Skip to main contentA logo with &quat;the muse&quat; in dark blue text.
Advice / Succeeding at Work / Getting Ahead

3 Lessons I Learned About How to Teach a Workshop (When I Did It for the First Time)

audience listening to a person speaking
izusek/Getty Images

One of my goals for my business this year was to step outside of my comfort zone and try new things. For instance, I was dying to try running a workshop.

Writing is at the core of my business—but I also happen to be an extrovert, so workshops seemed like a great way to connect with other people. While I was doing a 30-day networking challenge, I met a local career coach here in Portland who coordinates speakers and workshops for WomenWorkPDX, a monthly co-working and networking event for women in the area. We got together for coffee, I pitched her an idea, and after some fine-tuning, I officially had my first workshop booked—a presentation on “time management hacks to help you excel at work (and in life!).”

I made my debut last month at CENTRL Office, a local co-working space, and for a first-timer? I’m pretty darn proud of myself. The event went well, the women who attended seemed engaged, and planning and presenting challenged me in new and different ways (which was exactly what I was looking for).

But that doesn’t mean everything went perfectly! I definitely learned a few lessons along the way, and now that I officially have my first workshop under my belt, there are some things I’d do differently the next time around.

Focus on What You’re Good At

There are a lot of moving parts when you’re putting on a workshop; you need to research your topic, create an outline, write out your bullet points, create your slides, and more. It’s a lot to do—and, if you’re just one person (like I am!), it can feel like too much.

When I first started preparing, I thought I needed to do everything myself and quickly became overwhelmed. While I had no problem coming up with the workshop content (I am a writer, after all), I really struggled with how to translate that into a visual presentation.

In a lucky coincidence, I found my solution in the content I was preparing. One of the “hacks” I covered in my presentation was looking for opportunities to automate, delegate, and get things off your plate. I took my own advice and hired a graphic designer to help with my visuals.

Was it an investment? Absolutely. But it paid off in a major way. Having a designer handle the slides literally saved me hours of work and allowed me to spend more time focusing on everything else. As a result, I felt comfortable and confident with the content—and the visual part looked about a million times better than anything I could have pulled together (no matter how many hours I worked on it).

Make Sure You Have the Right Technology on Hand

I spent a lot of time in the weeks leading up to the workshop practicing my talk, working with the designer, and making sure I had all the handouts I needed for a successful presentation.

But I didn’t even think about equipment until it was (almost) too late. I needed a projector to showcase my slides. I needed a cord to connect my laptop to the projector. I needed a remote to move through slides during the presentation. And want to guess how many of these things I had? Zero.

I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I didn’t even think to tackle the technology piece until the morning of my workshop. This caused a momentary freakout—which, luckily, was abated when I called CENTRL Office and found out that they’d have all the cords and projectors I needed along with someone on hand to help me get set up when I arrived.

But that was just a lucky accident. They could just as easily not have had those things and I could have spent the hours before my workshop scrambling to every Best Buy in a 10-mile radius to find what I was looking for.

Lesson learned! Find out what technology you’ll need well ahead of time, and get it all sorted out before your workshop gets under way.

Practice, But Not Too Much

Full disclosure: I have a tendency to overprepare for things (just another fun side effect of my super Type A personality!). And given that this was my very first workshop and I wanted everything to go off without a hitch, I went into full-on overprepare mode—and practiced, practiced, practiced my presentation like it was going out of style. Which was helpful, but only to a point.

All that practice was getting me too caught up in the minutiae of exactly what to say and when. I was so concerned with the actual words that the overall message was getting lost; I felt like I was missing the forest for the trees.

Now, everyone has a different style for presenting; some people want (and need!) to have things planned out to the word. But I’ve realized that what works best for me is having a general framework of what I’m going to cover—mapping out bullet points for each slide—and then letting the actual words come to me in the moment.

So once I was able to go through my entire presentation from start to finish twice in a row (which was about a week before the actual workshop), I decided to back off the practice for a bit. I did just a few more run-throughs the day of and that worked perfectly for me.

Moral of the story: In the future, I’ll remember to cool it and keep my workshop practice to an ideal amount for me.

Overall, my first workshop felt like a success. Not only have a few of the women in attendance reached out to say they’re using the time management hacks I shared (yay!), but the workshop also led to my first entrepreneurial coaching consultation—another new and challenging thing I’ve been wanting to tackle.

But I know I’ve only scratched the surface. I’m planning on taking the lessons I’ve learned and using them to continue to improve (or, you might even say, workshop) my process of planning, developing, and presenting—which will make for better workshop experiences for everyone involved down the line.

And if you’re looking to book a workshop for your business, team, or networking group? Get in touch.