Writers in the Storm

A blog about writing

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August 18, 2023

Writers Helping Writers: Presenting to Writing Groups

by Eldred “Bob” Bird

Photograph of a large room filled with tables occupied by people watching a presentation on a screen at the front, a videographer off to the side and lights to illuminate the guest.

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!

Getting Started

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:

  • How many people are expected to attend? – This helps me plan for things like the number of handouts I need to print, how much promotional material to have on hand, and so on.
  • How much time am I going to have? – In addition to the actual presentation, I like to make sure I leave enough time for questions. I also like to have some interactive exercises when time allows.
  • What kind of technology will be available? – There’s nothing worse than showing up with an amazing audio-visual presentation only to find out that there’s no support for that kind of thing. Find out what the venue will provide and what you need to supply. If it’s a large room, will there be a PA system? What kind of inputs does the AV setup have? Some older technology may not play well with new systems. I always carry a wide selection of adapters in my laptop case for just this reason.
  • Will I be allowed to display and sell my books? – Most groups allow you to sell your work, but some venues may restrict it. Be sure to check with your host. They may have a specific way to handle merchandising.

Building the Presentation

 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.

Set Expectations for the Session

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.

Delivering the Goods

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.

Contact Information

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.

Interactive Exercise

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.

After the Session

Photo of a row of seated participants clapping

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.

Some Final Thoughts

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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About Eldred

Eldred "Bob" Bird

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 KarmaCatching 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 RoomTreble 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).

His passion for photography allows him to record his travels. He can be found on Twitter or Facebook, or at his website.

Image Credits:

Top image by Chelsea Ouellet from Pixabay

10 comments on “Writers Helping Writers: Presenting to Writing Groups”

  1. Excellent points. I recently used this approach when doing a Zoom presentation for an out-of-state (for me) writers group. One important decision is how to handle questions. At the end when you run the risk of running out of time? Or as you go, where you run the risk of running out of time. Most conferences include timekeepers for presentations, so they'll give you a heads up as you're approaching the end of your slot.
    Of course, as the speaker, it behooves you to look at these timekeepers. (Can you tell I served in that role once when the speaker never paid me a whit of attention.)

    1. Time keepers are a huge help. The good news is that with the proliferation of smartphones we have the ability to set alarms easily and become our own time keepers...if we remember to set them!

  2. Great points!

    I've presented at conferences and workshops. I like to split the time up in thirds, approximately.

    Lecture, activity, and then back together to chat about how the activity went. This format works. No one wants to deal with a talking head. Small group activities make the time more enjoyable for all.

  3. Excellent advice for anyone considering the role of presenter. I have twenty-plus years of experience as a presenter, but I recently made my first presentation to a writer’s club. The title is Artificial Intelligence 101. My only advice mirrors your own. Don’t ask general questions, ask specific ones. Instead of, “Do you have a projector? Ask, “Does your projector have an HDMI input jack?” You need to develop a set of minimum requirements for you to successfully make your presentation. Only by asking specific questions, can you ensure that the venue can meet those requirements.

  4. Excellent advice, Bob. Having done a presentation or two, myself, I'd add to wear comfortable shoes and to dress in something that represents yourself as a pro but is also comfortable and approachable In other words, unless you're presenting to business writers, don't dress business formal, try for like business casual. For a writer, business casual can be artsy and quirky but not include sweat pants or short-shorts.(Can you tell I've been unimpressed by some speakers who were a little too casual?)

    1. I agree about the dress code. Being the eccentric artist can buy you a little latitude, but dress according to your brand. You want people to remember you for what you provide, not how strange or inappropriate you look.

  5. I haven't returned to in person presentations yet, so mine are still virtual. For me, good self-care before and after the presentation really helps my natural anxiety. When presenting, I prefer interactive presentations with questions.

  6. I've never been a presenter, but I did attend a writer's conference recently and I have a more intensive one scheduled later this year.

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