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3 ways to manage your live, interactive workshop

3 Ways to manage your live interactive workshop

3 Ways to manage your live interactive workshop

Interactive workshops are great ways to teach an audience a new skill – and usually a lot more fun to listen to than a straight up lecture. But, there are some challenges too. One challenge, which we’ll talk about in this post, is keeping the audience on track.


As a former collegiate instructor, I know all about getting off track. Some students make a game of it! But, the longer I taught, the easier it was for me to bring them back so smoothly that they didn’t even realize I was redirecting the conversation. It just felt like – well, just that! A conversation.


For most of you, you won’t have anyone in your audience making a game out of distracting speakers that they have paid money to see. But, there are still situations in which people just get side tracked – and bring the entire crowd with them.


3 ways to manage your live, interactive workshop

3 ways to manage your live, interactive workshop

Imagine these situations, maybe some sound familiar to you?


  • That guy in the front row is waaaaaay more knowledgeable than everyone else in the audience and is asking questions that are just too technical. You want to jump right in and talk shop, but you also don’t want to lose everyone else in the dust. What do you do?
  • The entire audience is excited to share (great) and wants to participate (yay), but, as the speaker, you’re afraid you’re going to go over your time and not cover that really great stuff that you had planned to cover.
  • You know that lady who always has something to say, always has an example or the crazy story and you’re starting to wonder if she isn’t noticing that no one else in the audience is interested? You’re glad she’s comfortable enough to jump in, but you know it’s making everyone (including you) feel a little uncomfortable. You want to make sure everyone has a great experience, but you don’t want to straight up tell her to shush it. How do you handle it?


[Related: The interactive workshop formula]

Situations like this aren’t uncommon. Whether or not the audience notices, or if they just have a great time, is all up to you. It’s about guiding the conversation in a way that feels right for everyone, in a way that allows everyone to take as much as they can from it. (Tweet it. You know you love it. 🙂


If it gets out of hand, you run the risk of going over your time limit (or getting cut off too soon), or leaving your audience feeling as though they didn’t get max value from the event.


Below are some tips that I’ve used while teaching college classes and various workshops throughout the years. Use one of these methods during your next workshop to keep everything on track, no matter what the audience throws at you!


Method 1: Give them another way to express themselves


Have someone who is taking over the presentation, but still want to save face by not embarrassing anyone? Encouraging the over-sharer to express themselves in other ways, or at other times, is a great strategy. Here are some ideas.


The over-talker might just have a lot to share and not know that the rest of the room isn’t quite as interested as he is. Or, maybe he is just too advanced and the conversation is too technical for the group, but you know you can still help him. Go ahead and invite him to come up afterwards and you can have a private conversation. This will allow him to get his questions answered while you still meet the needs of the audience.


If he isn’t monopolizing the conversation, but you just have to move on, you can always offer group time to share. This works well if a lot of people are excited and want time to share their ideas or wins, too. I also find that people enjoy the networking (with a focus) time. Let everyone know that they’ll have time to share and also to collect additional ideas in just a few minutes, while you continue with the material you need to cover.


Maybe you don’t have time to chat immediately after the presentation, but you want to make sure you address everyone’s concerns (and some concerns are taking longer than others). Encourage the over-talker to jot down his thoughts and contact you later via email or social media.


Method 2: Encourage others to share


Sometimes you’ll have someone who is making great points, but is a little intimidating to others in the room, or just isn’t giving anyone else a shot at participating. Maybe they’re participating so much because they feel no one else will. In this case, sometimes just offering a chance for someone else to speak is enough. Use these phrases to get everyone in the room feeling chatty.


So and so is on point! But I want to make sure the rest of you are on track too. Who else…?


Good point! Does anyone else see that differently?


That’s a great story. Love it. Does anyone else want to share?


Method 3: Have some go to phrases to bring the attention back to the topic at hand.


If there is someone in the audience who just needs some help focusing, have some go-to phrases that you can use to bring everyone’s attention back to the topic at hand. Again, the goal is to save face. So, the words are just as important as the non-verbals. Smile. Acknowledge their contribution (verbally and with gestures and head nods), and then move on.


Practice these phrases in conversations with friends to see how they feel. Notice your natural non-verbals and what reaction you get from a friend. If they seem happy to move on, you’re doing it right. If they feel snubbed, try a different phrase that feels more natural to you, or work on making them feel heard first before trying to transition.


Absolutely! And something else that I wanted to touch on…


Wow, that is a good point. I could probably create a whole other talk about that. But for now, I also wanted to get into…


That reminds me…


It’s like you’re reading my mind! I’m going to touch on that in a few minutes so we’ll come back to that.


Yeah, great points. I have a few posts on that – see me later and I’ll make sure I get those links to you. For now, I just want to touch on this next point because I think you’ll find it really helpful.


As you work with these techniques, you’ll feel more and more comfortable using them, and your audience will feel more and more comfortable receiving them. Soon, it’ll feel natural and easy-breezy!


Your Turn

How do you handle audience interaction? Do you try to control it or just let it take it do what it does? I’d love to hear your take in the comments below!


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About the Author Sandy Donovan

Sandy empowers the young and talented to increase their power and influence by improving their ability to be heard and be clear. She does this by providing access to rigorously tested research in the communication, psychology, and marketing fields.