You have a great idea for a workshop and there is a conference coming up. Time to fill out the faculty application. How can you give yourself the best chance of being selected as a presenter? Write a stellar workshop description! Many times writers view the description as a little nonfiction blurb stating the basics of what they will be sharing with the group. Incorrect. You are selling your workshop, and not just to the person selecting faculty, but to the attendees as well. Writers will be more likely to select your workshop if you show them they will be missing out if they skip it. So what do you include and what do you leave out? Check out the workshop description formula below.
Use Inviting Language
When you use fun, energetic language, you are showing potential attendees that it will be a fun, energetic workshop. For example, instead of saying “learn” you could use the word “discover” or “explore.” Amp up your word choice with your verbs to make them more active instead of passive. This also goes for how you describe the workshop content. Be accurate, but interesting. Here is an example: Instead of: “Learn how to write a setting your reader will enjoy.” Try this: “Discover how to make your reader fully immersed in a vibrant setting.” Both of those describe the same content, but one is presented in a more energetic way. Language is a tool to entice people to attend your workshop.
Show How YOUR Version Is Relevant
There are many identical writing workshops out there. Just like how you need to make your book stand out from similar ones, you need to do the same with your workshop. Hundreds upon hundreds of people are offering content on worldbuilding for example. What is your take on it? How is your workshop different from the others? Maybe you have info on recent trends such as worldbuilding for steampunk. Perhaps you’ve come up with your own method, the “Worldbuilding Wheel.” Be sure to include something in your workshop that is unique and would be a draw to those who have been to other workshops on the same topic.
Start With a Hook
Opening lines are key! You’ve certainly heard that before. You can start with a question, an interesting fact, or a thought-provoking statement. Whatever it is, be sure the person MUST read the next line. Mary Ann de Stefano wrote this opening line for one of our conference workshops last year: “Dual timeline novels such as Gone Girl and The Time Traveler’s Wife are mega-bestsellers.” She immediately got my attention with this interesting, relevant fact. Two birds with one stone! This one is from Nancy J. Cohen: “Audiobooks are booming, and your book could be streaming into thousands of ears right now!” I feel a sense of immediacy when I read that; I must go! Try out different opening lines for your workshop and get feedback from your writing buddies. Remember you are selling it.
Next Squeeze in a Tiny Bio Blurb
You need to show the faculty chair and the audience that you are qualified to teach this workshop. The trick is to do it quickly without having an entire, paragraph-long bio in there. What phrase can you put in front of your name that gives you validity? See if any of these apply to you:
Amazon best-selling author
critically acclaimed author
multiple trilogy author
literary contest judge
Find a phrase to put in front of your name that shows you know what you’re talking about. “Award-winning author Ken Pelham shares his secrets to mastering viewpoint.” “Literary contest judge Chris Coward presents Ten Must-Haves to Win.” You may be able to use several different phrases, but pick the one that matches your workshop content best.
Now Three Things Attendees Will Learn
Look at your presentation slides and pick the three biggest topics your attendees will learn. You may be able to have more, depending on word count. Remember to amp up your word choice to make your description energetic and inviting. Sell it! You can either write a list in the form of a sentence or use bullet points. Check the directions where you’ll submit your workshop description. Sometimes they tell you to use bullet points. Here is the same example in both formats: List sentence: “In this webinar, you’ll learn what every email newsletter must have, tricks and free tools to attract new people to sign up, and how to engage your audience so they open your emails.” Bullet points: “In this webinar, you’ll learn:
What every email newsletter MUST provide
Tricks and *free* tools to attract new people to sign up
How to engage your audience so they open your emails”
Finally, One Big Takeaway
Now leave people with something that shows they can’t afford to miss this workshop. One secret is…to use the word secret. Here is one I use in my picture book writing workshop: “You’ll leave with a manuscript checklist full of insider secrets about crafting quality picture books.” You can also entice attendees by talking about “the number one thing” for a topic. “Leave knowing the number one thing all agents despise in a query letter.” Think about a key piece of information from your content, something people are definitely going to want to know. Then word it so they have to know what it is.
Author and pro blogger Erik Deckers gives a workshop called “Use Blogging to Build Your Book Sales & Personal Brand.” See how he uses each part of the workshop formula in his description: If you want to find fans and loyal readers, you have two choices: run an expensive direct mail and public relations campaign, or a free and fun social media and blogging campaign. If you’ve got a laptop and an internet connection, you can build up your own audience of readers and book buyers. (hook)
Successful writers aren’t those who write better than everyone else, they’re the ones who promote themselves better than everyone else. They’re the ones with high sales, radio and podcast interviews, and seem to appear at all the conferences and panel discussions.
Pro blogger and marketing author (mini bio) Erik Deckers will discuss how to use social media to build your professional reputation, engage new readers, connect with other writers, and turn that network into new publishing opportunities, speaking engagements, and even new books. (list of what will be learned)
He’ll discuss how to start a blog and fill it with new content, the three blogging secrets every writer should know, and the one mistake every new author makes. (big takeaway) Erik used all parts of the formula to create a workshop description that still sucks me in—and I’ve already seen this workshop twice! Here is one I use for my self-publishing workshop: Self Publishing 101: Ready, Set, Publish! Are you ready to get your book out into the world? Self-publishing doesn’t have to be an intimidating process. Author-publisher Arielle Haughee, owner of Orange Blossom Publishing, breaks down the process into a step-by-step timeline giving you the tools you need to make your book dream come true. She’ll discuss how to prepare your manuscript and the process of formatting, including how to obtain an ISBN, barcode, and Library of Congress number. She’ll also go over cover design, printing options (Who wants a hardback?!), and share marketing secrets for a successful book launch. You’ll leave with a step-by-step publishing checklist to take you from manuscript to book in hands! Can you look through and find the hook, mini bio, list of what will be learned, and the big takeaway?
A Final Tip
Sometimes I write my workshop description before making my presentation slides. Here is an important tip: Make sure you save your workshop descriptions in an easy to find file. That way you can find what you said you were going to discuss. Always make sure your workshop content matches the description. You will eventually build up a whole menu of workshops you can do, and you’ll just have to copy and paste the description for the next time you need it. (I also keep a file of bios and write or paste the newest bio at the bottom.) So remember to sell you workshop when you apply and you will be sure to have a room full of excited attendees!