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May 24, 2008

Pre Seminar Set Up

Whenever I can I like to try to engage with my audience before I ever meet them.
As mentioned previously on this blog I actually have the benefit of being not too bad at public speaking. Not a natural gift by any stretch of the imagination. One that cost me a lot of sweaty moments, anxious waiting periods, a few disgruntled delegates, and at least one company where I am not allowed to return to. (Easy to offend some people apparently.)

One of the techniques I picked up along the way (which I allude to in our ongoing series on The Art of Presenting) is that of pre-engagement questionnaires and interviews. Like many of the other techniques I use, I learned it from reading the books written by other consultants. In particular Alan Weiss in this case.

It works something like this. After the initial contact asking me to speak somewhere I generally offer to conduct either sample interviews or a general questionnaire.

Depending on the theme that I am talking about, I will use these to help me refine the message and make it specific to that audience.

The questions change but they generally include the following:

  • Would you recommend others go into your line of work?

  • Have you or or your company had any previous experience with (the theme)

  • What are the three largest challenges facing you in the area of (the theme) over the next (say) 18 months?

  • What immediate assistance in the area of (the theme) do you think would add value to your work?

  • And lastly I ask for a contact email or telephone (preferably telephone) so I can call if there are any clarifications required.

The answers are always very revealing, and I keep them absolutely confidential at all times. They give me an idea of the level of prior understanding of this theme, the issues they are currently facing, the size of the challenge in getting this one through, and some tips about how to best deliver immediate value to them during the seminar, workshop or course.

The interesting one is always the first one. In the ongoing search for meaning at work this question gives us a bit of an insight into the general level of motivation that exists within the workforce.

Try it out and let me know how it goes for you!

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