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0.2 - What Are We Doing Here: A 5-Minute Exercise for SEtting Workshop Goals and Intentions

I find it useful to set some goals ahead of a workshop using a very simple process, which I’ll teach to you now.

Ask yourself these three questions:

  1. What do I want them to know?
  2. What do I want them to feel?
  3. What do I want them to do?

I recognize that may sound like a Marketing 101 course, but stay with me.

Really take a couple minutes to consider these.

In fact, if you’re planning a workshop now, take a few minutes to jot down your answer to these three questions.

Yes, now!

I’ll wait.

If you’d like to see how I’ve answered these questions for myself, keep reading.

(Note: If you are highly suggestible, first take a few minutes to jot down your own answers, then read on.)

Take your time.

Or, if you’re short on time, set a timer and vow to be done by the time it goes off.

Ethan’s Goals and Intentions for an Upcoming Workshop (3 min., though you can skip this if you’re short on time)
I’m speaking at a school in China later this year, so for the purpose of this guide I spent a few minutes articulating my goals and intentions. By “goals” I mean the answers to my three questions, and by “intention” I mean a one-sentence distillation of my goals that I can easily memorize and that anchors me in my purpose. A sort of mantra.

Day One Workshop Goals (feel free to do this for each day):

1. What do I want my students to KNOW?
I want them to know...

  • the answers to my 12 most frequently asked college essay questions
  • that already they have all they need to write their personal statements
  • the basics of Narrative and Montage Structure
  • the four types of college essays, as well as what type they might want to write
  • the elements of a great personal statement
  • if possible, their topic

2. What do I want my students to FEEL?
I want them to feel: open, engaged, inspired. By the end I want them to be in that place where they’re like, “I’m ready to write--I need a pen now.”

3. What do I want my students to DO?   
During the workshop: I want them to slip into that creative place where everyone else in the room disappears and the ideas just flow (I’m writing from this place now). Stephen King describes this in his book On Writing; Anthony Minghella described it as an opportunity to open an imaginary drawer, pull out the finished manuscript, and copy down what’s there for a few precious minutes before the drawer closes again and the final draft is again inaccessible, trapped somewhere in the unconscious.

After the workshop: I want students to write a first draft. Or at least a solid outline.

Day One Intention:

My intention is to invite openness, keep them engaged, and leave them inspired.

Sometimes my intention is more literal.

My intention is to help them find their main essay topic.

My intention depends on my mood. Today I find the first one more useful: it’s a bit clearer to me, and it feels good to read it. Leading a workshop process, like writing, isn’t a science; it’s an art.

The purpose of the intention, as I mentioned, is to anchor the facilitator in the Why. It takes just a few minutes, and I make up that the way students experience me in the room changes based on the intention I’ve set. Compare the two above, for example.

My experience of most workshops is that the leader has not clarified for themself the Why. I recommend it.

Overall Intention

It can also be useful to consider what your overall intention is not only in your workshop, but in your role or in your practice.

For me, as College Essay Guy...

My intention is to help students navigate the college application process with more ease, purpose and joy.

This is a phrase my friend Sage once used and it sent chills down my spine. That’s what I do, I thought. So, with her permission, I claimed it.

What do you do?

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