and other things related to self-employment. As such, I’d like to talk about what I’ve learned from working a few workshops over the past few months.
Summer is hard. Summer is my favourite time of year: hot weather, cold drinks on the patio, regular sunshine and sporadic adventures. I absolutely live for summer, and as such I really feel like I come alive during the summer months. It may have something to do with my being always cold, I feel like I have to cram as much activity into the summer as I can, since I will inevitably be hibernating from October through to June. And just as I love to be active and outdoors during the summer, so do a lot of other people. Which makes hosting a workshop during summer months nearly impossible. Maybe next time I’ll do a workshop on making ice cream…or wine slushies…or maybe next time I’ll do the workshop in the pool…
Every attendee deserves the experience of your workshop. One of my biggest pet peeves is when I’m signed up for an event and it’s cancelled due to low registration. What a kicker! I’ve put aside that time and have been looking forward to the event, I’ve possibly passed on other activities I could have spent my time doing, and as an extroverted-introvert I’ve mentally prepared myself for being in that environment. And then it’s cancelled because apparently little ol’ me is not important enough for the host to run it anyway. Unless the event requires others to attend in order for little ol’ me to benefit from it, I’d much rather have a more personalized experience than get a refund.
It’s OK to change your focus. Sometimes the workshop you plan to deliver and the workshop your audience plans to receive are not completely aligned. Obviously, you should give people a fairly accurate description of the workshop before they register, but don’t be afraid to shift gears a little based on the needs of your attendees. Kicking off a workshop I did a few weeks ago I asked the attendees to tell the group what they were hoping to gain from that experience. Most of them had wanted to learn how to give a great presentation, which was only about 15% of my overall workshop. Instead of charging forward with the workshop I had planned to deliver and possibly disappointing my guests, I spent a little less time on the other material and a little more time on that 15% that the audience was looking for. That’s the nice thing about a presentation: you can change it on the fly!
Have your logistics sorted and ready – or have a backup plan. You should always save your presentation in several formats (.ppt, .pptx, .pdf, etc.) in case there is an issue with the technology you’re using once you arrive. But more than that, ensure you have enough handouts for the expected number of attendees, or ensure your host or facility can make more copies at the last minute. If you run out of copies and can’t create more before your workshop, get the contact information for anyone who’s left empty-handed so you can send them a digital copy or mail them an actual copy. Everyone in your audience should leave having felt like they were equally as important to you as the next person.
Be yourself! When people come to hear me speak or give a workshop they do expect a certain level of professionalism and skill regarding my public speaking. However, I’m human. During one workshop I caught a couple of unnecessary “so”s and I caught myself standing with one hip dropped (both habits I try to get my audience members to avoid). When the so’s slipped out or when I noticed my posture, I pointed them out to the audience as personal faults that I am working to improve. Pretending to be perfect and ignoring your own flaws reduces the connection you’ll make with your audience – which should always take priority in any presentation.
There you have it, a few things I’ve learned about running workshops. I really enjoy workshops (I made an entire business out of it with Critical Critters!), and I will be working more of them into my coaching business moving forward. Though I still love working one-on-one with my clients, workshops are a great way to teach basic skills to a larger number of people in one shot, as well as to give people a little glimpse into other facets of your business. If you’ve never considered creating a workshop for your own business, give it a try! And if you need some help planning, structuring, creating, and presenting your workshop, you know how to find me!