In Consultation

In Consultation

Understanding What Your Audience Needs

By David Wexler

January/February 2016

Q: I’ve been asked to present a workshop to other mental health providers. Some of the reviews I received after my last public-speaking event were mixed at best and I want to get better at this. Any tips or guidelines?

A: Early in my career as a public speaker, I was offered an opportunity to present a two-day conference on the treatment models I’d developed for adolescents. The conference was being organized by a big-time association, and I knew this was my big break. I prepared for months and couldn’t wait for the accolades to roll in. Then I saw the first comment on an evaluation form: This workshop was an insult to my intelligence.

Stunned and mortified, I forced myself to look at all the comments and found that most of them were actually quite positive. Even the ones that offered criticisms were polite and respectful. Since then, I’ve spoken at more than a thousand conferences, and over the years, I’ve learned a lot about what works for speakers and what doesn’t, as well as how best to design an engaging professional workshop. Here’s what I’ve found.

Focusing and Engaging Your Audience

The most important principle to keep in mind when designing the content of your workshop is to think like you’re in the audience. When I first entered the workshop circuit, I tried to pack in every interesting study and story I could think of into my outline. I was insecure, and I wanted to show off my…

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