Monday, September 24, 2007

Workshop Sins

Common sins when hosting or conducting management workshops:

Packing in more than 30 people per session. Is it possible for a class to be effective with more people in the room? Sure. But with each additional person you harm the connection between the speaker and the audience. Exception: Mega-audiences. Once the attendance hits around 70 or more, people loosen up. They are less conspicuous. It's the in-between numbers that are the problem. A key factor, however, is the nature of the subject. The more sensitive the topic, the better it is to have smaller groups.

Long conference rooms that create an airliner effect with the speaker at the front of the plane. If no microphone is available, the speaker has to shout to reach the people in the back.

Lack of audience manners. Most audiences are great but a few are strangers to basic courtesy. They show up late, noisily sit down, and are oblivious to their effect on the presentation. That subject is seldom or never addressed in many organizations.

Lack of refreshments. Not every organization can rise to the level of the large corporations that bring in exotic coffees, fruit, and freshly baked cookies, but you should at least be able to provide bottled water.

A poorly prepared introduction. It's far worse than having the speaker handle that task. This is the moment of first impressions and a botched introduction that gives away key parts of the presentation, belittles the subject, or erroneously describes the speaker's background is an unnecessary obstacle. In most cases, the briefer the introduction, the better.

Poorly placed visual aids. All should be within easy reach of the speaker.

Extreme temperatures. For some reason, freeze or bake is a frequent problem with conference rooms. If possible, the cooling/heating system should be fixed or another room should be used.

Failure to provide frequent breaks. In general, there should be a short break every hour. Even the most comfortable chairs start to pinch after an hour.


Matthew Cornell said...

Thanks for the *very* helpful tips. I'm new to workshops, having put together a full-day one on personal productivity from scratch, and having zero presentation experience. Oh, I'm self-taught in my field (a two-year "M.S.")

P.S. I found you via Nicholas Bate.

Michael Wade said...


I'm glad you liked them. Your comment arrived just as I was completing a post thanking Nicholas for information about a crime fiction site. I'm one of his biggest fans.

A few points on presentations that I'll emphasize: Consider in advance the possible questions of the most skeptical audience member. If you use PowerPoint, the fewer the slides, the better; at least 24 point font; and no more than three bullet points per slide.

Good luck!