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Friday, June 26, 2009

Killer Campaigns: Conducting Workshops

I think one of the best ways to promote yourself and your books is to teach a workshop. Not only does it put you in front of an audience, it gives you a platform to talk BRIEFLY about your book(s).

For a good workshop you're going to need a couple of things.

• You need a topic that will draw people in.
• And you need to be an expert in that topic.

We can usually accomplish the first one, but what about the second?

For the purposes of this series, we will concentrate on topics of interest to writers.

The best way to find a workshop-worthy topic is to visit your regular writing forums. What kind of questions do they ask? What subjects come up most? Make a list of the most common or interesting topics.

Now, from this list what subject can you speak about with expertise?

Recently, someone from a local writers' group asked if I would be willing to talk to their group about hooks. I haven't decided if I'll do it yet because it is quite a drive for me to the group's location, but I'm leaving my options open.

I'm pretty good with hooks. My background in advertising has helped groom that talent, so I feel I can go into that workshop comfortably.

But I need more than a command of the subject to present well. I've been to quite a few workshops and aside from expertise, the most important aspect to a workshop is the presenter herself.

Here are some questions to ask yourself.

• Can you speak confidently and in a clear voice?

• Do you have an animated or bubbly personality that is infectious? The audience loves fun people.

• Do you know more about your topic than your audience? There is nothing worse than a presenter whose expertise is only veneer-deep. Remember that many people pay for workshops. You want to give them their money's worth.

• Do you have an interesting twist to an old problem? Most of us can Google for answers nowadays. You have to offer something extra.

Tips for preparing for a workshop:

• Practice your lecture notes

• Write up probable questions the audience might ask you and work up ready made answers so you don't fumble for the right words on class day.

• Try to find out before hand the general audience's skill level. You don't want to talk down or too far above the audience.

• Gather visual aids for your presentation

• Put out your wardrobe and make sure it is clean and not in need of mending

• Get a good night's sleep before your big day.

And when you do get up in front of that crowd…

• Don't forget to smile and welcome everyone warmly.

Workshops can either be live or online. The live ones are a little more nerve wracking because well…it's LIVE. Online workshops give you more leeway to measure your responses and depending on the forum, you may not be expected to answer except for once a day giving you ample time to prepare.

Both have advantages and disadvantages. As much as I adore online workshops, you run the risk of not understanding the question or perhaps not presenting in a way that's immediately understandable. Live workshops allow you to ask questions back and forth immediately. This keeps the momentum strong.

My other misgiving to online workshops is that sometimes conversations start between one or more participants and the instructor. Not only is it usually boring to the rest of the class, but it makes those not involved feel left out.

Whether you hold a live workshop or an online one, always make everyone feel welcome and encourage involvement from the whole group. They are counting on you not only to inform but to lead.

Lead with confidence.

For more Killer Campaign posts go here.

Copyright © 2009 Maria Zannini --

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Heather B. Moore said...

Great tips! When you have a book published, it's hard to switch from secluded writer to instant publicist. But you have to. An important part of that is also giving back and sharing your knowledge with other writers. Great post.

Maria Zannini said...

Thanks Heather. I think you're right about giving back--it's good karma and good sense.