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Maybe you’re thinking about creating an online course.

A lot of people want to start creating their own online courses and it makes sense: you record your curriculum, lessons, or videos once and then it’s an asset for you. It continues to serve you, teach other people, and bring in revenue automated on a consistent basis. Who wouldn’t want this?

However, I actually recommend that you host an in-person workshop before you create an online course.

That seems really strange because a workshop requires you to be there in person. You have to teach people, you have to be present at the workshop, and you only make money at that one event.

Once a workshop is over, you don’t make any more money. If you want to make more money, you have to do another event.

Why in the world would I recommend doing a workshop first instead of creating an online course from the start?

In a word: validation.

Highlights, Takeaways, Quick Wins
  • Spend 80% of your time on marketing—it doesn’t matter how great your course or workshop is if it’s not speaking the right message to the right person at the right time.
  • The perfect time to ask for testimonials immediately after you’ve given value of some kind.
  • If it’s a small turnout, don’t think of it as a failed workshop, think of it as a successful consulting gig.
  • Your workshop needs to have a goal—the difference between a workshop and a presentation is people should come out of a workshop with something to show for it.
  • People value things they spend money more than things they get for free.
  • Don’t try to fill as many seats as possible. Make the most of the time you have with fewer people. Host more workshops if you need to.
  • Aim for no more than 20 or 30 workshop participants.
  • See scarcity and urgency as tools in your tool belt, but don’t feel like you have to employ them all at once.
  • Tell people they’ll know how to do when they’re done with the workshop.
  • Don’t focus on the numbers, focus on the intimacy of your workshop.
  • The value of your workshop is not in the information you provide, it’s in the application of that information.
  • The point is to learn something and apply it. Give participants homework.

Show Notes
  • 02:40 Sean: This is actually in the context of courses. I know we’re talking about workshops, but there are a lot of people thinking about creating an online couse. It makes sense, because you come up with your curriculum, teach the thing you know, record your videos and lessons once, and then it’s an asset for you. It continues to sell, bring in money, serve you, and teach people, and it does that on a consistent, more or less automated, basis. Who wouldn’t want that? I think courses are great. They’re valuable and helpful for people. They’re one of the greatest assets you can build.
  • 03:25 There’s a lot of nuances that go into it, like whether it’s going to be a closed course, where enrollment ends, or something you leave open, like an evergreen course, and you relaunch it multiple times in the future. There’s a lot of nuance there but it’s a really great thing to have. People who purchase a course get a lot out of it.

Host an in-person workshop before you create an online course.

  • 04:31 The attendees at your workshop are like your own personal beta group. They get to go through the material with you and experience it, and you get to audit the material and get feedback from them. There are a lot of benefits to this and one of the biggest ones is to validate your idea. You want to teach on something and you’re hoping people are interested. My first course was Learn Lettering and I did a course before that, but it was simpler. Still, it took me a few months and the big one took me six months. We’re talking about a lot of time here—it’s a big investment. Before you do that, it’s a really good idea to validate whatever the topic is and make sure people are interested.

