How to get the most from attending a workshop
I’ve been running workshops for oh…more than three decades now (ouch), and in that time I’ve taught somewhat over 15,000 people.
After about two decades and 10,000-plus attendees some pattern recognition kicked in (I can be a little slow about these things). I realized that within two minutes of meeting a workshop participant I could tell with a high degree of certitude whether or not they were going to get anything substantial out of the process.
Workshop attendees come in many shapes and sizes, and I’ve seen ’em all many times. From the late-arriving, multi-tasking “I’m really too busy to actually be here” types to the slow-and-steady capture-every-word tortoises (I mean that non-pejoratively); the suck-the-air-out-of-the-room grandstanders and the quiet geniuses; the terminally unsure and the defiantly unshakeable – I’ve worked with them all, and everything in between.
Of course by far the majority of workshop attendees are people just like you and me, solid types who arrive with reasonable expectations and a desire to take something away with them that they can put into practice back at the ranch, and as a result make a real change in their lives, their career and/or their business. They arrive, participate and leave just like the characters above, but without falling into any defined type or group – just fine, ‘normal’, unique individuals.
And here’s the interesting thing: when it comes to spotting those who will achieve real change as a result of devoting a morning, a day or a week to a workshop, none of the above matters. Personal style, presuppositions, how or why someone participates – none of these factors really make a difference.
What does make a difference – the factors that determine whether or not the next conference or workshop you go to will yield a high ROI for you or not, are delightfully prosaic. This is good news – it means that anyone can turn a good workshop into a game-changing experience, if they take the right steps. (I’m assuming presenter competence and quality of content here – nobody can squeeze high ROI out of crap, unless they’re in the waste management business.)
What used to amaze me is the small percentage of people who actually take those steps. And it really is a tiny percentage: I’d put it at less than 5%. That means just 2 attendees in a room of 50 people will make something real and measurable happen as a direct result of the next workshop or conference they attend.
I say ‘used to amaze me’ because the percentage is so small that I set out to discover both what those steps are, and more importantly, why most people don’t take them.
In a way, I had no choice. I run high-risk workshops (not that we do anything dramatic – I’m teaching organizational growth and leadership after all, so no-one is going to die if anything goes wrong) but I teach a methodology that makes big claims for those who will implement it, and I couldn’t – can’t – afford to see 95% of the attendees not ‘get it’. Also, because I restrict public workshops to just 10 people, a 5% hit rate means I might deliver 2 or 3 workshops without helping someone make real, significant, game-changing change in their life, career or business – and that’s the precise opposite of why I do what I do.
So, after a few years of intently observing the patterns of highly successful workshop attendees I was able to identify the specific steps those people take to ensure game-changing results from their workshop or seminar attendance. I found out (as I indicated earlier) that the steps involved are simple, even prosaic, but incredibly powerful.
Along the way, I also discovered that the main reason 95% of workshop attendees don’t take these steps is not because the steps are complicated – quite the opposite – but that they simply simply don’t have time to think of them. So, eventually I turned it in to a PDF that I now send ahead of time to everyone who signs up for a Predictable Success workshop.