Presenting a workshop

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Template:MWW If you are considering presenting a workshop, this article provides ideas and examples you can use to make it more effective. At least a presenter and attendees will be required, however some additional useful roles, depending on size and complexity are:

  • Technical support
  • Secretary
  • Media person for video recordings
  • Catering

Ahead of time

  • What is Your Goal? What is the Goal of the Attendee? Do they align?
  • If this is for a client, what are their expectations?
    • user level
    • user interest: are they champions, bystanders, or detractors?
    • make sure they are not busy doing email and other work....

(Goals are measurable--and binary!)

  • Pick a Date and Time and Place
  • Publicize your event
    • craigslist, local newspapers, press release,radio, tv, websites, email
  • Get registration information from attendees
  • Preparation:
    • make sure that your presentation is rehearsed and timed.
    • find out a bit more about your audience by networking/socializing before the presentation. Review the registration data, and make note of items that will help you relate to the audience.
  • Homework...make sure the audience has a taste of what to expect before the presentation. One idea is to assign a bit of homework before the event (such as creating an account on a wiki) that you can save time and that you can acknowledge them for when the event starts. You also want the audience to come prepared with tools if you do not supply them: pens, note paper, laptops, water bottles, etc.
  • Record the event: have someone that can record the event (audio + video). Let the audience know ahead of time, and pass out disclaimers/waivers as appropriate. For example, if a person does not want to be recorded, make sure there is a safe spot for them to sit that will not be captured.

The Venue

  • Insure they have internet connection. If they have wireless with a wep key, make sure that people have that info BEFORE you start. Don't waste time troubleshooting when you and the attendees should be learning.
  • Insure they have enough space
    • You will want to have n-1 chairs. You want it to be cozy, but not crowded. If you have too many empty chairs, that makes a bad impression. Better to bring in chairs than have empty ones
  • Handouts- if you have handouts or other activities, make sure they are in place before the event begins. Passing things around during the event is disruptive and will make you loose the contact with your audience.


  • People should check in, you should already have a list of attendees. A proper registration process will capture important data about your attendees' wants and needs as it relates to your presentation.

The Introduction

  • Earn The Right: These people are taking time out of their day to hear what we have to say. We need to redeem their time (and ours)
  • Be introduced. Have somebody introduce the main speaker. This could be the event sponsor, a co-worker, or someone who is affiliated with your audience already, to make your audience feel more at ease. The introduction should be written out ahead of time and given to the person who will introduce you. It should be a sentence or two about who the main speaker is, and why he/she is qualified to present/facilitate.
  • Once you are introduced, make a small introduction about yourself, and your credentials. You want to establish that you are a professional and an authority, but don't brag or go on and on. Better yet, weave this information into your presentation. People are here to learn, not to stroke your ego. You are here for them, not the other way around.
  • Give the people a good reason to listen and pay attention to you. Proper attire and mannerisms will cinch this for you.
  • Don't chew gum.


After you have established your right to have your audience spend time listening to you, your job is to make them comfortable with both you and eachother. The best way to do this is an ice breaker. A good ice-breaker will relax everyone in the room, including you. A bad ice-breaker will make everyone fall through into cold water, and you will spend the rest of the time "warming everyone up". Make sure that your icebreaker is appropriate to the audience. Be careful of offending anyone, including everyone, and identifying the "stragglers" or quiet people.

Get to Know your Audience

  • First and Foremost, thank the attendees for coming. Make it sincere, not trite. Single out a few people that you recognize, and let them know you are glad they are there. Do not generically "Thank The Audience". Again, you are there for them, not they for you. You can thank the person that introduced you, you can thank the event sponsor, etc. But this is all boring to your real audience. Be there for them!
  • Do the ice breaker (see below)
  • Involve the Audience. Ask them why they came and what they are hoping to accomplish.
  • Write down what the audience says, either on a white board where they can all see that you are listening, or on a sheet of paper that you can refer to later. I like to use a mindmap tool, and organize the thoughts right at the beginning with audience.
  • Surprise them with a joke, a video, or something to engage them.
  • Tell them what you are going to tell them. Remember the formula for a good speech: Tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them, tell them what you told them.
  • Using the info you gathered from the registration, and your observation of the behavior in the room, ID the "quick" learners, the "quiet" ones, or the "trouble makers" who always have something to say. Get them to help the "stragglers". Mix up groups of people.
  • Make teams, and have them solve a problem. Bring everyone back together and compare notes.

Ideas for Icebreaker

  • License plate

Prep: markers and big white cards Instructions: Let everyone know that each person is unique and has unique skills and ideas they bring to the table. Let them know that personalized license plates are a good way to share what they are to the world. Instruct them to take a few minutes to think up what their ideal custom plate would be, and then write it down. After a few minutes, go around and have people share what they have written, and why.

