Presenting a Writing Workshop: Lessons Learned

Keli Gwyn with members of the Yosemite Romance Writers - From L-R: Diane Story, Me, Kimberley Smith, Christina Gulke, and Sheri Humphreys

July 16 found me in Fresno, California at the monthly meeting of the Yosemite Romance Writers chapter of Romance Writers of America®. The group had invited me to be their speaker, an honor I was happy to accept.

The members treated me like royalty. I arrived on July 15 and checked in to the hotel room reserved for me. Promptly at 6 p.m. the chapter VP, Diane Story, whisked me to a Japanese steakhouse and sushi bar called Takumi, where three other members joined us.

Image from Takumi website

Diane had reserved a spot for Teppanyaki. I’d never been to a Japanese restaurant and sat enthralled as the chef performed culinary artistry before our eyes. My teriyaki chicken was delicious, but conversing with the YRW members was the best part of the evening.

After a good night’s sleep, I awoke eager to make my way to the restaurant where the chapter meets. The helpful staff at Marie Callender’s on West Shaw Avenue in Fresno showed me to the conference room and saw to my needs. I set up and reviewed my notes.

An hour later, the room was abuzz as twelve members and I conversed. I enjoyed meeting these talented writers and learning about them and their writing. A business meeting followed, and then it was time for the presentation, “Rockin’ Your Revisions.”

The hour and a half flew by as the members and I explored the benefits of performing revisions, along with information on how to approach them and what to look for when revising our stories. The wealth of talent and creativity exhibited by the members as they participated in the discussion and activities was evident, and I was mightily impressed. The published members of the chapter lent their expertise, which I greatly appreciated.

As promised, there was chocolate, several varieties in fact. Many of my illustrations and one of my activities incorporated the delectable treat. I learned that a Hershey bar makes a great example of three-act story structure.

At the conclusion of the presentation, I doled out the various chocolate bars I’d used, along with some fun chocolate-themed door prizes to the winners.

We had a sweet time learning to rock our revisions, and I had such fun with the members of YRW.

What I Learned About Presenting a Workshop

Don’t let fear keep you from accepting an invitation to speak. Most people are afraid of public speaking. Those who speak anyway are the ones who overcome their fears.

Familiarize yourself with the venue. Taking time to check out the room where the presentation will take place eases some of the uncertainty. Diane had pointed out the restaurant where we’d be meeting the night before, so I drove over and got a look at the conference room. Knowing what the room looked like ahead of time enabled me to envision myself in the setting.

Arrive well-rested. Getting a good night’s sleep meant that I was at my best the next day and able to deal with the stresses of speaking from a position of strength.

Know your material so you have command of it. Even though I’d been a member of Toastmasters for three years, I was used to giving 5-7 minutes speeches, which I’d memorized. Speaking for an hour and a half is different. I didn’t use a script, choosing to work from an outline instead. Because I knew my material well, I was able to come across as more relaxed and conversational. In addition, I wasn’t thrown off track by questions.

Involve the participants. Choosing to answer questions as they occur to those present rather than waiting to the end helps to engage those listening to the talk. Doing so helped me, too, because I was able to gauge understanding and clarify anything that was unclear. I made a point of asking some of the members to elaborate on what I’d said based upon their experiences, which added greatly to the discussion.

Expect the unexpected. No matter how much communication takes place beforehand, there are bound to be a few surprises. Knowing that helps to keep a speaker from reeling when the unexpected happens. In my case, the meals were delivered two-thirds of the way into the presentation. My first thought was that I’d gone over my time, but a quick question assured me everything was fine and I could continue, which I did. I made a  couple of minor adjustments. I nixed the final group activity I’d planned, and I didn’t expect as much feedback from the members since they were eating.

Have a drawing at the end. While this isn’t a prerequisite, letting the audience know that there will be prizes given out at the end can help to keep people from slipping out early. It’s also fun to give back to those who’ve helped make the presentation even better by adding to it with their questions and comments.

