3 Secrets to Giving World Class Workshops to Convince, Persuade, and Inspire the Room
My friend and fellow professional speaker Scott Stratten once told me something I’ve never forgotten.
“A keynote is not a breakout session. A breakout session is not a workshop. I get paid to give keynotes.”
Indeed you do Scott. And indeed you were right when you made me that statement roughly 2 years ago.
The simple fact is, many “speakers” confuse skill-sets.
For example, just because you can give a nice 45 minute talk to a room of 100 people doesn’t mean you can open up a conference with 1000 sets of eyeballs looking to be moved by your words.
The same applies to someone who *can* do that amazing 45 minute keynote talk in front of those 1000 people but when it comes to giving a 3-hour workshop full of action and attendee take-aways they fall flat on their face.
Granted, there are many folks that have the ability to move any type of audience, anytime, anywhere.
But there are others that simply cannot.
And the more I’m in this business, the more I realize how right he was, which is exactly why I decided to write this post today about giving world-class workshops, and the things we’ve done at The Sales Lion to experience extraordinary success getting companies to embrace our teachings.
Building a Brand of Culture Starters
Over the past few years, I’ve been incredibly blessed. Specifically, one thing we (The Sales Lion brand) have become known for is taking organizations that are strongly resistant to embracing a culture of Inbound/Content Marketing and getting all parties (Sales, Marketing, Management, etc.) on the same page, sharing the same vision, and actually wanting to participate. In fact, in the last 24 months, we’ve given over 70 of these types of workshops.
As we’ve had more and more success, we’ve started to write and speak a lot on the actual skill itself—the art of giving a workshop. For example, we gave a talk at Inbound this year to Marketing Agencies on the subject, had a full-day workshop training event (WOW) for marketing agencies, and are even starting to offer workshops as a one-off service to agencies that don’t necessarily feel they are equipped to give an effective workshop on their own, yet know its importance to client success.
I say all these things not to brag, but rather to lay a foundation so you’ll know this is a subject I have spent a tremendous amount of time thinking about, pondering, and studying ways to improve.
So the question begs: “what skills take a workshop from ‘good’ to truly ‘great?'”
Based on my research, I believe there are 3 skills that, if mastered, can lead to greatness. As you read these, you’ll likely say, “But Marcus, there are many more skills” and you’d be correct. For example, story-telling is a big deal. Great content is even bigger. But I want to focus here on the 3 skills that many folks never quite attain, despite the ability to share an effective story and offer excellent content. Here goes…
1. The Columbus Principle
I call it the “Columbus Principle” based on this reality:
Everybody wants to feel like they discovered America.
Or, in other words, everyone wants to feel as though every idea, belief, and action they take is something they arrived upon themselves, not something pushed on them by someone else.
Humans are resistant to change. They are resistant to being told they might be doing something “wrong” or “inferior,” which is exactly why many presenters in workshops fail to bring *all* attendees over to their side.
When it comes down to it, almost every workshop (and audience) you’ll ever teach has 3 types of attendees.
- Those that want to believe you.
- Those that are lukewarm and could go either way (in terms of believing you).
- Those that do not want to believe you and will naturally resist anything you say.
Frankly, just about any presenter can win over group #1. Most can win over #2. But winning over #3—the “resistors” as I call them—now that is the mark of a skilled and adroit communicator.
This is where the Columbus principle becomes so imperative to success. Essentially, the entire core of this methodology is that you help attendees discover, on their own, what you’re trying to teach them—without you actually telling it to them first.
The only way to achieve this is by designing your presentation around questions—questions that force attendees to reflect on their own behaviors, ultimately leading them down a road that ends up where you want them to be.
If you’re thinking this sounds difficult, well, it is. Most presenters would much rather talk and give information than design a presentation around thoughtful questions that eventually help audiences discover their own truths.
But for those who are willing to think this way, and design a workshop this way, they are always the most likely to win over those folks who simply don’t want to be taught anything new.
