The Workshop Workout for Weary Workers

Don’t fall into the mindset that you think you know everything about what you do.

Really, don’t.

I’ll bet there are times when you’ve thought about going on a workshop or seminar and dismissed it because it’s a subject you know about or you don’t think you’ll gain anything from it. Let’s face it, times are hard and every penny counts, so workshops can be pretty low down on the list of good ways to spend your money.

But by dismissing them you could potentially be missing out.

Take this summer, it’s a fairly good example.

Highland Social Road Trip - touring the Highlands with information and cupcakes
Highland Social Road Trip – touring the Highlands with information and cupcakes

I sponsored a day-time social media workshop. It’s not something I often do, but I love the idea of Highland Social and a series of road-trips that travel the highlands bringing workshops to those areas that are traditionally avoided because of their remoteness is something worth encouraging. I was due to present a little talk of my own and sat in on the workshop thinking it would be a good chance to meet new people and perhaps learn something new. And it was the best thing I’ve done in ages.

Whether you think you know the subject or not, meeting up with like-minded individuals will open your mind to new ideas, new networking opportunities and yes, you will learn something. Even if it’s just gaining a new perspective on a subject, you will learn something. Don’t dismiss a gathering because you think you know the subject backwards… there is more to be gained than subject knowledge.

We had a great day, we worked our way around social media, we talked tips and tricks and discussed what to do and what not to do. In these days of super-quick changes in social media one size does not fit all; different people and businesses need different things. Michelle from Highland Social guided us through the maze of social media; we talked so much that the end of the day arrived far too quickly. But not before we’d devoured a lovely lunch and some amazingly good cream scones.

Michelle took this photo of the amazing cream scones…yum!

The folk that didn’t attend the workshop because they thought they knew all about social media really lost out. It’s during workshops that you really have time to think without distractions, to talk to new acquaintances and to get a different point of view… and it’s these added extras you don’t get from sitting at home or in the office. Days like these really are like workouts for a weary work brain.

In the evening we went along to a local tearoom and had a two-hour session with more people attending (and some fab cupcakes – that day was SO not good for my waistline!) … it was a great networking opportunity, but I couldn’t help thinking that the attendees would have benefited from the day-time session.

How many times, especially being a freelancer, have you seen a workshop advertised locally and talked yourself out of attending? It’s too expensive, it’s during the day and you don’t want to take a day off work, you’re a bit shy among people you don’t know, or you think you know it all??

Unlock your potential
Unlock your potential

Here are five reasons you should seriously think about attending.

  1. You DON’T know it all, no one does. Don’t be silly (or are you being arrogant?)
  2. You will meet new people (it’s great for networking, even if you’re shy the others probably are too, take your business card, get yourself known)
  3. It will get you out of your comfortable office (aren’t those same old four walls boring you yet?)
  4. You will be helping the local economy (even if the workshop provider isn’t local, the venues need to survive, you will learn what other attendees are doing and how you can help each other survive in this tough old recession)
  5. You WILL learn something new, you will give your weary brain a workout and come away from the day with a new outlook, refreshed and ready to put ideas into action.

And yes… I learnt something new. I realised that making a Facebook business page was less scary than I thought… so I went straight out and created one. You can visit it here, pop along and say hello.

With thanks to Michelle from Highland Social for the use of her images. Check out Highland Social and Snow Marketing to learn more about their workshops.

The Editor and the Playwright

Attending an SCDA acting and directing workshop this weekend (and it was a rather fabulous one too, one that got me acting for the first time in years) gave me the idea for this week’s post. A post on the importance of editing for theatrical types.

Greek Masks

Now I won’t lie, it’s difficult to think of a post every week that has something to do with editing (after all this is supposed to be a work blog with a few reviews thrown in for good measure), and one that won’t put you all to sleep. But there are times when good editing really does matter.

When a group of actors get together everyone needs a script… unless you are into feature length improv, in which case you probably need a mental health professional rather than an editor. Now scripts can be expensive, especially when you consider who will actually need one – that’ll be everyone involved in the production. The actors of course need a script, but so do the production crew, the techies, the props people, the floor manager, wardrobe mistresses etc. You get my drift… if it’s a tenner for a script multiply that by even the basic heads of department who direct their crew, plus the actors, director and producer and there is a LOT of money tied up in script purchases. So it makes sense to be sure that your script is fit for purpose, if it’s not the director will probably just bin it and go in search of one that’s properly constructed.

So what has that got to do with editing I hear you wimper?

The Confused Actor

Ok… imagine (and this is actually taken from a script I worked on recently when I was producing) that stage directions are not formatted properly… your actor will end up reading those lines. Firstly it’s disconcerting for the actors, they read the lines, realise that there’s something wrong… stop… read the page again, realise the words are a direction, then start again. They’ve lost the flow. Start again.

Well it’s not the end of the world but a badly edited script means more stops and starts, which means loss of concentration and direction… which cuts back on productive rehearsal time and could end up with severely stressed actors, a director at his wits end and a rapidly looming rehearsal deadline. The more mistakes, the more stops and starts, the less likely the director is to buy from the company again. And that’s if the script actually makes it past the director’s read through in the first place.

