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How to Present Dynamic Workshops - Part I
by Chris King

Like many other presenters, I get a “rush” from presenting a motivational keynote speech. And, hopefully, my audience is inspired and leaves the room motivated to pursue new and worthy goals and change non-productive habits. After years of speaking, however, I realize that most of this motivation disappears within a couple of weeks and definitely within a month. This is why I prefer giving workshops. My favorite structure is to present a topic over a two to four week time period to allow for assignments and feedback which benefits everyone who attends. In this article I will share some workshop tips that work for me, whether it is a one time workshop or an on-going workshop.

Use the AIDA formula when developing your workshop. When planning your workshop, use the same formula that works for all presentations. AIDA is the acronym of the four major steps of a powerful presentation. A stands for Attention. First, we need to get the attention of the attendees. Asking a question, starting with some music or an interactive activity (I sometimes have everyone stand up and stretch, or recite a rap piece together that I have posted). Next, I stands for Interest. We must quickly establish, “What’s in it for me?” by piquing their interest and showing them the benefits of being there. D stands for Desire. In this step we share the how-tos and ways for our participants to tackle a problem or get the results they seek, instilling the desire to tackle new approaches. And, the last A stands for Action. The final step in any worthwhile presentation is the call to action. What are they going to do, what have they learned, and what actions will they start taking right now? You can ask them outright?

Involve the participants. The more you can involve the workshop attendees, the more effective and dynamic your workshop will become. The guru of training techniques, Robert Pike, in his excellent and informative book, Creative Training Techniques Handbook states that, “People don’t argue with their own data.” He suggests that at the beginning of our workshop, we involve them immediately by asking the question, “What kinds of problems do people have because they don’t ______ (Fill in the blank with the topic of your program, e.g. communicate effectively, exercise, know how to handle conflict, etc.)?” Then ask, “What happens when you and I do ______ (Fill in with the same topic as in the first question)?” Depending upon the time available, you can have someone write the answers on a flip chart, because these will be the benefits gained from the workshop.

When I work with a small group, I will often start with a fun activity and go around the circle of participants, having everyone answer. For example, I lead a workshop called, “How to Discover Your Core Passion.” I make a few opening comments, and then ask each person, in turn, to introduce him or herself, tell us what they did yesterday for a profession (this is actually their present career and/or job title) and then what they do today (this is just a dream job or a career that they pull out of the air – “famous author on tour,” “Hollywood star,” etc.). I tell them not to agonize over an answer, this is just for fun. Other questions and also keeping your audience involved throughout the workshop either with you and/or other participants will keep your workshop lively and meaningful.

People learn best when they are having fun. Everyone learns best if he or she is having fun. So, as a presenter it is important for us to work on injecting some humor and enjoyable games and/or activities into our workshops. Being a storyteller, I use stories to keep the group energy high. I often tell stories of mishaps and embarrassing situations. Another speaker once shared that some days we are the “windshield” and some days we are the “bug.” Our listeners like us and our stories the best when we are the “bug.” Activities that make the group feel good or have a good laugh guarantee a dynamic workshop. In my “Core Passion” workshop, I always have participants write down descriptions of three times when they felt like a “success” and then share one with the group. I see them smiling as they write, and then “beam” as the rest of the group shows respect and appreciation as they relate a success.

The more hands-on involvement, the more information will be retained and be useful to participants. Confucius said, “What I hear, I forget. What I see, I remember. What I do, I understand.” That statement says it all. I know, for example, with computer learning, I can attend all sorts of lectures about how to do something, but if I don’t see it done and then get onto my computer and do it, it becomes a complete waste of time. That’s why I enjoy on-line classes, where I can do the lessons on my own time and ask questions when I have them. When planning a workshop, I ask myself, “What hands-on activities can I plan to make sure that the attendees really understand?” This is the reason I prefer to give assignments with some time in-between meetings. One fun assignment is to have those in my “Core Passion” group make colorful collages using illustrations that appeal to them (for whatever reason) that they have cut from magazines, or photos they have taken, postcards they have saved, etc. and then arrange and paste on a colorful poster board. It is amazing when they bring these art pieces to the next session how much we all learn about them and their passions.

Start using some of these tips in your next workshop or presentation. And come back to read Part II. Always remember – if you have any questions and/or tips of your own, send me your FEEDBACK!

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