The Tenets of Hosting a Technical Workshop for Humans

How to have a successful technology workshop.  Inspired by a workshop at Velocity 2010.

  1. Name your session correctly and enter a description that is suitable and specific. Calling it “From design to deploy” and having a workshop about installing a key-value store and setting up an app are two vastly different things.
  2. If there are pre-requisites list them with the description so people can prepare (or skip your session).
  3. Don’t assume everyone  will have an Apple laptop in their hands. That runs OSX 10. That has access to local network. That runs Chrome 6 or Safari.
  4. Before you dive into configuration and install steps, explain what your software does and why we should care. Then explain what the workshop is going to do and how.
  5. Hand out some materials so people can go at their own pace.
  6. Don’t write the demo materials and code the night before you are giving a presentation at a major conference.
  7. Have an assistant to help individual folks so you don’t run from person to person like a butt monkey while everyone else twiddles their thumbs.
  8. Don’ be lazy and terse with your slides. Unless you have some really good software that is solid and works with any input on any environment, under any condition.
  9. As people are performing the steps of the workshop, follow along and display what you are doing why explaining the steps. Don’t sit around and drop smart-ass tongue-in-cheek comments about the world. Hopefully you have rehearsed and tested the steps as you present them to your audience.
  10. If you are showing snippets of code on different slides, don’t just explain how they work together and that function on page calls a method on page 3. Show the code structure and then dive into it.
  11. Don’t assume the workshop network will be the same as your home network with every host open to everyone else.
  12. Make sure the software version you are demoing is tested and stable. Or don’t tell people there are no single points of failure in your badass software.
  13. Test your demo and and the instructions that people will be performing.
  14. Have a backup plan even if it involves handing out materials and doing pen and paper exercises.
  15. Leave some materials with folks that can be handy to follow up on the workshop.
  16. Thank your audience for being patient :).
  17. When you think you are done preparing, prepare some more.

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Filed under DevOps, Conferences

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