Blogging is not the only skill Tristi demonstrated at the conference; she was an excellent workshop instructor as well. Tristi was cool and poised. If it was me, I would be terrified to get up in front of a class let alone offer to do it without advanced planning.
That got me thinking about what it took to be a workshop instructor and how it felt to be up there in front of a group of published and unpublished authors giving them tips on the writing business.
Randy: Tell us about the first time you presented a workshop, please. Where? When? What was it like? Do you have any amusing anecdotes about it?
Tristi: I've been a public speaker since I was in my early teens. My parents were Amway distributors, and for a couple of years, I was in the presidency of the youth group for our particular branch of the business. The main thing for me to get over was the fact that I would throw up repeatedly before presenting. I always managed to look calm and composed while presenting, but those hours before ... awful. After a few years, I actually got hypnotized to stop throwing up when I get nervous.
I began presenting about writing shortly after my first novel was published. This was in 2002. Something funny about one of those presentations - they completely forgot to advertise that I was coming, or to tell the employees about it, and it was sort of a spur-of-the-moment "Oh! Let's rearrange some tables and try to pull this together."
Randy: How do you become a big enough expert on a topic to be asked to present a workshop at a writing conference?
Tristi: The same way you get to be an expert at anything - you study it, and then you do it. If you mess up, you restudy it, and you do it again. Once you've done it right, you study it to see if you can do it even better. Becoming an expert happens after a lot of falling on your face, but the trick is getting back up again.
Randy: How do you prep for a workshop?
Tristi: I think through everything I want to say, and I'll sometimes do little mock presentations in my head. I'll be driving down the road giving the presentation in my mind, thinking of all the points I want to make. Then I'll jot them down and see which ones work and which ones should wait for another time. I'll arrange them in an order that makes sense, and then I'll write up my notes. I then run through it another time or two in my mind to make sure I've said everything I want to say. A lot of my presentations come to me while I'm talking, though, so I'd say that I actually deliver about 50% of what I've prepared and the rest is off the top of my head, based on what I sense the audience needs or the questions they ask.
Then I make sure I have good hair. For some reason, I can't teach if I don't have good hair.
Randy: Does it make you nervous to get be in front of a group of people?
Tristi: It used to ... see above answer about the throwing up. Now, I only get a few tiny butterflies right before I start. The more you do it, the more comfortable you feel. I imagine that in another year, those butterflies will be more like the size of gnats, or mosquitoes. I don't imagine that they'll go away entirely, however. It's a natural reaction to have and gets the adrenaline flowing to help you give a great presentation.
Randy: Does having already published authors in your groups make the presentation experience any different or difficult for you?
Tristi: Sometimes it's a little intimidating if I know they could give my same presentation, only probably do it better. Most of the time, though, it's fun because I can call on them and put them on the spot to share their own experiences. The scariest/freakiest/coolest experience I ever had with this was at the first Storymakers conference - Dean Hughes was our keynote speaker, and he attended my class on historical fiction. I was really wigged about that. What could I possibly, in a million years, have to offer Dean Hughes? He said he enjoyed the class, though, so I guess I did all right. I was majorly star-struck.
Randy: What do you like best about presenting workshops?
Tristi: I love sharing ideas and experiences, answering questions and helping to steer people when they've felt lost, and interacting with the people in the room. It's so much fun.
Randy: What do you like least about presenting workshops.
Tristi: I always lose my voice at some point. At the Storymakers conference, I seem to lose it midway through the last day, so I croak into the microphone for my entire class. Not the most professional impression to make. I also don't like it when I feel I didn't fully make my point. I'm learning how to time my presentations better so I don't fall into that trap anymore.
Randy: What bit of advice do you have for those of us who may be presenting workshops in the future?
Tristi: Keep in mind your audience and your topic. Your listeners will come into the class wanting to hear certain information, and you should do your very best to be prepared to give them that information. Also be sure to leave time for question and answers. If you didn't get to a certain point or there was something left unclear, your audience should have the chance to speak up and find out what they need to know. Oh, and don't throw up.
There you have it not one, but two topics from Tristi Pinkston. If you get the chance to sit in a workshop that she is presenting, take it. I tend to feel like a fish out of water at the conferences and Tristi put me at ease as soon as she started talking. She is very informative and very friendly. I hope you have a chance to find out for yourself.
As a parting comment, I’m greatly relieved to hear the selection process for workshop presenters follows a logical course. Unless they need an expert on how to be a goof-ball I should be safe from any attempts to have me stand in front of a group of authors and teach. Whew.