Why do a Workshop?

These days the new business presentations I pursue are pretty modest affairs, most often about a possible workshop, consulting engagement, or a coaching assignment, but it wasn’t long ago I was part of an Ammirati & Puris pitch team hunting multi-million-dollar national and even global accounts, opportunities like Burger King (a win) and Delta (a loss).

A technique we used to advantage might no longer be germane these days – advertising and marketing has evolved in so many ways – but we often found it effective to end our presentation with a PowerPoint headline like this:  “Five Questions We Would Ask if We Were You.”

Clients immediately were drawn to this, partly out of curiosity – “What will they ask?” – and partly out of cynicism:  “This should be interesting; I didn’t know you could read our minds.”  For us, it was an opportunity to do three things:

  • Demonstrate an ability to view matters from the clients’ perspective, not just our own.
  • Substantiate our skill at being insightful, by crafting exactly the right list of (no more than five) questions to ask, inevitably leading to discussion that often was the very best part of the meeting.
  • Shape the conversation to play to our strengths and competitive advantages over competing shops (assuming we knew who they were).

I was thinking of questions like these as I prepared a workshop proposal the other day, writing this headline in my letter:  “Why do this?”

Considered from a client’s perspective, it leads to a question about, “Why should we pay this much money to have Solomon visit, when for 15 bucks we can just buy his book on Amazon, then read it and maybe discuss it among ourselves, no Solomon needed?”

This is what every prospective workshop client should ask.  It’s what I would ask if I were in the market for a workshop.

But then I’m reminded that my wife Roberta and I are going to see a Giants game when my hometown Philadelphia Phillies visit San Francisco.  We pay way too much money for tickets, then spend the better part of a full day going up and back to the ballpark, when we surely don’t need to do either.  We could watch the game on television, record or stream it, and certainly read about it afterwards in the papers.

Yet I for one get pretty excited about seeing the game live; knowing the Phillies will be in town later this summer, we’ve already bought tickets and made plans to attend on a  Sunday afternoon.

So why do people attend concerts when they can download the music or stream video on YouTube?  Why do they pay way too much money to catch a live performance on Broadway?  Why do people attend conferences to hear people speak?

There is something galvanizing, almost electric, about live performance, and, in a modest way, that’s what I try my best to replicate in my workshops.  Yes, I do hope people read The Art of Client Service; I didn’t write it to make money (I haven’t), or to become famous (I’m not); I wrote it simply to be helpful.  That said, reading or even discussing a book doesn’t come close to matching what live learning means in terms of professional growth.

Late last year I actually wrote a blog post that touches on this, called, “Am I any good at this?”  Shortly after the post went live, I heard from one of my readers, someone who had attended the workshop:

“In your latest post you questioned whether or not you did a good job.  Well, around here they’re still talking about your visit; you were amazing.”


We are living in the land of opinion here, not the land of fact, and others certainly could take a different view, but there is something almost magical participating in a session with someone who brings a bit of perspective, a dose of wisdom, and a wealth of learned experience to share with those assembled.

This is what I strive for in every presentation I conduct.  And it’s why I continue to believe the benefit you receive from it more than justifies the money you put into it.