Recently I’ve been invited to a number of events, and made some observations that are relevant to my book Really Bad Workshops (and how to avoid them).

Firstly when organising a workshop, make sure that you spend some time coaching your speakers to ensure that their messages are in line with audience expectations.  If you’ve pitched a speaker to an audience the last thing you want is them turning up presenting something that they used last week on an entirely different audience.

If you get the chance, review speaker presentations and offer to help tune them.   Top of the list for review should be graphs and charts.  There is no surer way of curing insomnia than cramming charts full of extraneous information such as the reference for the data sources, ten trend lines and twenty data points over 25 years. In contrast if you concentrate on the key information on the chart the message is much stronger.

Speakers should not be given an hour to fill – a presentation or talk is far punchier if you leave the audience wanting for more, rather than shifting their weight uncomfortably hoping for the presenter to finish.  I usually ask presenters to go for twenty minutes.  If they are good they will stick to their time – if they’re not so good they still have ten extra minutes before the audience attention span starts to waiver.

Finally, never ever have your attendees sit in the same seats for two and half days.  Shake things up and get them to break out, go on field trips or even have lunch in another location a short walk away.