A workshop is a great learning process to present your idea to the group of participants by actively engaging them into discussions, exercises, and provide the possibility to practice by applying the concept.
Workshops can be local or remote. While the local one will let you communicate directly with the participants, the remote is more scalable and location independent and less stress, as you don’t need to stand in front of a bunch of people. In this article, I will share my experience of do’s and don’ts preparing a remote workshop for your teammates on a technical topic.
Deciding to do a workshop or not probably you will run into the same questions everyone has; self-doubt and uncertainty if you are qualified enough to explain your concept. But remember, you don’t need to be an expert on the topic, you need to know a little bit more than your public and of course, some preparation in advance.
Before the workshop, I always feel stressed and shitting my pants, but the experience is rewarding and worth it. My two cents on the hesitation: feel fear and do it anyway.
The best way to test your knowledge on the topic is to try to explain and teach others. By doing so, you will:
- Learn about the topic
- Get a reputation
- Train your communication skills
- Learn how to present idea
- The rewarding feeling for teaching others
These are excellent selling points for me.
Don’t have an idea you want to present and teach others? Think of the last new topic you learned about or get excited, or maybe there is something you would like to learn? If nothing pops up to your mind, you can always ask your teammates, what would they want to learn.
Research the topic. For example, if it’s some framework or library, the official documentation is a good start. Do some tutorials online, read blog posts, and write notes of things you would like to present from the topic.
Write a plan of subtopics. It will guide you during the process and help you stay on course. Start with the overview:
- Write the title first (i.e., How to debug JS)
- Think of the headings (i.e., Introduction, Five ways to debug JS, Conclusion)
- Figure out sub-headings by asking questions what, why, how of each line
After that, you should have a pretty decent plan to follow.
I have tried only a couple of media tools, and that’s what I am thinking of them:
- For casting and sharing the screen: Google Meet (company acc.), Google Hangouts (personal acc.), and Zoom. While the first ones were straightforward to set up, the Zoom has an advantage of recording possibility. If you still prefer Google infrastructure for sharing the screen, you can use QuickTime Player or 3rd party tool to record it.
- For the presentation: Keynote (Mac) and Google Slides (from Google Drive). Liked better the latter one, because it saves the slides in the cloud, available cross-platform and has a user-friendly UI.
Make the slides simple. Here’s the checklist:
- Write short titles
- Add images; some people prefer learning visually better
- Make use of bullet points and add only a few per slide
- Make animations; fade in bullet points or pictures one by one while explaining
- Do not read text from slides; they should be only a reference for what you want to tell
- Add presenter note for the situation where you get stuck. But add only short references so you can think and remember what you wanted to say. If you add too much text, you will end up reading it all.
Add examples of how your explained concept can be applied. I recommend using samples from your daily work or your product codebase. Participants will be familiar with the content of examples and be interested to see how the suggestions may improve day-to-day work.
To sink in the new information, allow the participants to apply it. Prepare an environment with assignments or activities. Preferably do it with the application your team is working daily.
I did a lot of mistakes during the presentations and learned them the hard way. Here are a few takeaways to avoid for your next workshop:
Avoid lectures at any cost. After 45 minutes of my presentation, everyone was clapping, but not for the presented content, more for it finished. The material was too dry, examples were difficult, there was no opportunity for participants to try it, and I was speaking the whole time. Disaster.
Try to engage the public in conversation and discussion. Ask questions do they find it useful, do they understand the concept, what they think of it. Time to time ask if they still follow you and maybe they have questions or something to add.
Listening to monotonous voice will hypnotize your audience, and they will lose focus. If you struggle to show your emotions through speech as I do, think of the topic and how are you excited about sharing it with others.
Adding a little bit fun into your presentation will set a good mood, help to break the ice with the audience. Add funny pictures or fun facts to loosen up the audience. It will make your presentation enjoyable and memorable.
To sum up, doing a workshop is an enriching experience. You will improve your public speaking skills, mind flow, how to explain a difficult topic in an easy to understand way.
If you never did it, hope this article will be a good starting point and I want to encourage you to try and do it. Afterward, gather feedback and do it better next time.
Do have your do’s and don’ts for leading a workshop?