Take Your Knowledge on the Road
Your knowledge is unique and valuable, and it could make a difference
if shared with others. Whether it's shared with your peers, a group
of clients or potential clients, a successful, well thought-out
and skillfully presented seminar could bring many rewardsófinancially
as well as personally.
Sharing information with your friends is one thing, but preparing
to present a successful seminar is another. If you want to go beyond
your local arena into the national circuits, as many of your peers
are doing, preparation and credentials are essential. Anything you
do to prepare to reach a regional/national opportunity will more
than benefit any local efforts.
The more credibility you can present along with your seminar proposal,
the greater are your chances of being accepted. Here are some ideas
to help you build your credentials:
1. Teach locally. Besides teaching through your local parks departments
and community colleges and universities, there also might be opportunities
for teaching classes in fabric stores.
If you teach the same class more than once through the same institution,
it is a testimony that your presentations must be good, i.e. you
are a good speaker.
2. Write. Approach an industry magazine about writing. If an opportunity
is not there right now, you could write for any related publication,
i.e. home sewing magazines. However, be prepared that your submissions
could take a while, even months, to work through the channels to
be accepted and printed. There could be two to three months lead-time
from acceptance to printing.
3. Get published. Do some research and see what you can do to get
your window coverings work published in popular consumer magazines
as well as trade magazines. And be sure you are given credit in
4. Enter competitions and exhibitions. Submit to any organization
within the industry that allows your work to be seen or judged.
This is a way to gather testimony to your work knowledge and skills.
5. Participate in online forums. This is a way to become active
and involved with your peers. If you can offer good insight and
advice, the members will remember you and want to attend your seminars.
Some vendors participate in the forums and this could open opportunities
you had not considered.
6. Publish a book/product. No matter what industry you are in, publishing
a book, DVD or other product is automatic clout. However, be aware
that that process is a whole different business and can be quite
lengthy and expensive in many ways.
One of the most important things you can do as you work on your
credentials is to get your photograph included in any printed matter
with which you are associated. Itís likely you wonít
be asked, so make a point to ask to have your photo included.
While there are some natural born speakers, for most people speaking
in front of a group is a very frightening experience. There is help
1. Local public speaking classes. Besides colleges, there may be
a local business group that offers speaking classes. I once took
a public speaking class offered by members of the Business &
Professional Womenís organization. It was less intimidating
because people I knew were teaching the class and I also knew my
fellow students. Being a very small group was also less frightening.
2. Toastmasters. This is a national organization dedicated to helping
its members become better speakers.
3. Dale Carnegie class. As I was trying to build my speaking skills,
I took a 12-week Dale Carnegie class. Not only did I become a far
better speaker, I also became more confident in myself. Even if
I had never done any public speaking afterwards, I would consider
it the best investment I ever made in myself.
4. Read books. This is a very good way to learn tips for speaking
well, but it should not be your only education. Itís important
to get more comfortable in front of people and you have to actually
do it for that to happen.
5. Take seminars. There are seminars available that teach you how
to present, and you learn by watching a professional in action.
However, you also must take seminars on other subjects besides speaking
so you can judge what you like and what you donít like about
different methods of presentation.
6. Know your topic. This is the easiest part. The better you know
your material, the more comfortable you will be. It may be good
to do some additional research. There is an old saying, ďIf
you want to learn something, teach it.Ē Many times, I researched
something I didnít know in order to teach it.
7. Dr. Wayne Dyerís advice: Itís simply this: ďTalk
from your heart authentically and be enthusiastic. Passionate, truthful
communication is always inspiring.Ē
CHOOSING A TOPIC
Choose a topic that is of current value in the industry and one
with which you have good experience, but also consider what would
be required to present it. I was very good at coming up with seminars
that required a lot of my time to make samples. However, I loved
the topics I was preparing and found making the samples only enhanced
my knowledge of what I was going to present.
The down side of having a lot of samples is transporting then to
the event, preparing for the presentation (steaming the sample treatments
and organizing them on site), packing up after the presentation,
transporting everything home and then storing them.
