August, 2014

Five Workshop Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Janice Wilberg, Ph.D.

Janice Wilberg, Ph.D.

Your workshop proposal has been accepted and you’re going to present at an important state or national conference. You’re excited because you know you have a lot of knowledge to share and doing workshops is excellent professional development. You see this as an opportunity to step up a bit in your career.

So how do you make the most out of the experience? By avoiding these five presentation mistakes:

1. Thinking you have to tell everything you know. Your workshop participants don’t want to know everything you know, they want to know the most important things. This workshop won’t be your only chance in life to share your knowledge with others. Be focused in your topic and selective in what you say.

2. Not putting your audience’s needs first. People come to a workshop with expectations. Do you know what they are? Have you thought about what you would want to know if you were in your audience? What will make people feel like your workshop was time well-spent?

3. Mistaking your workshop for amateur hour. Your presentation materials need to look sharp and be useful. This means your PowerPoint is clear and well-composed and that your handouts are keepers, that is, they are organized, attractive, and very, very helpful.

4. Getting too cute. A workshop that uses too much irrelevant technology or that asks participants to engage in little exercises that might be fun but aren’t germane to the topic will use up time at the expense of content. Generally, folks in a short workshop don’t need to get to know each other; they need to zero in on the topic. This means as crisp presentation and plenty of time for questions and answers.

5. Letting yourself get hijacked. There’s a fine line between taking questions and hearing people out and losing control of your workshop. As much as you want to seriously respond to each question, you also have an obligation to consider the needs of the entire group of participants. Practice artful ways to bring the discussion back to what the group needs. How the workshop will benefit the whole group is your biggest priority.

At the end of a successful workshop, you want to see people heading toward you and not the door. You want them to come asking for extra clarification, wanting to know how to get more information, and looking to share their own stories. That’s your aim: to engage your colleagues in really thinking and reflecting on a topic you believe is very important. Avoiding this very common mistakes will help you reach that goal.



When Loner Meets Team

People who used to be called ‘loners’ are now introverts. Lately, there has been a blossoming of insight and information about introverts and a fair amount of appreciation for what introverts bring to the world. Susan Cain dissects the introvert’s world and how introverts affect the world in her book, The Power of Introverts.

But while we’re busy celebrating the introverts among us (or being greatly relieved because the world finally recognizes our value as introverts), the work world is still very much about collaboration and team work.

Teamwork can be very challenging for the introvert. Not because s/he doesn’t value collaboration but because teamwork often requires attitudes and approaches foreign to the introvert. If we remember this distinction between introverts and extroverts, it will be helpful to thinking about the teamwork challenge: extroverts refuel/get their energy from being with people; introverts do the same by withdrawing from interaction. Conversely, an extrovert can find the team experience to be exhilarating while the introvert find it exhausting.

The upshot of this difference may mean that the introvert’s contribution to a project’s success is less obvious. Not wanting to be in a group work environment may be interpreted as resistance or laziness. Being reticent to speak may be seen as lack of investment in the project’s success. Going off on one’s own to complete a project component might be viewed as arrogance.

Diversity manifests in many ways and not all of them are immediately obvious. Managers would do well to educate themselves about the differences between extroverts and introverts and reflect on their impact on the work environment, especially around the topic of teamwork. At the same time, a good manager probably wants to determine where s/he falls on the extrovert/introvert spectrum and think through how that might influence her/his assessment of the performance of colleagues and those they supervise.

Reading Susan Cain’s book would be a good first step. The next step is putting that new thinking into action in the workplace.