You have done all you can to prepare a meaningful and confident seminar, but from the moment you arrive at your seminar location another equally essential preparation begins. Not only do you have to be sure all physical material is ready, you must be ready for the unplanned and unexpected during the seminar.
ON-SITE CHECK LIST
As soon as you get to your seminar location begin checking on everything you need.
1. Be sure all your materials have arrived.
2. Find out how soon you can get into your room to set up. If you have many samples that must be prepared (e.g. steamed, and laid out in order), then you must know if there is another speaker in your room before and after you. You may have to arrange with another speaker how to get into the room to prepare your samples so that they do not interfere with that personís presentation.
3. See your room as soon as possible and check that all the equipment you need is there and working.
4. Be sure you can work all the equipment. Have a backup plan if there is a power outage.
5. Check with security about unlocking and locking your room if you are setting up after hours (late evening or early morning).
6. Check the temperature of the room and find out how it can be changed if necessary. You may have an assistant who can handle this. I found I was usually a lot warmer than my audience.
7. Prepare your samples. Lay them out in order of need in the seminar, just as you do your notes. If you are leaving the room for more than a few minutes before presenting your seminar, cover all your samples with sheets or lining. Attendees are very nosey! Many try to check out everything they see and that could mess up and rearrange all your hard work! If you canít fix this before your seminar, it will rob you of valuable minutes during your presentation time.
8. Review your notes the night before. Even if you donít think you need to, it will give you more confidence.
As you watch attendees filing into the room you are bound to be nervous, especially if this is your first time speaking. Butterflies in the stomach are good! I always heard that if you werenít a bit nervous, then you couldnít be an effective speaker.
You will find that after you say your first couple of sentences, you will relax and the butterflies will help your adrenalin surge.
AND THE SHOW BEGINS
1. Introduce yourself. This is an important step and helps you to get comfortable.
2. Audience control is an on-the-job learning experience. This entails questions that are asked by the audience as well as antagonizers. You should have allowed some time in your preparation for answering questions, but if you see there is not enough time to do so, then tell your audience. I would say that due to time restraints I could not answer questions during the seminar. I asked them to make note of their questions and if there was time at the end I would answer them. If there was no time, then they could seek me out after the seminar and I would try to help them.
The disruptive people are few and far between, thankfully. If you have a challenging person in your seminar, know that the rest of the audience is just as annoyed as you are and itís not fair to them if you allow the troublemaker to persist. Tell them you would be happy to talk with them after the seminar and be firm about it. You may have to repeat this a few times. Often, members of the audience will help out and let their irritation be known.
3. There are questions you canít answer. Donít be afraid of them. You might say that it is a very interesting question but you donít have time to discuss it here, or you need a bit more detail before answering, or itís not quite on the topic. You can always ask them to see you after the seminar. I would often toss it out to members of the audience and get their input. You would be surprised at what you and your audience can learn this way.
4. You also will come across those who are unprepared. I tried to put in my seminar description what the prerequisites were. For instance, for my arch pinch pleat drapery seminar, I specified you must already know how to pleat a standard drapery. I did this because I knew I did not have time to teach that. When someone in my seminar asked about how to pleat, I had to ask her to see me afterwards.
5. There will be people who just donít get it. Make a brief attempt to get them on track. I have even asked the audience to offer a better explanation. As I said, after a brief attempt, if they still canít see it, ask them to see you after the seminar.
6. Time is important! You must end on time! Keep tabs on your time as you go along and as soon as you see that you wonít be able to finish, start leaving out little bits. If you have a thorough handout, there is enough info there for the audience to get that information by reading. Tell them that you gave them more info in the handout that you wanted them to have even though your time frame didnít allow you to cover it all.
7. End your seminar! As I discussed last month, it is important to have a real ending to your seminar (see D&WC, October 2006, page 50). Tell them what you covered. Ask them to take some action on what they learned and close with a sincere thank-you to them.
8. In many cases, some of your audience will come up to talk with you after the seminar. If you have to vacate the room quickly, learn to talk and answer questions as you go. Also learn to enlist the help of those who want to talk and then finish the conversation outside the room.
Most companies that sponsor seminars have a written questionnaire for attendees to fill out and hand in after the seminar. If there wasnít one, then I had a questionnaire that I provided to get audience feedback. Before you end your seminar remind the attendees to fill out the form.
In the cases where these critiques are given directly to you, resist the temptation to read them that day. Itís best to wait at least 24 hours to read them. Be prepared that there will be at least one bad apple in them. Most speakers agonize over one bad report out of 25 or more. There is no way we can please everybody. Learn from what they say and let them go.
Presenting a successful seminar is one of the more rewarding things you can do. Your self-esteem magnifies; you will be appreciated; you will be supported; you will never get tired of hearing how you have helped someone else. You will knowótruly knowóthat you made a difference and that your time on this Earth was beneficial to others.
All your experiences and knowledge in this industry are valuable. I encourage you to consider speaking to the industry. However, if you are not ready for this kind of sharing, itís OK. Instead, do all you can to encourage and support those who want to speak and are speaking in the industry. They need you there cheering for them. Who knows? Maybe one day, you will need that favor returned.
Kitty Stein, CWP, WCAA past board member, is a 29-year veteran of the drapery workroom industry. She has owned both retail and wholesale drapery workrooms as one person and as a company of nine, and she is the founder and past owner of Workroom Concepts, a consulting firm offering educational resources to the industry. Her experience includes professional speaking and writing for two industry trade magazines. She currently owns Kitty Stein & Co., which supplies industry vendors with the industry-specific products she has authored including Order in the Workroom, The Price List, Workroom Specifications, and Price Your Work with Confidence, available through D&WC.