Sunday, March 24, 2024

Preparation To Teach

By Terry Whalin

From the opening sentences, the workshop looked like a disaster. The speaker began with a story about their computer and how it crashed on the way to the conference. They had a detailed presentation but could not get their laptop and their powerpoint to work. It was disappointing and the content of the workshop went downhill from that moment. As a member of the audience, it was painful to see this workshop leader struggle with their topic. Throughout my years in the publishing community, Ive been in a number of these types of sessions with technology issues. Sometimes these glitches consume the entire workshop and Ive walked out regretting the wasted time. I could have chosen to go to a different workshop but didnt make that choice. Recently on Jane Friedmans blog, author and book coach Andromeda Romano-Lax cautioned writers about workshops and retreats. 

Because Ive been attending and teaching at workshops for years, I've heard some remarkable speakers, stories and information about the publishing world. I celebrate each opportunity to learn and listen to these leaders in our industry. For my own speaking and teaching, Ive made a number of decisions.

1. Dont Depend On Technology. I do not use a computer or powerpoint or any other technology which could crash and not perform for the workshop.

2. Use Old School Handouts with a Twist. Instead, I use paper and online handouts with the information. Also I make a point to include website links to information which is not in my presentation yet will be valuable to the various members of the audience. My goal with each handout is to make it the most valuable piece of information they take home from the event.

As I write this article about preparation to teach, Im preparing for a couple of workshops. One workshop is online and I will be traveling to another one for a live event over several days. Because I often teach on a particular topic, it would be simple to pull out my folder with my handouts and teaching notes. I could cut down the preparation time and use my previous materials--but that is not what I do. Im writing this article to show that I do much more than this minimun preparation. To show you the creative energy I pour into my handouts, heres a recent example.

For each workshop, I think through what I will be teaching. Have I had a recent experience that I can add a story to the workshop? Your personal stories add interest to your audience and keep them engaged in the workshop. Is there a new resource youve learned about which you can highlight as you teach? 

Finally I review my handout. Is the information what I want to teach? Do my links to additional information work? Is the additional information updated and current? I keep this online information on my own website instead of pointing to one which someone else controls and could instantly change. This decision reassures me that the information will be available and accessible to the workshop participant. 

While each conference is different, I will send my updated handout to the conference coordinator. Often they have a place on their website for workshop handouts. Sometimes this place is password protected and other times anyone can access it. What they do in this area isnt a concern to me. Im eager to get my information to as many people as possible. Some conferences print copies for their workshops. Other conferences will estimate your audience and ask you to bring these handouts.  I print a number of these handouts, put them in my teaching folder and bring them to the event. For each handout, I include my email and other contact information so I can be easily reached. It is always interesting to get handouts from other instructors who barely have their name on the handout--much less their contact information. Its all a part of the process of pouring creativity and thought into your handout.

I encourage you to have high expectations and goals for your own teaching. My personal goal each time is that my workshop will be one of the most significant experiences for that participant during the event. I understand that it costs time and money to attend a workshop. I want them to feel like their entire investment in the conference was earned through my single workshop. 

Often these sessions are recorded and through the years, writers will email and tell me they have listened to my recordings and taken action from my teaching. Whether you are aware of it or not, there is a long-term ripple effect from your teaching. As others have taught into my life, Im passing along my experiences and insights to others. Its our way of serving and helping others which will last beyond anything you will ever know about--which is remarkable to me. 

Do you teach other writers at workshops or conferences? What is your preparation process and what insights can you add to this article? I look forward to your comments.

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2 Comment:

At 7:22 AM, Blogger Kay DiBianca Left a note...

Great information, Terry. I've attended presentations that were very well organized and others that were poorly done. Although I prefer presentations that use powerpoint slides, I've found it's important to have paper backup in case of technology problems. (And it's important to have enough handouts for everyone!)

At 9:23 PM, Blogger Terry Whalin Left a note...


Thank you for this feedback. I've been in some great powerpoint presentations. I've always found my ease as a workshop leader if I've prepared each time. Terry


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