Presenting a workshop can be fun. I had a wonderful time with the Yosemite Romance Writers. I’m all about paying it forward, so I find sharing information that can help other writers gratifying. And you get to meet some awesome people as I did.

• • •

What makes a workshop fun for you as a member of the audience?

If you’ve presented a workshop, what did you find most rewarding?


About Keli Gwyn

I'm an award-winning author of inspirational historical romance smitten with the Victorian Era. I'm currently writing for Harlequin's Love Inspired Historical line of wholesome, faith-filled romances. My debut novel, A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California, was released July 1, 2012. I'm represented by Rachelle Gardner of Book & Such Literary. I live in a Gold Rush-era town at the foot of the majestic Sierras. My favorite places to visit are my fictional worlds, other Gold Country towns and historical museums. When I'm not writing I enjoy taking walks, working out at Curves™ and reading.
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15 Responses to Presenting a Writing Workshop: Lessons Learned

  1. GREAT tips for any of us who may have the opportunity to speak in front of an audience, Keli. So glad you had a great time!

  2. Karenof4 says:

    Very interesting!! 1.5 hours! Impressive! Wish I could have been there to hear what you had to say. When it comes to public speaking, it’s all about the preparation and practice. The more you do it, the easier and more comfortable you get. Love your suggestions, they are dead on and completely helpful. Thank you! 🙂

  3. Great tips, Keli! To answer your questions: The visuals and personal stories that drive home a point are what make a workshop fun and memorable. When I’ve done a workshop, I feel rewarded when I hear participants say they learned something new and intend to put it into practice.

  4. I need to bookmark this one, Keli! So glad it went so well and so glad you had a wonderful birthday!

  5. Hi Keli! It was such a joy to meet you and what a great sport you were about trying Teppanyaki– I was afraid you were going to think it was TeppanYUCKY! 🙂 I am looking forward to reading your work.


  6. I know they loved you! I am amazed they even put you up in a hotel and took you out to eat! I am more amazed you have never been to a Japanese Steakhouse. There is an awesome one here in Orlando we go to every year since my daughter turned 13– she is 27 now!

    • Keli Gwyn says:

      Terri, I don’t exaggerate when I say I’m a Taco Bell addict. That’s where I eat out most of the time. A trip to Olive Garden is a big deal for my frugal teacher hubby and me. However, now that I’ve experienced Teppanyaki, I will have to find a Japanese steakhouse in our area so I can introduce our daughter and expand her horizons before she’s my age. =)

  7. Keli, Your talk was fabulous and we all enjoyed it immensely. I know I sure did! And it wasn’t just the chocolate – although I must admit that was sweet! LOL! It was an interesting topic and you delivered it not only with knowledge but with enthusiasm. In my experience the latter is more important that the former. Thanks for being with us. I hope we can entice you down again sometime. If not, I know I will see you in Anaheim next year, hopefully signing your own book at the ProLiteracy signing!

    Your friend, Sharon

  8. When I taught training classes at work, candy was always popular. 🙂 And for all-day sessions, we often liked to throw in little trivia quizzes every once in a while (with candy rewards, of course). It kept everybody’s brain engaged, but gave them a break from the training material.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Wonderful tips, Keli! Thanks for sharing them and all your experiences–sounds like a great meeting and a great group of writers.

  10. Sounds like your workshop went great, Keli! I’m sure you were a blessing to your listeners, and having the chocolate and door prizes were a nice bonus. 🙂

  11. cynthiaherron says:

    “Expect the unexpected.” Loved this, because it invariably will happen! I know your workshop was wonderful. 🙂

    And what a fabulous group to welcome you! Hotel, dinner, and talented guests and writers–wow! Every presenter’s dream. Thanks for sharing how things went, Keli, as well as your informative tips!

  12. Rita Garcia says:

    Great tips, Keli! I would have loved to be in the audience!

  13. I wish I’d been there!

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