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How to Give Dynamic Workshops - Part II
by Chris King

After running a simple survey for visitors to this site, I discovered that the majority of people who answered prefer the hands-on workshop as their choice of presentation type. As a presenter, I also prefer leading workshops. I enjoy the interaction with participants and I also feel that attendees tend to retain and use more of the material and procedures covered. In this article I will continue sharing some workshop tips that I have learned over the years.

Practice the six Ps of Preparation. I know that I have stressed this before but we must never forget Proper Preparation and Practice Prevent Poor Performance. Even though the structure of a workshop may appear to be looser and more flexible than other presentations, it is imperative to be properly prepared – even more prepared than for other venues. In the type of workshop I prefer and give the most often, I gear it toward those who are in attendance. This means that I have to be prepared for a variety of situations, because everyone is different. Their feedback, questions, comments and needs are all different. If I am giving a two hour workshop, I have enough material and activities planned for at least four hours, so that if one of my plans doesn’t work for this particular group, I have another direction I can switch to with ease.

Have the attitude of a learner. I feel that I learn as much, if not more than, my students every time I conduct a workshop. There is nothing worse than attending a workshop where the leader has a condescending attitude – i.e. a “know-it-all.” Yes, as workshop presenters we are expected to be knowledgeable. This doesn’t mean, however, that we know the answer to every question or that we can’t learn something new from participants. If you are asked a question for which you don’t have an answer, admit it, but say that you will do some research and get back to them with an answer. I have had attendees recommend books and tapes that I am unfamiliar with, so I can broaden my knowledge base. And, if a participant answers a question in an off-beat way, remember that no answer is ever “wrong.” It may possibly trigger some interesting give-and-take and also put a different twist on the subject.

Plan transitions with care. Smooth transitions are important during any kind of presentation. If we jump from one topic to another too quickly and without any warning, or what I call “bridging,” we can leave our audience behind, so that they miss some of the new material and/or topic area. Just a short introductory sentence or description of where and why we are going in a certain direction should suffice. I learned the importance of this technique from teaching fitness classes. My students are so much happier and confident when I prepare them for the next set of moves. I tell them what we will be doing at the count of “eight” for example, and then count down, so we are all ready for the change. It is the same with workshops. You can tell a brief story, sum up what you have been saying, ask a question or introduce the next topic with some sort of attention getting device.

Don’t hesitate to give assignments and/or homework. Preferring workshops that continue at least into a second week, I always give the participants assignments to work on (with the statement that “there will be no punishment for not doing the homework”). A good number do work on the assignments and are delighted and proud to share their results. The more we expect from our students, the more they will expect from themselves and make the effort to please us and themselves.

Remember, God is in the details. Yes, Murphy’s Law is usually working, so what can go wrong, will. Patricia Fripp, a well known speaker once said “Never assume, always confirm.” To the point of almost seeming obsessive, I feel that getting in touch with the meeting planner to confirm time, date, and location, along with what is expected of me and what I expect in the way of equipment and setup is imperative. Otherwise, we may find that somewhere along the line, there has been some miscommunication which can prove to be disastrous. Also, think of all of the things that might go wrong – your handouts didn’t arrive, the bulb on the projector blows the minute you turn it on, the directions of how to get there are incorrect, and on and on. Just leave earlier than you need to, so that you will have lots of extra time to take care of any unforeseen problems and details that might occur.

Finally, make sure that you are having FUN! By approaching every workshop with the attitude that it’s going to be a blast, you will guarantee that the participants will have fun too. And, as I mentioned in Part I, people learn in the proportion to the amount of fun they are having!

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