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Planning your first technical workshop

rossellafer profile image Rossella Ferrandino ・4 min read

While I was learning how to code back in London, I used to attend the workshops organised by Codebar, where junior developers were paired with a mentor and going through their tutorial/projects with the help of an expert developer.
After I moved to Tokyo, I started attending the events organised by associations like Women Who Code, or coding bootcamps like Le Wagon and Code Chrysalis. There are just so many good events happening in the tech industry that I didn't want to miss anything.

I have received so much by participating to technical workshops and attending networking events. So this year I decided to start giving back to the tech community that has given so me so much. I signed up as a volunteer with Women Who Code Tokyo, where I have helped organising a couple of their events and even contributed to their open source project SpeakHer.

So when a colleague recommended me for a technical workshop organised by Le Wagon, I decided to take a leap and contact the event organiser to host the workshop.
Sasha, the community manager for Le Wagon, is also an active member of Women Who Code, so it was the perfect opportunity for me to have my first tech talk in a supportive and familiar environment.

Together we discussed the broad topic of the event, focused on Customising a Shopify store using the templating language Liquid. It's a great topic for me because it's what I do for a living.

event_banner

I want to use this post to put together some of the things I learned while preparing this technical workshop. They might be helpful if you are going through the same thing, and I check them out again if I decide to host another workshop.

Plan for your target audience

The topic of the workshop is usually set by the event organisers, but as a speaker you can approach that topic from a specific angle. Have a type of target audience in mind, as well as what you would like them to take away from your workshop. I really appreciate people investing their time in learning something new, listening to a tech talk and actively participating in the discussion, so I wanted them to get something valuable from the hour they decided to spend with me.

I planned the practical part of my workshop around 3 learning outcomes I wanted the listeners to achieve by the end of the talk. And I prepared a specific slide that I discussed just after the agenda, so that it was clear to everybody what the practical outcomes should have been.

Learning outcomes

Have a clear structure

One hour is a lot of time and you need to make sure you keep the audience's attention level quite consistent throughout the whole presentation. I broke down my workshop in two main parts, one focused on introducing the topic and give some theoretical background, and the other one focused on building something together, so that the concepts introduced in part 1 could be applied straight away. This is the agenda I put together, sections from 1 to 3 were focused on theory, sections 4 and 5 on live coding, and then the last section was where I wrapped things up and recommended some resources to continue learning about the topic.

Workshop agenda

Slides

This is a topic I learned a lot about, thanks to the "Intro to public speaking" workshop organised by Women Who Code Tokyo. Here are some small takeaways I applied to my presentation:

  • Use Plain colours that don't distract the audience too much
  • Use the same pattern/slide type to break down each section of the workshop, like you had listed in the agenda. So in my case, I had a slide with the same background throughout the whole presentation, with just the title of the new workshop section
  • Don't use too many words on the slides, so people will listen to what you have to say instead of reading the content

Write a script for the whole talk and rehearse it

In the weeks leading up to the workshop, I worked on my presentation, created my Shopify store, uploaded products for the demo, as well as coded the necessary parts I was going to go through during the practical theme development part.
In my head everything was ready, but when I started rehearsing, I realised I wasn't really prepared to present. I knew what I wanted to say but I didn't know the best way of expressing it. What really helped was writing down a script with everything I wanted to say and then read it so many times I could actually deliver it convincingly.

Have your code snippets ready

This is something I had never noticed with all the workshops I attended, but instructors usually have their code snippets ready on another window/screen. The audience doesn't really want to see you type large chunks of code, but you can paste the code you already have ready, and then go through each line and explain what that code does and why it works.
During my workshop, I had two screens: one with the presentation, as well as my code editor and browser windows to edit the themes, and another one just with the code snippets, each opened already in a different tab.

Relax, you are the expert here

One final key takeaway is not to stress out too much before the workshop. You are prepared and you are donating your time to teach other people something you know well. You know more about that specific topic than the other people in the room. I have learned from someone wise that, if there are difficult questions in the Q&A session, it's ok to say "let's take this offline".

You got this

Thank you so much for reading, feel free to share some more recommendations for first time public speakers in the comments.

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