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| Article Specs|
Article ID: 2820
Age Group: Adult
Posted: June 7th. 2000
Workshops at Festivals
by Patricia Telesco
Thinking of offering your services at an event or gathering as a lecturer/teacher or workshop presenter? For the most part this is something I think everyone should experience at least once, if for no other reason than to walk a mile in a presenter's shoes. However, not everyone is really suited to the task of teaching and speaking. So before putting your name in for consideration, please ask yourself some very serious questions like:
How long have you been studying the topic you want to speak about? Reading one book on shamanism, for example, doesn't qualify you to talk about shamanism nor does it make one an expert! When people come to a lecture or workshop, they expect the speaker to be trained and wholly knowledgeable in the subject matter. Don't disappoint them or embarrass your hosts. If you've examined each of these points and still feel this is something you want to do, then take the next steps:
Speaking of subject matter, can you offer alternative topics for a lecture or workshop? You don't want to talk about the same thing as another speaker, and you want to offer coordinators several really interesting subjects from which to choose. Think about the kinds of things you wish were on a venue, and you get the idea.
How comfortable are you with public speaking, answering difficult questions, and handling group dynamics? If you can't manage group dynamics, speaking at an event will be very difficult. For example, if someone is overwhelming the conversation (other than you), what do you do? How do you redirect the teaching? It's very important that speakers bring all their best diplomatic skills to the table in situations like these. True, some of these kinds of skills can be learned by doing (that was certainly the case for me), but a little awareness of psychology won't hurt!
What kind of presence have you had in the community to date? Have you worked at events as a volunteer? Have you been on staff? The reason this is important is twofold. First, event coordinators need to offer speakers that people actually want to hear. Community participation makes your name better known. Secondly, it's much easier to listen respectfully to someone that you know from previous events has a "clue" about what spirituality and magickal living really mean. If you're not walking the walk folks, don't talk!
How much work are you willing to put into a presentation in terms of making handouts, doing research, having activities (if applicable), etc.? Giving a lecture is not simply a matter of droning at a group of people, it's about communicating effectively, and solid preparation is necessary for that to happen.
What are your motives for speaking? If you're looking to win friends and influence people, this won't do it! On the other hand, if you want to share a positive method, information, or idea that has really helped you, and may help others, then you're at least half way to achieving success.
Can you afford to go to the event and speak if you are not offered (a) free entrance, (b) free camping, or some other form of renumeration for your time as a speaker. Not ever event can afford to pay speakers, so they may offer discounts or free admission, but some events can't even do that much. And until you become better known, you may have to foot your own bills.
How well do you take criticism. Trust me when I say that no matter how much you know about a subject, or how passionate your feelings toward it, there will be someone, somewhere who will find nits to pick. You've got to be ready for this, and willing to either listen or stand your ground (and sometimes both).
Write the event coordinator well ahead of time (A minimum lead time of 3-6 months is good) and ask how many speaker spots (if any) are still open, and how to apply for one.
Fill out any paperwork the coordinator requests to apply.
If they do not have paperwork, send a letter or email that provides the coordinator with your legal name, spiritual background, an outline of the proposed lecture/workshop, and any other information that will help them make a decision.
If you don't hear back in about 6 weeks, send a follow up letter. Just let them know you're trying to plan your time effectively and need an answer as soon as schedules will allow.
If the answer is "yes" ask how you can help promote the event (perhaps on your home page or by flyers). Remember an event is far more successful if everyone involved supports it, so it will be well attended (this will also help your lecture attract more people).
Begin preparing the lecture/workshop. Make a list for yourself of everything you either need to request from the coordinators and get that list to them immediately. For example, do you need a chalk or wipe off board? Do you need a CD player for music to accompany a meditation. Coordinators need to know this, especially at outdoor events where electrical outlets might be a prime commodity. Bear in mind that you might have to tote some components along yourself.
Write out notes that can be handed out to the group, and make yourself some detailed notes that will help you remember everything you wanted to share.
Use your detailed notes to practice the lecture or workshop a couple of times. I find this especially helpful when doing guided visualizations as part of a workshop. Going through it a couple of times with the music improves the pacing greatly. Beyond this, you'll find the practice makes the presentation flow more smoothly, with less paper shuffling.
Check and double check everything before you leave for the event to make sure you have what you need.
At the event:
Be on time for your workshop or lecture. You are no longer simply an attendee at this gathering, you are now a representative of it, so act like a professional! Trish Telesco
Wait about 7 minutes before starting to give people time to arrive from other closely timed lectures. After this, get started. You can always bring late comers up to speed afterward.
Maintain as much eye contact with the group as possible. This is very important to effective communication, and making people feel involved.
Get people involved! Ask them questions, or for personal experiences. If you see someone nodding vehimently, there's obviously something to which they relate. Ask them about it! The more people participate, the better the results will be.
Let Spirit guide you. I cannot tell you how many times my notes have gone completely by the way side when I sensed that there were more important needs to attend to in my group. If some people ask about this afterward, you can give them some of the information you had planned and explain your decision.
If you find you're having trouble getting people involved, try moving from sitting in chairs to sitting on the floor or grass. Sometimes a circle of chairs feels too much like school, but when people get on the floor and kick of their shoes, it levels the playing ground.
Use humor as a teaching tool. It relieves a lot of tension and often gets people to open up more.
Don't be afraid to take a leadership role. If someone is getting out of line and trying to dominate the conversation, redirect them or ask them politely to wait and give someone else a chance. This is not the time to be shy.
Leave at least 10-15 minutes at the end of your slotted time for questions and answers, or just fun interplay. This helps you connect with the people gathered on a more intimate level.
Finish on time. This is a courtesy. Remember that some people have other speakers they want to hear, and someone else may need to use your space.
Offer feedback forms. This isn't a necessity, but it helps if you're new to speaking. The feedback forms will help you know what worked and what didn't so you can adapt things in the future.
Have fun! This is essential. If you're not enjoying your material, neither will anyone else.
The Witches' Voice
June 9th., 2000
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