Now of course there are some big script publishers out there, but they are not infallible, in fact the last full script I read had a few bad mistakes. But if you are a budding playwright, or a small publisher, you need to make sure that as few mistakes as possible make it past the proofing stage. You need to make it as clear as possible to your readers exactly what is happening; what is dialogue and what is stage direction. There are conventions to follow and a good editor will know how to style your script to make it clear to everyone.

Imagine. A simple situation contained in a simple extract given to an actor:

Danni walks into the room. Silence. Miranda says she’s ready to go. She moves right. Closes the door. Curtains close.

So what does the author mean? It could be any one of these, and probably more.

 A couple of simple scenarios:

[Danni walks into the room]


DANNI:          Miranda says she’s ready to go.                 [She moves right, closes the door]

Curtains close


[Danni walks into the room]


MIRANDA:   She’s ready to go.                                        [She moves right. Closes the door]

Curtains close

But dependent on the rest of the scene it could be that Miranda is actually narrating what Danni is doing:

MIRANDA:   Danni walks into the room.


MIRANDA:   She’s ready to go. [She moves right] Closes the door.

Curtains close

theatre curtains
Theatre Curtains courtesy of Rosmary [ ]

See? A simple extract that can be broken down, and according to how it’s presented can come across in different ways, all valid. If the playscript is not edited correctly it can change a whole scene, cause confusion and lead to more time spent than is needed. Remember folks, in theatre time equals money.

If you write scripts, or publish scripts, it really is worth your time hiring an editor to format your play and help you get the most from it. It could mean the difference between your script becoming an award winning play performed in the West End or becoming a well thought of amateur production… or becoming a script that is left unsold, sat on the shelf and unloved by those who’ve read it but can’t get past the flaws.

The Gordon Ramsay Effect

(or how wordsmiths can help restaurants look good too)

The other day I settled down to watch Hell’s Kitchen USA. (or rather Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares as noted by Persnickety in the comments section… well done, five brownie points to you 😉 )

It was your usual nightmare – filthy restaurant, badly managed kitchen, despairing family… all edited for our entertainment of course. But as Gordon sat down to sample the menu my ears picked up and a grin spread across my face – he was pointing out to the hapless owner that his menu was full of typos… and that it doesn’t exactly instil confidence in your customers. Good one Gordon!

He’s right of course. The menu is the face of the restaurant and if your customers sit down to a badly worded menu they are more likely to be laughing at your choice of words than marvelling at your choice of ingredients. Who wants to eat “pee soup” or “crap cakes”?

crab, astrological signIt’s a little known fact that editors and proofreaders can have what I call the Gordon Ramsay effect. While a trained chef can sweep into a restaurant and see immediately what needs attending to in the kitchen, an editor/proofreader can see what needs changing when it comes to the written word. Those running a business can be oblivious to badly written material, but we are like word ninja…we can sweep in and spot a misplaced apostrophe before you hear the click of our red pen on the menu.

Ramsay doesn’t just clear up though, he puts things into order, enhances what’s there and improves it – and that’s what we do. It doesn’t mean stripping the heart and soul out of the place.

Take a trawl of the internet and the majority of menu typos involve a menu that has been translated by a non-native speaker. For example in Chinese take-away menus you often see crap instead of crab. Now come on guys, that’s easily done and I suppose it appeals to those with a schoolboy sense of humour (ok, that’s most of us then), but a quick proofread would have caught that one. It’s hard enough to start and run a business, but to contend with a language you’re not fluent in is no laughing matter… how many English speakers can write in Cantonese?

But it’s not always the non-native speakers that have a hard time with their menus. And it’s not just the cheaper end of the market; more upmarket menus contain typos too. It can get so bad that I’ve even been known to sit on my hands in a café to stop myself getting my ever-present red pen out of my handbag to correct the mistake. People, sometimes it’s tough being an editor and proofreader.

people eating
He decided to impress his date with his glass eating trick, so ordered the “lamp cutlets”

I often wonder why, when a company puts so much effort into other parts of their business, they totally overlook the publications. A menu is often the first port of call for customers if you run a take-away business…why risk people being put off by your scary “hand and cheese” sandwiches? If your menu is less than perfect what will people think your food is like? Yes, your mind is elsewhere, you type up a menu and send it off to get printed while you are worrying about whether your tables are the right size or if the mega-expensive kitchen equipment is right for you…but once it’s printed it’s expensive to get put right. Typos are easy to miss, not everyone is comfortable around words and just because you can whip up a fantastic croquembouche it doesn’t mean you know how to spell it. A proofread is not expensive, will make sure that you set the right tone and ensure your customers are visiting you for all the right reasons.

The Sophisticated Croquembouche
The Sophisticated Croquembouche from
Please visit their website for some fabulous cake decorating supplies

While wasting time researching, I even came across  a geek mom blog article on Wired that came to the conclusion that no menu is without a typo! Go and have a read if you have another few minutes of your coffee break.

Next time you are at a café or restaurant have a game of spot the typo… hopefully you won’t find one, but it’s fun searching while you wait for the coffee.