Running a Workshop at a Developer Conference

Last week I ran a quick video call with some of the amazing humans that are speaking at WordCamp Joburg 2018. It mainly focused on how to run a workshop but these could definitely be applied at normal talks.

Tip #1

First and foremost, workshops are interactive. By their nature, they’re designed to show people how to do something. The best way to teach people how to do something, is to get them do it themselves.

Make sure your workshop is designed around getting the attendees to do as much as possible. This also lets them leave with something to show and that’s always super rewarding.

Tip #2

Start with the end in mind. Give your attendees a clear picture of what to expect from your workshop so they know what you’re working towards. It also really helps them understand why some decisions are being made rather than getting distracted by that.

Tip #3

Explain the why behind the what at each stage. This is similar to the above tip but this really helps people see beyond the practical. Copying what someone else has done is easy but really getting into the detail about how this is going to help them makes them want to take this further.

A good gauge here is to see if people are adding their own little bits to the code you’ve asked them to do. Don’t take it as a negative if they aren’t though.

Tip #4

Keep it nice and slow with constant check-ins. I can’t actually stress this enough. I’ve been to so many workshops where the instructor just flies ahead and ends up having two people out of 100 following along.

Like tip #1, this is supposed to be practical so slow down and make sure everyone is up to speed before moving on. If this means less content to get more people involved, then definitely do it.

Tip #5

Don’t be afraid to stop your workshop to help someone out. This leads straight on from #4. If someone is stuck, see if you can help them out. If it’s going to take too long then it might be better to get them to join up with someone else. If it’s a quickish fix then I’d really suggest helping them get going.

Tip #6

Encourage collaboration (this helps out with point 5 as well). Get people to work with others especially if they are more experienced in the topic. You could even ask people that you know could help out before the workshop.

If you can get your attendees helping each other it should mean that a larger part of the audience participates.

Tip #7

Don’t try build Rome in a day. This is really important and it will make the difference between a talk that has everyone staring at you with wide eyes or people that walk away with something tangible.

It can be super enticing to give people as much value as possible but sometimes you can give more value by doing less. Actually, I take that back, you can almost always give more value by doing less.

Tip #8

Get your attendees to prep before the workshop. This can be key to a successful workshop especially if there is a technical setup that is required or even a local development environment.

You’d be able to ask the organising team of the workshop / conference to send a mail asking attendees to do a little prep.

Tip #9

Let the organisers know if you have any special requirements. If you need a whiteboard, a flip chart or special equipment, let the organisers know as soon as possible. This allows them to try and organise it for you before the event and remove a very awkward scenario at the event.

Tip #10

Use the PA system especially in larger rooms. If you haven’t used a microphone before, it can be a little weird that you don’t have to shout to have an entire room hear you (this doesn’t mean that you should not speak clearly and confidently).

I’d suggest just checking to see if everyone can hear you OK in a room that doesn’t have someone managing the sound.

Tip #11

Have a backup plan if the internet breaks. This is really important as it is super awkward when the internet goes down and there isn’t a way for you to continue. A backup could be a screenshot or a video of what you’re wanting to do.

Another backup could be using your own device for internet connection or having everything set up locally for you to work off.

Tip #12

Code snippets shared with attendees. This is something that has caught me out in every workshop I’ve presented before. If you’re going to have code that the attendees need to use, create a repo or online resource that you can share with them to get the snippets of code.

This just means you don’t have endless typos and also means you can maintain a pretty high velocity if you have a ton of content.

WordCamp Joburg – Want to setup an online store?

Here are my slides from my workshop from WordCamp Joburg 2016. Most of the content was covered in the workshop (not on the slides) but the slides might give you a good idea of the flow.

The stuff you’d really care about is most likely where to get the software that we used. Here are the things we used in the workshop:

Remember, you don’t have to use these plugins but they’re a good store. You can head to the WooCommerce Extensions page for plugins that add functionality. You can also look on WooCommerce, Themeforest and even the WordPress Theme Directory for more themes.

Here’s a link to my slides. I’d love to get feedback from you about the workshop and anyway I could improve it 🙂

Discomfort: The Best Way to Learn

Sometimes, you just have to put yourself out there to push yourself to learn great things and standing in front of people may be the best way to learn.