Another thing to consider is how many times you might eventually
be repeating your seminar. If itís a one-time-only deal, then
consider how much time and expense it will take and whether it will
be worth it. Know what your goals are, i.e. why you want to present
in the first place. The notoriety and residual return may more than
offset your initial investment.
The more prepared you are the better are your chances of getting
rave reviews of your presentation.
1. Organize what you plan to say. I always use an outline for both
writing and speaking. Yours need not be a formal outline. List your
main topics and the things you need to cover under each topic.
2. Plan/prepare the physical needs. Know what samples/props you
need to take and what equipment you need. What must you furnish
and what must the promoter provide?
3. Plan B. Things happen that shouldnít, so be prepared. Suppose
your samples donít arrive. Suppose you donít have the
equipment the promoter promised. Suppose your computer decides to
The one thing you can count on is you. I always carried my notes
with me, although with modern day airport security that may not
be possible anymore. Audiences usually are very understanding. If
you have your notes, you likely can do a very reasonable presentation.
4. Presentation of samples. You can pass samples around your audience.
Iíve seen it done many times and Iíve also done it on
a very limited scale. If too many things are being passed while
you are talking, the audience is going to miss a lot of what you
5. Have a handout. There are several thoughts on this. Many believe
in not giving out the handout until after the seminar, saying the
attendees will be more focused. I only did this once and it made
sense for that particular seminar.
As an attendee, I like a handout so I can make notes on it, and
I like it to be detailed. Many speakers believe that a detailed
handout takes away from the value of what the speaker is offering
in the presentation. I do my handouts in great detail because I
want that handout to be useful to the attendees many months after
the seminar when they finally need that information. By the way,
always put your copyright on your handout, i.e. © 2006 Kitty
Donít forget to find out who provides the copies of the handout,
the deadline to have them submitted, and if there is a restriction
on the number of pages you can include.
Your speech is what it is all about. Here are some crucial things
I found very important:
1. The main rule of speaking is: Tell them what you are going to
tell them, tell them, and then tell them what you told them, i.e.
summary, detail and summary.
2. Your notes. Donít try to memorize a speech verbatim. Use
an outline and ad-lib what you want to say. You should know your
topic well enough to be able to do this.
3. Plan to insert occasional diversions such as jokes or visual
action to make points. It helps to keep your audienceís attention.
Get the audience involved if you can. In one of the first seminars
I ever gave, I did a demonstration that required 10 people to assist.
Over the years, many people have told me they had never forgotten
that demo and what it taught.
4. Practice. A few people are born with speakerís genes, the
rest of us have to practice. I went over and over my presentations,
timing everything. I allowed time for questions because they are
inevitable. I tried my best to get my timing down so I would end
on time, which is essential.
Accept the fact that you may not be able to tell your audience all
that you would like to tell them in the allotted time. They will
never know what they missed.
5. Tell them when you are finished. The closing is the most important
part of your presentation. I memorized what I wanted to say in those
last few minutes, because I wanted to be sure they got the point
I was trying to make. I also would give them a call to action, i.e.
ask them to do a specific thing that would use what I had just told
I learned the value of ending properly as an attendee. I once attended
a seminar by a renowned speaker. Her delivery was exciting and enthusiastic
and she definitely had the audienceís attention throughout.
But at the end, she just stopped. There was an awkward silence as
the audience began to realize it was over. The speaker said nothing
to indicate it was over. The sad part was that the long period of
awkwardness made it even more awkward if the audience had wanted
to applaud. I would have applauded, but I felt the time for it had
passed. While applause is not the main purpose of speaking, it does
feel good and it tells you if you did a good job.
Speaking? Maybe it is not something you aspire to and it would really
be taking you outside your comfort zone. It will do that and in
the process expand your comfort zone and your self-confidence. Anytime
you force yourself outside the protection of your box, you grow
as a human being. And with each timid step, your personal value
grows and you get closer to the reason you are really here: to make
Speaking is one way to give many others a hand up. It might be a
little scary, but the satisfaction of watching others grow because
of what you contributed, is beyond description. Now that you know
how to get started, think about it. Even if you only do it once,
it could be the most joyous soul-growing thing you have ever done.
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.