Try the 4 P’s:
1. Prepare it! Never “wing it”. While authors may be able to pull off an improvisational speech that entertains and delights workshop attendees, spontaneity = missed opportunities. Take full advantage of your workshop by preparing materials ahead. The more valuable your informational packet is, the more likely your materials will be brought home and shared with others. Your packet will also engage your audience while you speak. If you include a quiz and other resources (not already covered by your speech), your attendees will have a reason to bring your packet home. Don’t forget to include a QR code in your packet that leads attendees directly to your book pages, web site, or blog. I use QR codes to direct readers to a free book. And because you organized your thoughts when you put your packet together, you have insured a quality presentation. You can now relax and enjoy the experience.
2. Present it! Dazzle, sizzle, rock it out. There’s no excuse for not taking advantage of multimedia to jazz up your workshop. Ask your venue ahead of time if you can connect a laptop to their projector (convenient, but if your settings won’t cooperate or your laptop is incompatible with their system you could be in trouble, a run-through is necessary). Alternatively, bring in a large-screen monitor to display your workshop presentation (less convenient, but you’ll have more control). Create your presentation with the software that you are the most comfortable with. I use Microsoft Word. I add links to book trailers, images, and web pages that illustrate the points in my workshop. For example, if one of my bullet points was “Make a book trailer”, I’d then introduce and play my best book trailer. A few tips for creating your presentation: Don’t lead people to someone else’s work. Use your own samples! Don’t stay on any one topic beyond a few bullet points. Remember, we are a “sound bite” culture. Keep their attention by keeping things moving. Give them energy and action!
3. Photograph it! Take photos of your event. Ask attendees if they mind if you add photos of them to your author page/blog/site. Make sure you have their e-mail address to let them know when the photos are live. Caption or tag all photos and invite everyone to view the album. This follow-up to your workshop allows you to keep the attention on you for as long as you can. You might even make lasting connections.
4. Pitch it! Your workshop is your opportunity to shine—make the most of it. Here’s a winning idea: Host a book giveaway at your workshop. Invite attendees to enter the giveaway before the workshop begins. After the workshop, choose a winner. I bring entry slips and a raffle box for this purpose. Your winner will walk out of your workshop with one of your books in hand. Even if you don’t make a single sale, you have gained at least one reader. And who knows how many others your winner might share your book with! Basically, whatever you usually do to pitch your work online, you should do in person before and after your workshop. Don’t forget to interact with people. Before I lead a workshop I casually move around the room, asking attendees what they hope to get out of the workshop. This usually leads to someone asking me what I write, and I’m more than happy to tell them.
My workshop experiences have led to an exciting new venture. I’ve written comedy but I’ve never done standup—until now. The library circuit took an interest in my workshop topic “Accidental Comedienne”. I am the writer half for a comic my daughter illustrates. I also write a series that features a funny private detective character named Serena Wilcox. Rather than present the two topics separately, we focused on comedy so that we can combine them into one workshop. The result of this is that I’m now a standup comedienne, ironically, by accident.
Give the 4 P’s for giving a successful workshop a try. Squeeze all that you can out of your time in the spotlight. Make it worth your effort! You may surprise yourself with how much easier public speaking is when you come prepared with all the bells and whistles, a raffle box, an impressive packet, and loads of confidence. And, you never know when you may accidentally find yourself in a new role that you love!
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