One Big Idea: The Keep-it-Simple One-hour Workshop Principle

How many times have you gone to a workshop and staggered away, suffering from the burden of information overload? Yet the moment we become the presenter, many of us forget this experience and try to pack everything we know into one short hour.

Packing is the perfect analogy here. Think back to your last vacation. Did you actually wear everything you packed, or did you pack for every possible contingency, only to return home with most items unworn? There’s a lesson about simplicity there.

Don’t confuse your audience. Find one big idea, or overarching concept, for your one-hour workshop. Each concept you cover relates back to that one big topic, and as you move through the hour, you will want to be sure to make connections for the audience.

The one big idea is something that you want the audience to walk away with that will increase their knowledge, enrich their lives, and leave them wanting more. Some examples of big ideas include:

Every financially successful person follows three rules: spend less than you earn; pay yourself first; make your money work for you.

If you have a newsletter or a blog, you have everything you need to write your first e-book.

Planning the rest of your life begins with creating your personal vision.

Each of these ideas sets up the rest of the program. In curriculum design, we call the process of picking that one big idea defining the purpose of the program. This purpose statement is then used to generate objectives, or statements of what the participant will learn. For your one-hour workshop, the objectives are your concepts.

You can make the design process easier by using two of the basic questions for designing objectives to help you think about your concepts and how you will present them:

Who is the actor? This means, who is your audience? Who needs to be able to do or understand something by the end of the hour?

What is the behavior to be addressed? What is it that you want someone to be able to do differently or think about differently at the end of this hour?

Find the simplest answer, stick to it, and leave your audience clamouring for more!

Mary J. Gibson

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