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How to plan and present ELT workshops

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Our step-by-step guide to planning an effective ELT workshop

I can’t begin to estimate the number of ELT (English Language Teaching) presentations and workshops I’ve planned and presented over the years. These days it can be as many as 4 or 5 workshops a month, but there’s one thing I have found to be consistently true, and that is “work expands to fit the time you have to do it.”  

If you start planning your ELT workshop two months before you deliver it, then it will take you two months to complete it.

If you start planning two days before the workshop then you can still have something ready in two days, and it may be just as good or even better than the workshop you spent two months working on, practising and changing a hundred times. That isn’t to say you should be ‘winging it’.

I spend a lot of time thinking around the topic of the workshop. I have it there in the back of my mind as I’m reading and doing other things so that when I come to start the work of preparing my materials, I’ve already done a lot of the hard thinking work and have an idea of what I want to do.

So, if you would like to know my process, here is my step-by-step guide to planning and presenting an effective ELT workshop:

How to plan and present ELT workshops

Step 1: Think about your specific audience within ELT

Before you do anything, make sure you know who you are going to be presenting to. Having a great presentation or workshop that has been designed for a different audience within ELT is never going to be a good position to be in.

Who will be sitting in the audience? Newly qualified EFL teachers? Experienced ELT professionals? School directors and managers? Teacher trainers and conference speakers? 

There are also two very important factors you need to consider when identifying your audience. One is how knowledgeable they are, and the second is how motivated they are. We can add these to a matrix to analyse four different types of audience participant.

Here you can see that we can map motivation relative to knowledge and think about what each segment needs and how they are likely to react.

How to plan and present ELT workshops
Fig 1. Knowledge – motivation matrix

In the top left area, we have people with high motivation and low knowledge. These people are quite easy to please and are likely to enjoy being given plenty of practical activities that they can try in the classroom. You can back this up with a little theory to help them understand the activities but keep it light.

In the top right area, we have people who are both motivated and knowledgeable. With this type of audience, you can do lots of group and pair work and get participants to share ideas and experiences. They’ll be much happier to learn from each, and you won’t need to input too much.

In the bottom left area, we have people with low levels of motivation and knowledge. With this type of audience, you’ll need to work hard. Keep things short, practical, and not too demanding. Regular changes of focus will help. Don’t try to go too deeply into theoretical aspects.

In the bottom right area, you have people who are knowledgeable but not very motivated. In many ways, this can be the toughest audience and the most challenging. You need to be sure you know your ground and you have done your research.

Try to make it interactive and draw on their knowledge, and be sure not to talk down to them. Be open and honest about what you don’t know.

Try to engage them on a higher and deeper level that includes their experience. If you can get this type of audience engaged, then the results can be very satisfying.

Would you like to plan and present an effective ELT workshop but you need some guidance?

You could consider our 30-hour Online Planning and Presenting workshop course with expert tutor support.

Step 2: Do the research for your workshop

Start gathering information and research. This could simply be a process of brainstorming your thoughts on the topic, or it could involve doing an online search and finding some relevant quotes or references from within ELT or other industries to back up your ideas. You’ll notice I started this article with “work expands to fit the time you have to do it.”  You can always Google for a quote on the topic of your content or have a look in A-Z Quotes.

I would recommend using some form of digital platform to collect and collate your research so that you can find it easily when you need it. Padlet is a very popular tool for this, though I prefer the less well known Milanote.

Step 3: Organise and evaluate your workshop research

Next, I usually evaluate the research and put the different parts that I intend to use onto post-it notes (or some online alternative) and start arranging and rearranging them until I’m happy that they have a logical flow.

This is where tools like Milanote and Padlet are useful, because it’s easy to move the digital sticky notes around on the page. While I’m doing this, I’m usually rehearsing in my head what I want to say or get participants to do at each stage.

Step 4: Think about the workshop structure

Once you’ve got your thoughts and research together, you need to think about how you will structure it. There are a few different ways to do this, but before starting, it’s worth asking yourself:

  • What’s the takeaway for your audience?
  • What do you want them to know when they leave the room?

I usually note down a few key things and then check them off when I’ve finished the preparation.

As for the workshop structure, Aristotle taught that a speaker’s ability to persuade an audience is based on how well the speaker appeals to that audience in three different areas: logos, ethos, and pathos. These are the basics of rhetorical speaking.

Ethos refers to who you are and your credibility. What gives you the authority to speak on this subject? I find it’s worth establishing this early on. This doesn’t necessarily mean pulling out your certificates, qualifications, or awards, it can just be telling your audience what you have done in the field and why it interests you. Everyone who has taught English has experience. Everyone who has experience and who has reflected on it has something to share. 

I usually use a single slide like this one to introduce myself with a few key references to demonstrate my credibility as an ELT speaker. It has links to my social media and my latest book, as well as the two ELT innovations awards that I have won.