On Thursday (7 September) I’ll be doing a workshop at WordCamp Cape Town 2016 on continuous integration. You may ask, what is “continuous integration”? Well, up to a couple of months ago I had only heard this term and never really understand what it was.

Over the last few months, I’ve been dabbling in it and trying to apply it effectively to the environment and workflow I use. All I knew was that it was important and that I had to start applying it.

When my speaker application was approved and the one idea of me speaking about continuous integration was accepted, I really had no choice but to use it and learn a lot more about continuous integration, and quickly.

I realised, as I was finishing up my workshop notes, that sometimes it’s actually a lot easier to learn something when you’re under pressure. There’s definitely no more pressure than standing up in front of a whole lot of super clever people and telling them about technology.

To, that’s what I’ll be doing on Thursday, putting myself out there, hoping to help a bunch of people but really just pushing myself to learn more.

What’s your best way to learn?

Thoughts on why we are Becoming Educated Buyers

There is has been a massive shift at Digital Leap over the last month as we realised many our clients were looking to really understand the digital space and how they could be effective. During this new journey, we realised that we had been trying to sell to people who wanted to find out as much information as they could to make an educated decision. I totally buy into this and we’ve made it our sole marketing strategy over the last year.

As I was writing another blog for the business tonight, I stopped to think about why selling is becoming buyer-centric and sales people are having to change their strategies. Here they are.

1. Quality is not a Given

Back in the day, you could buy a Ford or Chevvy and it would run for decades. In fact, there are still a few that are running today that were made in the 60s! However, these days we can’t be sure if the car we are buying shifted a couple of millimeters on the assembly line and is going to have a deffect (nevermind the fact that we could have been lied to about the actually specs of the car – think VW).

This means that most people will actually research anything before they will buy to see what other people are saying about the product and its quality.

2. Knowledge is Power

I don’t know about you but when it comes to anything especially gadgets, I want to find out exactly how they work even if I don’t own one yet. I want to dive into the technology that is under the hood and the amazing advancements that were made to get whatever it is that I’m buying to where it is.

People are craving knowledge and even more so when it’s about something they will lay their hard earned money down foore.

3. How Will it Help me?

This is probably the biggest reason for this shift. People are spending less on things they don’t want and even need. This doesn’t mean that fancy cars are going out of fashion but if it doesn’t fulfill a need for the person, you’re never going to sell it to them.

You can phone me every day and almost give me a mobile data contract for free and I would not take it. Why? Because in the end I have fibre at the office, ADSL at home and enough data on my phone to make it inbetween both locations. However, come and offer me fibre at home and I’ll sign up on the spot. The point I’m making is to pin point someone’s actual need.

My need isn’t more internet connectivity options. It’s a single reliable internet connect that is super fast.

It’s super interesting seeing this shift and it’s helped us really focus on what matters to buyers rather than what matters to our bottom-line (important but only over the long term).

Have you noticed the shift?

Book Review: Rich Dad Poor Dad

Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki has been recommended to me many times and I finally got down to reading it. It really does make sense of investment strategies and the flaws in pretty much everyone’s thinking – which is great. However, if you’re looking for investment advice and how to invest, this book won’t really cover the step-by-step directions on where and how to make money from your money.

I would say that it is enlightening to the fact that there’s a lot more to investing than you think and what the book reveals is that what you’ve been told (most likely by your parents) is that saving isn’t going to make you rich. What I get from the book is that you actually need to educate yourself to understand finances – what he would call “financial intelligence”.

If you’re looking for a “get rich quick” book then this probably isn’t a book for you. If you’re looking to really understand where to start making your money work for you and to actually point you in a direction, then Rich Dad Poor Dad will definitely help you with that.

Rich Dad Poor Dad Book Cover Rich Dad Poor Dad
Robert T. Kiyosaki, Sharon L. Lechter,
Business & Economics
Business Plus
January 15, 2001

Personal finance author and lecturer Robert T. Kiyosaki developed his unique economic perspective from two very different influences - his two fathers. This text lays out Kiyosaki's philosophy and his relationship with money.