Tips for a Leading a Writers Workshop: Part 2 – Preparation

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If you have a passion for effective writing concepts, consider turning them into workshops you can share with others.

Here are tips to help you prepare a successful workshop.

6 Tips for Preparing a Writers Workshop

1. Start presenting at small venues and move up to conferences.

I started giving workshops at my local writers group. After each presentation, I honed the workshop and slides from what I learned. I moved on to workshops at libraries and then to one-day writers conferences. For a large writers’ organization, I’m leading a month-long online workshop.

To develop a workshop’s content, try writing blog posts on the topics you want to cover.

2. Restrict the number of topics covered to what easily fits the presentation’s time limit.

Err on the side of finishing early. Build in time for questions, exercises, and unplanned tidbits.

I have a workshop that offers fun techniques to improve scenes. The first time I gave the presentation I ran out of time, partly because I thought I had ten minutes more than I actually had. In preparing for a second workshop on this material, I realized five techniques were too many. One was more complicated and less fun than the others. I cut that technique. The improvement supported the saying, “kill your darlings.”

3. Include examples and stories.

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Many participants need applications to understand principles. They enjoy hearing stories that support ideas. Stories are a welcome break from stretches of listenig to information.

During lunch for one engagement, I told the woman beside me I’d appreciate feedback on the maiden launch of my presentation. She said, “Don’t cut any of your stories.”

4. Prepare slides that don’t overwhelm participants.

Limit word count on a slide to 40 words. Break up a 120-word slide into three. To send participants a cohesive document later, turn the slides into a document that puts dot points on one topic together.

For detailed teachings, include examples.

Provide simple tables, graphs, or screenshots to show a process’s steps.

image by jarmoluk

To break up the monotony of words, choose photos that complement your points. Make sure your photos belong to you or come from sites that give permission to use them. I use free images on Pixabay.

Slides should have plenty of “white” space. Make backgrounds a light neutral color. It’s easier on participants’ eyes than stark white.

5. Offer documents participants can review at home.

Convert slides to a PDF or Word document to email later to those participants who request them. During the class, supply a one- to two-page handout to jot notes on.

I recently attended a writers conference. Packed into seventy-five minutes, each workshop offered rivers of information, principles, tips, and examples. I tensed trying to listen, process, and take decent notes. When the presenters promised to send the slides or handouts to us, I relaxed, listened intently, and jotted a few supporting notes.

6. Besides practicing, time your presentation.

I time talks at least twice to learn how much time they use. After I start my stopwatch, I speak calmly and slowly. If there’s not sufficient time for speaking, questions, exercises, and extra tidbits, I tighten my presentation. Knowing I have plenty of time for my talk is huge in how calm I am during the workshop.

Part 2 – tips for leading a writers workshop – preparation. Click to tweet.

What questions or workshop preparation stories do you have?

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Amanda Larrowe’s lack of trust sabotages her relationships. The English teacher and award-winning author of middle-grade adventure books for boys has shut off communication with friends and family to meet her January 2 book deadline. Now, in the deepest snow accumulation Richmond, Virginia has experienced in years, Camden Lancaster moves in across the street. After ten years, her heart still smarts from the humiliating aftermath of their perfect high school Valentine’s Day date. He may have transformed into a handsome, amiable man, but his likeability doesn’t instill trust in Amanda’s heart. When Cam doesn’t recognize her on their first two encounters, she thinks it’s safe to be his fair-weather neighbor. Boy is she wrong.

4 Steps to Prepare Your Cherry-on-Top Presentation

“Ideas are useless unless used.” —Theodore Levitt

A traditional banana split as served in Cabot's Ice Cream and Restaurant in Newtonville, Massachusetts.
A traditional banana split as served in Cabot’s Ice Cream and Restaurant in Newtonville, Massachusetts.

Suppose your boss approaches you and says, “Company morale is down. I’m giving all employees an hour off work and inviting them to the cafeteria to enjoy free banana splits. I want you to give them a short pep talk before the sundaes are served.” How would you go about your task?

Here’s what I’d do, hypothetically.

Image courtesy of Pixomar at
Image courtesy of Pixomar at

1. Determine the audience’s need.

  • Especially if you’re not an employee, you’ll need to do research. Look up what the company’s industry is facing. Look at customer reviews of its products or services. Interview employees.
  • Decide how you’ll fill their need.


Banana splits: As an employee, I knew the morale problem was associates’ fear of infringement on their work from other departments and management . My pep talk needed to show employees how essential all areas and levels were to the company’s survival.

2.  Get an idea.

  • While you’re brainstorming, don’t eliminate ideas because they sound ridiculous.
  • Play with the ideas that grab you most. Which could give a fresh spin? What can you squeeze from that outlandish idea?

Banana splits: I couldn’t give up the silly idea of basing my pep talk on a banana split. What wisdom could I squeeze from the sundae? Maybe I could compare the structures of the company and a banana split. I hoped a banana-split story would delight my audience longer than a speech full of business-speak.

Http:// 3.   Sign on the Internet.

  • Researching your idea may jumpstart a new direction for your idea.
  • Or you may discover gems that enhance your message.

Banana splits: My research unveiled facts that played well with my comparison idea.

4.  Prepare your presentation.

  • Start your talk showing you understand the audience’s present situation.
  • Tell them how things could be.
  • Present your solution in a manner that appeals to their emotions.
  • Tell a story.

Banana splits: I recognized the difficulties the employees were experiencing. I explained my research suggested the product quality, customer service, and ads came across to customers like dog biscuits and threatened the company’s survival and their jobs. I assured them they could shine like a banana split, if they changed how employees treated each other.

MP900314258I told them the banana split’s boat-shaped dish, designed by David Strickler, the inventor of the banana split in 1904, represented the company’s mission.

Banana’s were first imported into America in 1902, making them a relatively a new treat and were in demand in 1904. The banana halves that supported the rest of the banana split represented consumer demand.

The mainstay vanilla ice cream symbolized production. The strawberry scoop denoted product development with its fruitful ideas, while the chocolate ice cream signified energized marketing.

Image courtesy of Sura Nualpradid at
Image courtesy of Sura Nualpradid at

The three syrups (chocolate, pineapple/wet walnut, and strawberry) characterized the areas’ tasks and expertizes. The syrups oozed together in the banana boat. This sharing of tasks and expertizes would improve their products, service, and image. Yum.

The whipped cream signified management, who had associates covered, providing them resources and breaking though red tape.

And what topped the banana split to represent the CEO? A marshmallow? No. Too soft and would get lost against the whipped cream. A nut? Who’d want a nut leading them? A bright red maraschino cherry? Now, that stood out! Many people didn’t like maraschino cherries. But the CEO was hired not to be liked but to lead.

The banana split I order. Strickler would keel over in a faint.
The banana split I order. Strickler would keel over in a faint.

I called for the banana splits to be served and asked everyone to feast their attention on their sundaes. Wouldn’t they enjoy being part of something that had such beautiful synergy—the whole outweighing its individual parts?

Hypothetically, they cheered and dug in.

What bizarre presentation idea worked well that you could share?

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