Others who attended were thrilled with the material (and there was some good stuff!), but I was completely distracted by the approach. Sitting and listening for 30 minutes is one thing, but this was an all day workshop. I kept thinking it would have been just as effective to simply read the material -- in fact, more effective because I could have gone off on tangents and allowed other ideas to blossom from the main points as I read.
And after a few hours, I found myself wondering, "Do I ever do this? Do participants in my workshops feel this stifling weight of just watching and listening as the clock ticks by? Do I lose the value of a concept because it's out of sync with the materials (handouts, slides, flip-charts) that are supposed to support the content?"
I truly hope not, but I imagine the answer is probably "Yes, sometimes you do."
Personally I believe the universe gives us a gift in annoying people and situations. That is, if someone or something is annoying you, it's also likely demonstrating something you need to understand. To me, the lessons the universe was trying to show me in this workshop fall into two broad categories:
Don't tell if you can show.
Don't show if they can try.
I say poppycock. (Well I don't actually say it often, but it is fun to say.)
Give the participants a chance to explore new ideas with multiple senses. Let them trying an idea on for size and thinking about how they can make it their own. We might sit up straighter and nod when we recognize that someone has TOLD us an exciting new idea, but if we don't internalize we won't fully understand or even remember it. Give your audience the chance to take your big idea out of theory and put it into practice.
If you don't know you main point, neither will they.
Yet, most of the time, all they create in the moment is confusion.
Clarity of message is one of the greatest gifts we can give our audiences. Make sure your supporting materials really do support your thesis. Don't pull great ideas out of a small notes in your pocket. Does this mean we can't pepper in amusing anecdotes and relevant examples? Of course we can - but don't tell a story just because it's amusing, bring it back to your point. Running down bunny trails of thought can be terrific when you're having a dialogue, but if you're in a presentation setting, give the audience a break: have a map and stick to it.