How to plan and present ELT workshops
Fig 2. Personal introduction page

Logos refers to logic. This will be the main part of your ELT workshop. This is where you present the main content of your argument or training and get over the main learning points that you want your audience to take away. This could include a sequence of activities that you share, or you could do this through group work tasks.

Pathos is an appeal to emotion. I usually think of this as a call to action. It’s the ‘why’ of the workshop or presentation. It tells your listeners what you want them to go out and do as well as how you want them to change the lives of their students. I usually end with this, as it sends your workshop participants out of the room primed and ready to act.

How to plan and present ELT workshops
Fig 3 the three elements of rhetoric

Once you understand this formula, you’ll notice that a lot of people use it, whether consciously or not. 

Within this structure, there are two other things that you really need to do, and these are to make it clear to the listener why the topic you are talking about matters to you and also to make it clear why it should matter to them. This usually revolves around solving a problem. There are a number of ways you can do this. It could be through showing statistics, images or through building a personal narrative. A narrative that shares what I have learned and how I learned it tends to work well for me, but you might find that something else works for you, and it can depend a bit on the topic. 

This is a commonly used narrative framework that might work for you if you need to plan and present an ELT workshop. It could fit well into the logos part of your overall structure:

Using the framework below, you start with an exposition by describing how something was (for example, if you were using a PPP type framework for all of your lessons). 

Then you describe how you became aware of a problem (perhaps you noticed that students were just jumping through the hoops and not really learning English). 

After this, you describe how you struggled with the problem (for example, trying different teaching methods and seeing which ones worked). 

This is followed by what you discovered (for example, that using different teaching methods and frameworks kept students more engaged and curious). 

Finally, you describe what you do now and the impact this has had on your English students. 

How to plan and present ELT workshops
Fig 4. A narrative framework

Step 5: Create your workshop or presentation

When I’m happy with the order and the structure, then I start to put together my ELT workshop or presentation slides. I try to avoid any long texts on the slides and use images instead with a few minimal bullet points. Participants don’t want to read off your slides or listen to you reading from them, so it’s better to choose some form of image or graphic that supports what you are saying. This will make it easier to hold their attention. 

I use Genially for all my workshops and presentations these days. It has lots of useful templates and also has a built-in image and graphics bank. Genially produces presentations that are built in html5, so these will run in any web browser. This makes it easy to share them with your audience by just giving them a link. The other great thing about it is that you can embed audio and video and have interactive buttons that activate additional windows. Here’s an example of a presentation I created about ChatGPT. 

Step 6: Design your support materials

Once your ELT presentation or workshop is ready, think about any materials or worksheets that you need. I usually create digital ones that my audience can download from a QR code on my presentation. This saves a lot of wasted paper and wasted time as well as reduces extra stress that can be created by getting materials printed and handed out. I usually use this generator to create my QR Codes. I’ve been using it for years, and it’s free and reliable.

Step 7: Think about what you will say

Now go through your ELT workshop or presentation and think about what you will say at each stage. Some people script what they’ll say or write prompt cards, but I find this makes me more nervous and it’s another thing to have to fiddle with and keep track of. 

As you go through the slides, also think about what you will ask your audience. This could be questions you ask them to think about, or it could be things you ask them to do. They don’t necessarily need to respond, but an effective ELT workshop or presentation should be interactive and engage the audience. It should also help them to reflect on their own experiences and knowledge to make the connection to what you are saying.

Step 8: Decide how to end your workshop

Lastly, leave time for a Q and A at the end of your workshop. Try to predict what questions you are likely to be asked and what your answers will be. If you’ve done the same session a few times, you’ll know what comes up every time, so prepare a few slides to deal with those questions. This will make you look super well-prepared. 

If you would like to share your presentation, include a final slide with a link to download it.  Some people may be reluctant to share their slides as there are cases of people editing them, showing your session and claiming it as their own. For this reason, as mentioned above, I use Genial.ly as it produces html5 slides and ensures that mine can only be edited by me. 

If you are keen to build your network, you may also want to include your contact details, social media, QR code to sign up to your newsletter, a special offer or a plug of a service or product. 

Are you ready to start planning your ELT workshop?

When you start applying these steps to planning your own ELT workshops, you’re sure to adapt them and develop them in your own way. That’s as it should be. But following these steps should be a useful process to help you get started.

For those of you who are already experienced workshop presenters, I’d love to hear how you feel your own process differs from this. Let me know how your process differs by leaving a comment below!


Would you like to plan and present an effective ELT workshop but you need some guidance? You could consider our 30-hour Online Planning and Presenting workshop course with expert tutor support.


Looking for the next big ELT event to showcase your presenting skills? We are always on the lookout for speakers for our annual InnovateELT conference. Visit our conference Facebook page for the next call for speakers and don’t be shy to submit your proposal!

Celebrate Oxford TEFL’s 25 years of teacher training by joining us at some of our upcoming free online training events for school managers and teachers: See the Events page.

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