Tips for Leading a Writers Workshop: Part 1 – Presenting

by | Presentations, Writing | 4 comments

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Leading a writers workshop is a great way to meet people and pay forward the writing help we’ve received.

These tips will help you feel comfortable presenting to a group.

5 Tips in Leading a Writers Workshop – Presenting

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1. Arrive early to set up so you can fix problems with projectors and computers, chair and table configurations, and your book-table setup. No matter how well I prepare, half the workshops I’ve led had a setup glitch. The calmer I was the faster it was rectified.


For example, at a workshop I led at a library, the tables needed rearranging, I required a lectern to hold my binder, and the projector worked but my slides weren’t showing. My calmness allowed me to take care of my needs and see the lens door wasn’t completely opened.

At home before the workshop, close all unnecessary apps on your laptop, except your slide presentation. Set it on the first slide. I use my own projector. I carry batteries for the remote and an extension cord.

image by WikimedialImages


2. As participants arrive, wander to their seat, introduce yourself, and talk to them.

Fellow introverts, it’s easy. Simply ask them what they’re writing, then put aside everything and listen to them. You’ll accomplish two things. As you listen carefully, you’ll think of something that adds to the conversation, and you’ll find out what kind of audience you have.

For example, at the library workshop, I discovered one person wrote nonfiction and songs, another wrote short stories, and two wrote memoirs. My workshop was mainly for novel writers. But during the workshop, I mentioned how the techniques could be used in short stories, memoirs, and non-fiction. This helped make my workshop a success.

3. Don’t allow outside events to rattle you. Do what you can to protect your class, such as shut a door, close a blind, or ask your host to take care of a problem. Other than that, ignore the goings-on. At the library workshop, during the entire session, two photographers snapped shots of the class and me for a library related article. My host warned me they might be there, but I’d forgotten.

image by jarmoluk

The photographers tried to be unobtrusive. I smiled at them and then ignored they were there. My job was to present my material to the class. Two benefits: I will be in an article. Free promotion. When the photographers took extra photos of me later, one said she learned much from the class.


4. Participants will share perfect responses to exercises. Compliment them. Sometimes others’ responses don’t apply, aren’t quite what you’re looking for, or need more to become workable. Expect this. They’re learning, and you’ve given them only minutes to prepare a piece. Never criticize. Look for anything that remotely applies, mention it, and build on that morsel.

If you’re listening, it’s not as hard as it sounds. This method allows them to hear what you say and become excited about how they can better their writing.

5. At the end, receive questions. Be available afterward for those who want to ask something privately. Thank your host, and send a thank-you note.

Part 1 – tips for leading a writers workshop – presenting. Click to tweet.

What questions or workshop 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.

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  1. Bonnie Winters

    Good information Zoe!. While I’ve never led a writing workshop, these tips are applicable to any kind of workshop a person might be offering. I’ve done many leadership training workshops, including one where I filled in with only a week’s notice because one of the presenters bailed at the last minute – hard not to get rattled with that. LOL!

    At one ladies’ conference, I taught a workshop in the main sanctuary with people walking through the building during the session. There weren’t any doors I could close to prevent the distractions, so instead of standing in the center of the class area to speak, I moved to one side of the area so people were looking away from the doors where the traffic was. I could see the foot traffic, but my group did not. It was easier for me to concentrate on the presentation knowing I had their attention. Thanks for these practical and helpful reminders.

    • Zoe M. McCarthy

      Bonnie, that is such a great example of taking care of participants. Without your making the change you would also have had the distraction of the participants being distracted. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Sheri Dean Parmelee, Ph.D

    Very helpful tips, Zoe. I will be presenting at a writer’s conference in September but feel that your suggestions are great for any type of conference presentation, like the one I am giving on Friday.

    • Zoe M. McCarthy

      Sheri, sounds like speaking is keeping you busy. I agree the tips can be used for any kind of presentation. Next week I give tips on preparing for a workshop. I hope your presentations go well.

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