How to get the most out of training events

Delegates at the Key Words Creative Writing Day on 8 July 2012
Delegates at the Key Words Creative Writing Day on 8 July 2012

Delegates at 'Writing Your Book: From Start to Finish' with author Michael Stewart and organiser Michelle Hodgson (both seated)

It struck me last week as I was running a creative writing day that every event has a momentum of its own.

We had finished the morning session on getting started on your book, finding your voice as a writer and shaping your ideas. Over lunch, the delegates were chatting animatedly about their writing projects. These ranged from business books to travel memoirs, nutrition and HR guides, an SF novels and a children’s book.

Whatever they were writing, the delegates had many common areas and points they would need to consider, such as:

  • Finding the right time and a quiet place to write
  • Working out the ingredients that would go into the book
  • Finding their writing “voice”
  • Avoiding “over-writing”: using words to try and impress instead of to make the book work

There had been questions, exercises, discussion and participation during the session. But over lunch, the delegates were all sharing their thoughts, ideas and stories with each other. Whatever stage of their writing they were at (some had already made money from writing), here, they were all writers together.

In essence, the creative writing day allowed them to learn and grow as writers, but also to discuss their shared experiences of the frustrations and exhilarations, the difficulties and the rewards.

Writing for Business seminars

It had been a similar story at the Writing for Business training events I’d held earlier in the month. One was on blogging, another on email marketing. The subject matter provided a framework for the courses and I made sure everyone went away with some solid practical information and useful handouts.

But in the course of completing the exercises, a much wider picture emerged of each of the businesses represented. In focusing, for example, on a particular product or service to blog about or devise an email marketing campaign for, they found themselves thinking in more depth and more strategically about their business.

Developing marketing strategies in the training room

Through discussion, delegates were able to use each other as a sounding board. In many cases there were potential clients for their products and services sitting around the table with them. As a copywriter, I’m used to encouraging clients to consider who their customer is before we consider how to write about their business. Inside the training room, the various businesses were able to get honest, genuine feedback from potential new customers to help them look at what they do and how they market it. As a result, the delegates were able to come up with new ways to package their services as well as new approaches to their customers.

One local businessman sent in the following testimonial:

“I found it incredibly insightful. I have taken away loads of useful nuggets as to how I can make my email marketing campaigns better. The workshop turned into much more, with everyone contributing and helping each other out with their own marketing challenges. I can’t recommend the event highly enough, it exceeded my expectations in every way.”

Giving value at training events

Over the years I have been on various courses – the worst one being a course on avoiding stress in the workplace, which was so badly presented that I came out feeling more stressed than I went in.

When considering how to give the best value to delegates in the events I run – whether creative writing, business training, or the monthly Coffee & Cake Business networking group – one of the key points for me is allowing them their voice.

No one wants to be talked “at” without the possibility of questions and discussions and all too often the balance of a talk can be one sided. The speaker is trying to be helpful in imparting their knowledge but they don’t always check if it’s what the audience wants or needs to know.

Allowing discussion during and after the sessions is as valuable as the carefully planned presentations – and leaves the delegates feeling they have not only learned something useful, but shared something important.

For information on future courses, please see our Events Page.


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Read my monthly column in The Eye magazine, interviews with top authors in Excelle magazine, features written for Around Town magazine and a variety of articles written for the national press.



From Joanne Harris to Iain Banks, find out more about events with bestselling authors and creative writing courses in Huddersfield run by Key Words.

For business there’s a choice of Writing for Business seminars, one-off masterclasses and speaking engagements, as well as our monthly Coffee & Cake Business Network event at Café Society in Huddersfield