Offering Workshops And Seminars
This may sound simplistic. However, many a seminar has foundered on the rocks of muddled planning because, regardless of how well-produced the seminar was, the program did not have a cohesion that made it readily assimilable by the students. You need to decide just what material you want to cover. Remember that most programs are too rich rather than too poor. In an intensive workshop setting with all of the resources which a group of like-minded people represent to each other available, the amount of material that can be digested is still rather small.
Any idea that needs to
be manipulated by the students needs not only discussion time but
also free time, free in the sense that there is nothing scheduled.
You can count on your students’ finding people with whom they are
especially compatible and talking with them if you give them the
chance and a little encouragement. A great deal of the useful work
in a seminar takes place in the so-called free time.
However, the points that seem so easily made when one is thinking out what one will say do not retain their chiseled architecture of logic when subjected to the pressures of many people looking expectantly toward you for words of enlightenment. Nothing will stand you in as good stead as honest rehearsal. If you are not satisfied with what you see when you talk to yourself in the mirror, practice again. You will find when you actually give your presentation that it is quite a bit different, probably, from what you have practiced at any time in the past.
Nevertheless the confidence that you feel because you
have practiced will be invaluable to you.
have no control over where your students will go when they finish
your seminar. While they are with you, however, it is well to be
painstaking in your attempts to produce not only a good program but
a good community environment for allowing that program to do its
work. The number of details that must be attended to mitigate
against setting up a workshop hurriedly. It is far better to begin
early in your planning.
This can happen in a home or in a hotel. It is, however, likelier to happen in a hotel since most of us do not have homes which lend themselves to accommodating sizable numbers of guests easily. In the public situation the meals are available from the hotel’s restaurant and all of the details having to do with the safety needs of the people in your seminar will probably be taken care of by the management. If you have decided to have the seminar either in your own home or in a natural outdoor setting you are facing all of the production yourself, possibly with the assistance of the people in your seminar.
are responsible for all of the details you need to start quite a bit
ahead of time in nailing down your place of meeting, wherever it may
be and, once it is reserved, in making quite sure that everything is
laid on for the smooth running of the seminar schedule.
If so, you need to determine that expense and be sure that it is covered either by funds that you already have or by monies sent in by the participants in the workshop. No matter who’s cooking the food, if you are responsible for the food it is a good idea for you to make out menus carefully before you go shopping. Plan simple foods but hearty ones for people are ravenously hungry at seminars and grow extremely restive when the food is scant in supply or too fancy or different to appeal to a relatively low common denominator of taste.
This is not to say that you need to plan hot dogs and hamburgers as your food. You may be a vegetarian and find such foods intolerable. Whatever food that you plan to fix, try to keep to the middle of the road in your selections of what to fix. Think of the food not only for its basic food value but for how much enjoyment it will give in the eating of it. Details of this kind are most appreciated during a seminar.
Once you have your menus made,
purchase all of your groceries that can be bought ahead. There are
always last-minute purchases that are necessary but the more that
you do ahead of time, the less that you will have to worry about
once the clock starts rolling on your seminar.
Accept only the number that can be housed comfortably in
the location that you have chosen. Overcrowding a seminar in order
to be of more service or in order to make the seminar more lucrative
is counterproductive in that an overcrowded situation makes everyone
uncomfortable and diminishes the effectiveness of the seminar.
Either you or someone in your organization needs to be of whatever service you can to each student as he arrives. It is usually possible to make some kind of arrangement to retrieve everybody. If you run into a snag because you are picking up too many different people at too many different places, don’t worry because you are inconveniencing someone. If you were not making that person wait for you to come pick him up that same person would have to get a cab in order to come to your house. Indeed, some may wish to do that and spare both of you any inconvenience.
However, it is quite normal for people to be willing
to put up with a certain amount of inconvenience in order to have a
few moments alone to chat with someone who is on the seminar staff,
prior to meeting everyone. There is always that feeling of
butterflies in the stomach before the students meet each other and
the ice gets broken.
Be sure that you have arranged not only for sleeping quarters for everyone but for the special needs of special people. If you do not have maid service you will need to run through the same process that you did with food: you will need to decide if you wish to do it yourself, hire someone to do it for you or engage all of the community of students in a clean-up routine of some kind. Whatever your decision is, be sure it is well in hand when the seminar opens.
If you are scheduling
students for KP and cleanup be sure that they have that information
before they sign up for the seminar. Some truths are best told at
Marshmallows or corn and potato roastings are nice accompaniment to a crackling bonfire around which the singers may sit. Almost every group has a guitarist in it so be sure to ask your students to bring their instruments with them. Parlor games such as charades are excellent, and other good icebreakers like shifting table assignments, joke-telling periods, common exercise periods and one-to-one sessions will occur to you as well as ideas which will come out of your own information and style of hospitality.
Just remember that you are the head of a
very real family for the length of time that the workshop is going
on. Treat it lovingly. Try to avoid unfortunate legal problems even
if morally you are not against a specific drug’s use, by requesting
that there be no drugs other than prescription drugs used on your
premises. And with that parental discipline out of the way, try to
let your guidance be benign and creative.
Don’t exaggerate or defend what you are attempting to teach. You are only offering information. Not only is there no way to defend yourself or your opinions, each person’s reality being subjectively determined, it is also unnecessary. People tend to be drawn to what will help them by a kind of inspired hunch and if you offer a workshop you will find yourself meeting people that you seem to have known all of your life. The amazing thing to me is that we do not become more and more aware of how intentional it usually is when we happen to meet people.
Sometimes you meet and talk with some new person and are
left wondering why you attracted that particular person and
conversation. Usually there is something either to work out for the
student or between you, or to celebrate as do friends who have not
seen each other for a long time. That is perhaps one of the best
things about seminars in general.
Literature about what the seminar is going to address is very helpful to students. If you have a speaker or speakers, offer pictures if possible, names and vitae. List the books which your students are going to need or with which it might help them to be conversant and be sure that they have that list well before they arrive at the seminar. If there is any doubt in your mind at all about the need for literature written especially for the workshop, please do go ahead and commit to paper what you wonder if you need.
Many workshops are marvelously full of content but somehow more
difficult to digest because there is not one keynote introduction
either given by you verbally or offered by you in the form of a
written introduction to your students which links each of the
speakers and subjects into a common chain of reasoning or unified
body with perhaps many details but one overriding theme.
Another good resource for you to have is a comprehensive, probably hand-drawn map of the local area showing mileages to your location, where the seminar is and where everything in the community that will be needed is in relation to it. A good resource map would include the nearest grocery, drug store, cleaner, laundromat, shopping center and a nice sprinkling of churches and synagogues if you are holding the seminar over a weekend and intend to provide for those who wish to attend services.
Restaurants and movies should be added if people are going to be having free meal times or are going to be responsible for their own meals, or if there will be free time enough for people to go see a movie. You will want to have a complete first aid kit on hand. If you are working out of a hotel it is most likely that details like this are covered.
The same goes for smoke alarms and fire extinguishers, a good supply of candies and matches or flashlights and batteries and at least one good, portable radio in case of an emergency. You always think to yourself when you are caught without power, “I wish that I had prepared for this.” The time for you to think that thought is not when you are responsible for a seminar full of students.
Try to think this one ahead of time!
What you will be creating will, in the end, no longer be your own but will be all of the participants’ mutual gift to the Creator. Allow that gift to flower naturally, given the garden you have made, the seeds you have planted.
Trust in your students and
the learning process.