To give you a better sense of how this works, whenever I teach a workshop at The Sales Lion, there are over 80 set questions I ask the audience every single time. These questions took about 4 years to develop (and continue to grow), but today they’re pure gold and are the core reason we’ve had such success helping some really “hard-headed” people see the light when it comes to Inbound and Content Marketing. (Note**: As part of our trainings to agencies as well as the WOW event, we give participants our complete workshop outline with the corresponding set of 80+ questions.)
And one last thing regarding the Columbus Principle: Upon reading this, if you guessed that mastering this technique could dramatically improve your communication with clients, spouses, children, etc.—you were right. Fact is, this is a universal principle, and by no means is it workshop-based only.
2. The Law of Three
“The Law of Three” (Again, as I call it) corresponds perfectly with the Columbus Principle and, once again, can be difficult to master. In fact, this is the one skill that I personally find myself working on the most.
The essence of The Law of Three is as follows:
It’s not the first answer to a question that leads to self-discovery by the audience. In fact, it’s usually not even the second. Rather, self-discovery generally does not occur until the presenter has dug further, asking a third or even fourth question, finally leading to the “true” answer or reason from the audience member.
To help you get a better sense for this principle, let’s look at the Law of Three in action.
Presenter: When you can’t find any information about cost or price on a website, what is the emotion you experience?
Audience: I’m frustrated.
Presenter: Ok, you’re frustrated, but what gives you the right to be frustrated?
Audience: Because they’re wasting my time.
Presenter: Yes, they’re certainly wasting your time, but let’s go even deeper. In this moment of searching for the answer, you as the consumer know that they as the business know what?
Audience: They know the answer.
Presenter: And because they know the answer, and they’re not giving it to you, you now feel like they are doing what?
Audience: They’re hiding something from me.
Presenter: And the moment you feel like someone is hiding something from you, what happens?
Audience: I lose trust.
Presenter: Exactly. And that is what this discussion is actually all about . TRUST.
Now, what you read there is a conversation I’ve had with audiences well over 100 times over the past few years. And in almost every case, it works exactly as I’ve listed above. But the discovery of them saying “I lose trust” never occurs unless I continue to guide the conversation with deeper questions.
That is The Law of Three, and when mastered, presenters can use it over and over again to help their audience overcome hurdles they’d normally fiercely resist.
3. The Power of “Yes…And”
If you’ve studied up on public speaking these days at all, there is a good chance you’ve read about the principle of “Yes…And”—a phrase derived from the world of Improv. If you’re not familiar with Improv, in this case we’re referring to any time actors do an impromptu, unprepared scene. For example, if you went to an improv group you might find audience members describing the beginnings of the scene, and then the actors essentially “take it from that point.” And when they’re good, they will riff a scene that looks as if they’d been preparing weeks in advance.
In order to be successful, Improv actors have one rule they MUST live by, and that is “Yes…And.” Or, in other words, if another actor says something or makes a suggestion, they CAN’T disagree with it. Rather, they should run with it and further offer their creative energies and ideas. Done right, this type of acting can be as hilarious and enjoyable as any stage performance you’ve ever witnessed.
But the key comes with the Yes…And.
So how does this apply to a workshop? In a few different ways.
As we’ve already discussed, a master presenter in a workshop is obsessed with asking questions that have a clear purpose. But, when a speaker asks questions to an audience, the responses can vary wildly.
In other words, sometimes answers are amazing.
Sometimes, they flat-out stink.
And then, other times, they are so off the wall there is literally no response.
Whenever this happens, the principle of Yes…And becomes absolutely critical, as it allows you, the presenter, to always bring things back to the trail you’re attempting to walk everyone on.
Furthermore, the principle applies to mistakes you might make as a presenter.
For example, let’s pretend one of your slides just went out, or your presentation crashed, or your clicker stopped working. What do you do? Generally, you ignore it. Just keep going. Don’t draw attention to the problem, rather, draw attention to what comes next.
The principle of Yes…And is about looking forward. It’s about knowing whatever was said, regardless of how you or someone else said it, was good.
It’s an unflappable, unwavering focus on what’s next.
Which is why it’s an absolute imperative skill to develop if you want to start giving world-class workshops.
Well there you have it folks, three skills that can take your workshops from good to great. Yes, they take practice and effort, but the results can be simply astonishing.
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