Giving a Workshop: My First Time

Every now and then, there’s an opportunity, a special event – in Toastmasters as well as outside – when we’re looking for a speaker to deliver a workshop. When I ask someone who hasn’t done such thing before – often my question “How about you giving a workshop?” is not met with pure enthusiasm. Trying to answer the usual follow-up question “Why should I bother giving a workshop anyway?”, I remembered about my own “First time”. It happened once upon a time…


June 2014

Rome, Italy.

Delicious pizza. Magnificent architecture. Breathtaking art collections.

Maybe. But I didn’t see any of that during my stay.

Hotel. Conference hall. Presentations.

That’s more like it.


Speaker’s nightmare

Saturday 2:30 pm. The second day of the conference. An hour after lunch. 30 minutes after the conclusion of the keynote speech delivered by the seven times European public speaking champion John Zimmer.

The room that held about 100 people during the keynote now had only a dozen. Everyone else went to watch the speech contest in Italian. Describing the atmosphere as “sleepy” would be an euphemism. 6 people actually were sleeping.

“So what?”, I hear you asking.

Oh, nothing. It’s just it was me on the stage then. 10 minutes after the start of “How to get the most out of your mentor” – my first workshop ever at a Toastmasters conference. I was not fully in control of the content. My exercises did not work the way I thought they would. And there were still 30 more minutes to go. I was standing on the stage, sweating and suffering, trying to remember who got me into this. Making me pay more than 120€ for the plane ticket, twice as much for the hotel, and take a half-day off at work in order to deliver a workshop in front of 6 people half-conscious and 6 people sound asleep.

Oh yes. I remembered who it was. From the moment she said “Nice little speech on mentoring Lukas” a few weeks before in Prague, over her saying “There’s an event in Italy and they’re certainly looking for what you have” till the time she dragged me across the whole conference hall in Krakow to introduce me to the main organizer of the event with the words “Francesco, you certainly want to have Lukas on your agenda!”

Silvana. All her fault.

Standing still on the stage, I was thinking of what to do next. “Run away” came first. Maybe nobody would notice. Whisper “I can’t do this” and wait for someone to save me. I guess I was not enough of a princess for that.

No. I knew I had to struggle through it all the way till the end. And try to get the most out of it. I collected all the energy that remained in my body; forced a smile on my face; made a few jumps on the stage and started asking the audience questions at an increased pace, hoping for a more energetic discussion.

Result:

An impressive workshop finished with a standing ovation? Well, no. You know, it’s really hard to get a standing ovation from a room of 12 people; even if you manage to get them all awake. But I finished the workshop. I learned. And I understood that if I survived under these conditions, I can survive anything.


The Lessons

I. There’s only one First Time

Before Rome, I never gave such a workshop. It was hard to imagine for me. Scary too. After Rome – well, I gave a workshop that I was not exactly happy with. But I could imagine what it feels like to be preparing for one; I knew what it feels like standing in front of a difficult (sleepy) audience for 40 minutes. Now the anxiety was gone. Only feeling that “I’ve got to do this a lot better next time”. And that’s quite a productive feeling.

If you’re scared because you’ve never done it before – just do it. There’s only one First Time.

II. Your struggle gets you noticed

One of the dozen in the room was Olivia Schofield – one of the most famous speakers in the District and International Speech Contest finalist. As you could guess, my performance did not impress her. But it gave me a chance to get feedback from her. I remember it until today. The afternoon after the workshop – eating true italian ice-cream – Olivia looking straight into my eyes, saying: “Lukas, you have to put a lot – I mean a lot – more work into this. Otherwise, you will end up being m e d i o c r e.” I’ve heard her saying these words in a workshop to a big audience before – but it was only when they were addressed directly to me when I truly got their meaning. If I did not struggle back then, this conversation would not have happened.

It’s OK to be seen struggling. And even failing. The best ones may notice you’re trying to get somewhere – and help you along the way.

III. You keep what you create

After Rome I had some base material, including feedback from the participants. And even though I knew I had to elaborate on it, re-shuffle it, enrich it – it was there, waiting for the next opportunity. The next time I prepared a workshop on mentoring, I did not have to struggle with figuring out the basics. I could enjoy playing with the details.

The hours of preparation won’t get lost. You will create an asset. Ready to use. Any time.


Bottom Line

My first time?

Lot of money spent; countless hours burned; enormous pain suffered.

But still: Worth it.

 

I can’t guarantee it will be the same for you, but…

How about trying?


Featured Image taken from unsplash.com, used under Creative Commons Zero

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4 thoughts on “Giving a Workshop: My First Time

  1. Lukas, great article. You made me re-live my first workshop alone. Silvana was the same one “guilty” for putting me into it. I had more people in the room, they cooperated, I though it was great. People told me that it was good…for a beginner :). Then it came the evening when one of the famous speaker told me: “you want me to tell you the truth? you sucked!”. Because you have to leave people with something to do after your workshop. It was tough, but next time I gave the improved version of the same workshop, I really received a standing ovation.

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