Five tips for a successful workshop – personal experience

Presentation skills are required in almost every field today. Whether you are a student, administrators or executive, you may be asked to deliver  a presentation  at some point, and the quality of it will make the difference between success and failure.

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This year, as part of my events management degree, I had to deliver a 50 minutes workshop on a chosen contemporary issue in the events industry. As a student, and individual, I find marketing very interesting,, so I decided to sign-up for the event marketing topic with other students from my course.

As a group, we wanted to discuss the benefits of successful marketing, understand the different stages of marketing and identify the super-consumers and how to market to them.

Delivering a workshop is not an easy task, as it involves a lot of interactivity and creativity to stimulate collaborative working. That is why I would like to share with you some suggestions offered by a workshop presenter veteran, Dough Johnson, on what makes a superb workshop, and compare these to my personal experience.

Build basic understanding and key concepts

Dough Johnson says that the most successful workshops take a complex topic and make it understandable and useful, rather than giving  an “in-depth” coverage.

As a group, I believe we succeeded on this. We choose a broad topic “event marketing”, split it into four key concepts, provided basic understanding of each concept and used case studies to apply the learning. To make sure that the audience understood the topic, we structured a quiz with relevant questions, which was successfully completed by all participants at the end.

Be organised and communicate that organisation

Although the workshop content was found very interesting and useful to students preparing to work in the events industry, it was difficult to see some of the contemporary issues we were focusing on. This could be due to an insufficient logical construction of the workshop, which caused confusion between some topics, and in particular, between marketing for events and using events as a marketing communication tool.

Dough Johnson suggests to use an organisational road map where your key understandings build on one another and where, before moving to a next concept, you take some time to review the previous one, to make sure participant understood. Well,  a lesson for the future!

Be conversational and have fun

Dough Johnson says that it is important to build a human connection between you and your group. Unfortunately, the first section of our workshop was not very interactive. Some team members were quite nervous and read from their notes a little too much, which, as you would expect, affected the engagement of the audience. We also did not include any participation activities at the beginning, which was intentional. Before getting the audience involved, we wanted to make sure they possessed a general understanding of the topic. However, after delivering the workshop,  we realised that the approach affected the attention span of our audience, which did not seem engaged for the first 10 to 15 minutes.

Less talk, more action

“Don’t talk for more than 20 minutes without an activity that involves the participants” he says. Although we spoke a little too long at the beginning, later in the workshop we started to really engage with the audience. We asked questions, showed videos and included a quiz to embed learning. We also set a group problem solving scenario, where we asked the audience to discuss a potential marketing campaign for Coca-Cola Life. After giving them some time to discuss, they all came up with brilliant solutions! The use of case studies at the end, significantly helped to establish a feeling of conversation between the presenters and the audience.

End with a summary, on an upbeat note, and on time

Three simple, effective rules for any workshop, essay, report or presentation:

  • Tell them what you are going to tell them
  • Tell them
  • Then tell them what you just told them

As  a group, we started by setting out the objectives of the session to focus learning. We successively discussed these by presenting a very current literature, and at the end of the workshop we showed how we achieved these.

Although we were a little worried about the workshop running short, we used activities to control the length of it, and the workshop ended perfectly on time.


Personal development

The delivery of this workshop was the last opportunity I had to demonstrate my presentation skills at university.

This made me realise how my presentation skills have improved significantly over the last three years. I still remember the delivery of my first presentation at university. My voice was shaking and I was so nervous that I completely forgot my speech so I literally read everything from my notes and avoided any sort of eye contact with the audience!

Today, I am confident enough to deliver a presentation without reading from my notes, in a calm and professional style. I have significantly improved my verbal and body language communication skills and learnt how to engage and connect with the audience.

As final year student, I can now confidently sell my potential to future employers, by demonstrating the transferable skills I have developed during the last three years and use the delivery of this workshop as an example of my verbal, communication and teamwork skills.

*Image courtesy of Apps for Europe at Flickr.com

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