HOW CON: How to Plan a Workshop

How to Plan a Workshop
by Kate Nox

As an author, publisher, or event coordinator, you may be called upon to provide a workshop or in some way fill a time slot on a subject you know (expertise). You may be an expert in your field, but many of us have no idea how to pull a presentation together. This HOW Workshop will give you some guidelines to help you master this task with greater ease and aplomb.

Imagine with me:
You have been asked to provide a workshop for a group of 40 persons on a given subject.
You will have a time period of 40 minutes for your presentation.

Absolute step ONE:
Get the facts about what is desired by the group inviting you to present. Just like in the advertising class you took in college or high school, you get the 5 basics – Who, What, Where, When, How many?

Who – Is it a group of newbies to the subject or a group of your peers who will already know a bit or even more than you? You will want to tailor your information to your crowd.

What – is the subject the group is wanting you to present? Have they chosen a theme? (ie. Do they want your view on 14th century Ghost Exploration?)

When – is the workshop to take place? Include time and time frame. (40 minutes? 2 hours?)

Where – will it take place, what kind of room is the workshop to take place in? I once had to provide a craft workshop for 30 women sitting on half-log benches in a dusty outdoor amphitheater without electricity! Now is the time to find out if there will be projection equipment, a loudspeaker, or a podium.

How many – people will be in attendance? One of my pet peeves is attending a meeting or conference where there are not enough handouts for the crowd.

Step Two:
As soon as you get the topic plant it in your head – Tape it to your mirror, pin it to your car sun visor, log it on your phone, tack it on a bulletin board and exchange topics with a friend.
I have done these things for years and have even had several years of themes written where I can see them readily. I worked in a job where I was required to train and inspire people. Having the topic in my face frequently helped me to focus and catch the topic when I heard it or saw it elsewhere. It is amazing when reading an article in the newspaper or even seeing a billboard, or watching a TV show can spark an idea that becomes the direction for a presentation.

A friend of mine in a similar position and I always exchange what we are working on for the next year and often were able to provide information to help each other flesh out the post-it – notes on the mirror into a full presentation. I think we call that networking.

Step 3: Take a large piece of paper and just brainstorm. Write down everything you can think of that fits the subject. Cross off what is not helpful, then circle the important. Do your research, amass important information. Gather whatever you need to provide the information.

Step 4: 
After you have researched – Weed through and select the most important points you want to relay to your audience and write each on a 3×5 inch card.

Step 5: Use the cards to lay out the points in a logical flow toward your conclusion.

Step 6: Now that you have your topics and the information for each, work on connection lines. This is how you will get from one point to the next. These can be elaborate or as simple as “in light of that” or  “in conclusion”. This is one hint that will make you sound like the smoothest presenter on earth.

Step 7: Write your introduction last. You cannot know what you are about to say until you have decided what your information is.

Step 8:
 Talk it through with a timer and allow time for questions. The more you do this step, the more you will know your material and it will be more natural to talk about it.

Step 9:
 Prepare handouts, bibliography, and any video presentations.

On the day 
– Always take a few minutes in-the-space. Sit in the furthest chair, observe anything that may be blocking the view. Take a few minutes to stand behind the podium or wherever you will speak from. This time will give you the opportunity to change anything that makes you uncomfortable before your listeners arrive.

Presenting a topic is a privilege. Enjoy your opportunity!