How to Give a Great Presentation

  • Beware of Death By Powerpoint. Some things are best left just as a simple speech instead of a slideshow.
  • Engage all their emotions: Fear, Anger, Joy.
  • Tell a story, make a point. Tell a story, make a point. Rinse, Lather, Repeat.
  • Keep the presentation focused. If one particularly animated soul likes the sound of his own voice, or brings up a side point, be sure to address that individual or point, and let them know that it is outside of the scope of this presentation, and you would be glad to talk to them about it later....
  • Make eye contact with individuals
  • Engage the audience. The best way to do this is to ask questions, ask for a show of hands, "have you ever..." type statements that help the audience relate to you and your topic. Make this a conversation, not an "I/Thou" bore-fest. Tell appropriate jokes (self effacing humor goes a long way here!) but keep away from sex, politics, and religion.
  • Repsect time limits. You should stop on time. Avoid tangents. You practiced ahead of time, and know how long this will take, right? You accounted for interaction, and can use that to your advantage to adjust your length.


One of the best ways to engage your audience and to help them learn is to give them an appropriate activity. You should at minimum have one activity planned to give you audience hands-on experience with a key point (or points) that you are trying to make. Make sure that your audience is clear on what they need to do, and the time limit to do the activity in. Wander among the groups of people and evesdrop on, and be available for questions or directions. Give them warning a minute or so before they need to wrap up.

Wrapping Up

  • Tell them what you told them.
  • Give a brief review of lessons learned. Remind them about supplemental material (website, podcasts, video, books) that they can purchase or get for free.
  • Let them know the formal part of the presentation is over. Tell the audience that you can take questions now, or turn it back over to the sponsor/person who introduced you, who may have important things to say. Have a few plants to clap for you....

Give Something of Value

By giving something of value away, you engage the human emotion of reciprocity. It is a good idea to give something of value away which will benefit the person. You do not need to necessarily expect anything in return in a selfish way. An example is to give away a book. It may cost $20.00 to do so, but the return if you give first should be great.

An example for the wiki workshops is to give away a simple card like this:

File:Wx wiki cheatsheet.jpg
4x6 handout of wiki cheatsheet

It is worth more than a business card, which will probably just be thrown away. It provides some usefulness, and allows the possessor to contact you for more information in context. Insurance agents and realtors are notorious for similar tactics with Magenetic Business Cards and Calendars. This hopefully is more useful.

Create Scarcity

Another human emotion to engage is scarcity. Humans don't want to be left out of a good thing. This type of behavior is what contributes to inflation. It can be used in a positive way. need to develop this more


Things that are measured improve; Get anonymous feedback from your audience on the:

  • Venue
  • Course Content
  • Course Activity(ies)
  • Speaker(s)
  • Refreshments (if provided/catered)

If anything is lacking, be sure to improve that for the next presentation.


Be sure to follow up with each workshop participant. Remind them again about supplemental material (website, podcasts, video, books) that they can purchase or get for free. Find out what the participants want for/from future presentations.

Lessons Learned

Following are suggestions from attendees that filled out the Workshop Evaluation Form for the wiki workshop held in Fort Collins on 7-29-08. 9 people showed up,5 female 4 male, mixed background, in a room that could hold 12 comfortably. Wireless was provided, and laptops were recommended. The time frame was 90 minutes, with 1 hour for the presentation, and 30 minutes for hands-on.

  • wanted more time to practice the real stuff/get more confidence with the material
  • more people = more interruptions
  • have someone besides presenter handle the technology (wireless issues on vista!)
  • learned a lot, but not sure how to apply it to the future (application!)
  • content for the presentation was well paced.
  • mix of levels was confusing to some--basic and "geek". their advice: wiki for dummies and wiki for "techies"

Other valuable lessons

  • Follow up on training
I volunteered to set up a wiki for an aligned business,and gave 3 wiki trainings to over 20 people, and put in over 30 hours of effort. I never followed up, and they are now looking at hiring another web designer because the site is "ugly" and "hard to edit".

Notes from Sven (summarized/bastardized)

  • use a computer suite so every person is behind a PC with web access to the tutorial, this also reduces issues since
  • all machines are the same and should have internet connectivity.
  • I prefer to run the entire presentation in mediaWiki, Extension:CSS allows a wikipoint style presentation to be delivered, where any potential issues are easily fixed on the fly since it is a wiki.
  • Any problems for attendies to do should be the same common problem so as to minimise the presenters workload.
  • Since users contributions are logged it is straight forward to monitor progress as homework if necessary.
  • Any integration of workshop material with other applications such as programming languages should be done so that text commands can be seemlessly copied across, the concepts are what is important not the syntax detail of commands which so often looses people.