by Eldred “Bob” Bird
Now that the country has pretty much opened up again, the opportunities to present to writer’s groups in person are opening up as well. I recently had the chance to get back up in front of a group for the first time since the shutdown and I must admit, it felt a little foreign.
I hadn’t been in the spotlight for over three years and my presentation skills needed some serious dusting off. As I pulled my materials together and created the outline and slide show, I thought it might be a good time to share my process with the WITS crowd, so here we go!
The first step I take when putting a presentation together is to get a clear idea of what the expectations of the hosting group are. Here are a few of the questions I usually have:
Whether I have video capabilities or not at the venue, I still like to build a Power Point presentation. It not only provides a way for me to keep myself on track, but also lets me produce handouts for the group. This gives them a way to follow along in case of the absence, or failure, of audio-visual equipment. I usually print two slides per page with large margins so there’s plenty of room for attendees to take notes.
There are as many ways to build a presentation as there are people delivering them. This is the general framework I use to structure my teaching materials when I’m asked to pass on what I’ve learned to other writers.
I use the first couple of slides to introduce myself and my body of work. This might include things like books, short stories, blogging (like I do for WITS), and other publishing credits. You should also mention any awards or recognition you’ve received from the writing community.
While this section feels a little like bragging, it goes toward establishing your credibility as an experienced writer with something of value to share. But don’t go overboard. Like I said, this is about establishing your credibility, not your superiority. You want to make a connection with the group without intimidating them.
The next thing I include is a high-level look at what I’ll be covering. This is usually just one slide with bullet points made up of the headers for each section of the presentation. I say a few words about what will be covered in each then move on. It makes for a smooth transition into the informational portion of the presentation.
This is where the meat of the presentation lives. The number of slides and how they are arranged will vary with the subject matter and how much time has been allotted for the session. Building around the bullet points on the slide that set the expectations, I create the rest of the slides for the presentation.
I also use bullet points on these slides to identify talking points for each section. What I don’t do is write a full explanation of each point. Nothing bores me more than listening to a presenter just read the slides to me. I prefer to use the slides as a guide and then talk about the concept. This makes it more personal and encourages interaction from the group.
I finish this section up with a general overview of the material and a Q&A session, if time permits.
The final slide in all of my presentations is a “Where to Find Me” page. This includes my website address, email, social media information, and links to places where my work is available, like my Amazon Author page. I usually leave this slide up for the remainder of my time at the podium.
If time and the subject matter permits, I like to hand out a worksheet and have the members of the group populate it with information from something they’re working on. I’ll ask for volunteers to share their work for input from me as well as the rest of the group. This helps to cement the concepts from the lesson.
It can also lead to building relationships within the group. More than once, I’ve seen writers get together after the session and share ideas sparked by the material and the interactions spurred on by the exercise.
If time and the venue allow, I like to make myself available for a meet and greet after the session. This gives people a chance to get to know me and my work a little better. Being accessible can go a long way toward building an audience, as well as establishing relationships with other writers.
I’m a living example of how this kind of networking can pay off. The fact that you’re reading this right now is proof. It was through networking with other writers that I was able to make some long-term connections that eventually led me to guest posting for WITS on a regular basis.
The above is just one approach to sharing your knowledge with other writers. It’s a good place to start. Next time you attend a conference, workshop, or author talk, I would encourage you to pay close attention not just to the message but to how it is delivered. Over time you will find what works for you, as well as your audience.
Do you teach workshops or speak to writer’s groups? What have you found works (or doesn’t)? Do you have a specific method you prefer when sharing your knowledge and experience with other writers? Let us know in the comments below!
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Eldred Bird writes contemporary fiction, short stories, and personal essays. He has spent a great deal of time exploring the deserts, forests, and deep canyons inside his home state of Arizona. His James McCarthy adventures, Killing Karma, Catching Karma, and Cold Karma, reflect this love of the Grand Canyon State even as his character solves mysteries amidst danger. Eldred explores the boundaries of short fiction in his stories, The Waking Room, Treble in Paradise: A Tale of Sax and Violins, and The Smell of Fear.
When he’s not writing, Eldred spends time cycling, hiking, and juggling (yes, juggling…bowling balls and 21-inch knives).
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