I’ve presented workshops at other people’s events for over ten years now. You know, where you get invited to teach on a topic for an hour or so at a conference or seminar because someone sees you as having something important to say. My topic has been writing through heartache. Ever since my son Daniel died at the age of four, I found writing to be a healthy respite for my sorrow and became an advocate for sharing the value of writing for healing, hope and healing.
After being asked to speak for a number of years, my husband looked at me one day and asked another question. He wanted to know if I had enough material to cover more than an hour. “You mean, like an all-day workshop where I instruct and attendees write?” Yep, that’s what he had in mind.
The truth was, I had loads of material to share; articles and tips on writing filled the drawers in my office. Hosting my own workshop certainly appealed to me! With the help of the Internet, I read some guidelines on conducting workshops and felt confident that I could do this.
My husband and I scouted out local places available for rent and spoke with sales reps at various hotels. We found a conference room we liked at a Country Inns and Suites and booked it for a date three months in the future. For the next week, I focused on the agenda, making sure it flowed. I inserted times into it, penciling in breaks for coffee and restrooms. Handouts? Folders? Notebooks? Would these be part of the workshop fee? A resource table? Of course, we would have a book table to sell my novels, cards and other items. Pricing our event took some time, but being new at this, we made sure to go the lower end of what others charged.
I promoted my event on my website, in my newsletter, on Craigslist, community bulletin boards, at my church, over coffee with friends, at family gatherings and with fellow authors and those in grief groups. Having the help of Facebook and Twitter helped immensely.
To be honest, I have to add that fears did play a part. When the non-refundable reservation fee was due at the hotel and I had only one registered attendee, I can’t say I wasn’t rattled. What if there weren’t enough paying participants to cover the cost of the conference room? What if we lost money instead of making it?
The first writing workshop arrived on a day in June three years ago. There were eight participants, most having waited till the last minute to register. Since then I’ve conducted all-day workshops at least twice a year, even being asked to host them for bereavement groups out of state and in private homes. And I provide incentives so people will sign up and pay sooner rather than later.
I absolutely love planning and executing my own events. From marketing to collecting money to facilitating to seeing how encouraged participants are after discovering the benefits of writing—I feel it is one of the things I was born to do!
Alice J. Wisler lives and writes in North Carolina. She’s the author of five novels and one new devotional, Getting Out of Bed in the Morning: Reflections of Comfort in Heartache. In addition to her online workshops, she has two upcoming all-day writing workshops. Learn more about them: http://www.alicewisler.com
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