Validate Your Idea

  • 05:31 Ben: I’ve been thinking for a while about doing a video content marketing workshop for local businesses who are wanting to get into video content marketing but don’t have good processes in place, have processes that aren’t as affective as they want them to be, or just want to know how to get started. I realized, looking at the landscape of what people are already doing, there’s a learning curve for people who aren’t already doing it. There’s some education that needs to happen, so the question is: what is the pool like? Is it a big pool of people that might fit into that audience or is it a relatively small one? Part of validating the market is starting to ask that question.
  • 06:23 I like having something to point people to and say, “Hey, I’m going to be hosting this workshop!” Even coming up with the basic idea of what you’d like to cover and gaging people’s interest that way, you learn a lot about where the majority of people are with this information. You might find that now is not the right time to be launching a course for something because there’s still quite a bit of education that needs to go into it—some prerequisites—before you can put that material out and really make an impact. Or, if you’re willing to be one of the forerunners in that area, you’ll know it’s probably not going to be a big hit, but at least you’re going to get the ball rolling.
  • 07:06 Sean: The first this is, do you know anyone else doing what you want to do? Is anyone else teaching a workshop on a similar topic? If not, you might be fighting an uphill battle. You may be creating something that people don’t want. There’s a lot of people creating products, applications, courses, workshops, and then going out looking for problems. “What does this fit? Hopefully I can find someone. Why am I not getting popular on these resource sites?” Maybe it’s because you didn’t make the right thing. Maybe you didn’t make what people actually wanted.
  • 08:15 You were saying before we started that it was a timely episode because you’re getting into workshops a little more. What type of workshops are you wanting to do?
  • 08:25 Ben: The end game for me isn’t necessarily to do courses, but the workshops I’m wanting to do will be in-person and they’re going to be focused on video content marketing. The reason this is timely is because I’m just starting the process of reaching out and trying to get those things set up. I know this episode is focused more on why you should do this first, but I know there’s going to be some practical stuff for how to make that happen and some ways to reach out to people.
  • 09:03 The workshop is my way of learning more about the specific struggles people are having. I have a vague idea, I know my own level of expertise, I know the potential problems I could solve, so I could come up with a basic outline for what I might offer. When I reach out to people and I let them know this is something I’m going to be doing and I get real people in seats, that’s when I get to hear real questions people are having and understanding specific things people are struggling with and then whatever I use this content for in the future is more targeted, impactful, and valuable.
  • 10:02 Sean: Cory, you were saying you were thinking about doing a workshop or that you were getting ideas. What did you have in mind?
  • 10:12 Cory: Whenever we start talking about workshops, my mind just starts spinning on how many things I could teach. I could definitely teach a video related workshop. I sometimes think of this friend I usually do work with and he and I are both really knowledgeable in that area. I was thinking that there’s so many people that work with us that want to learn and we wish we could get into the whys of certain things, but we just can’t. I talked to this guy, David, and said we should do some kind of workshop or teaching thing and he was interested. I just get so many ideas on this stuff. The hard part for me isn’t validating it. We know there’s a need, especially for people that we know that want to learn video, but the whole logistics of it seems complicated—venues, etc.

Why Your Workshop Should Be in-Person

  • 11:17 Sean: You know you have something to teach that people actually want and they’ve said that they want it now I want to talk about the in-person part. That was a big thing people were asking about in the Community chat—why not online? Joe has a really big US audience even though he’s in the UK and if he did it online, it would be way bigger. Charlie asked, “Why does the workshop have to be in-person? Could you not get similar benefits from a small intimate group online over Hangouts or similar?”
  • 11:58 You certainly can—I’m talking in ideals. I think there’s a lot of benefits to in-person events. I’m not saying you can’t do an online workshop or if you live in the middle of nowhere, it’s hopeless. You probably know a few people or you can find a few people in the place that you live to get together. That way, you’re going through your material with them, you’re starting small. You don’t have to have tons of people, you could have eight people. Work with them, find out what they’re struggling with, and revise your material before you even do an online one where there’s hundreds of people attending.
  • 12:43 Ben: With most webinars or online workshops, there may be some face time with the presenter, but there are also slides and stuff like that. There are just little things like that that interrupt the attention and connection you have with another human being. When you’re in person, all that stuff goes away. There’s not a screen between you and the people in the room. The more barriers you take away, the easier it’s going to be for them to feel comfortable asking their questions. They’re going to feel a stronger connection with you. Even if it’s a little bit stronger than they would have had online, maybe they ask a question they wouldn’t have asked.
  • 13:32 Sean: You’re going to miss things online. People filter what they say and write online, it’s not raw, real feedback. It is going to be different online, it won’t be quite as good. Joe asked, expanding on Charli’s question, “An online workshop seems much more attractive and feels like I’d have a much better response and even potentially earn modest revenue from enrollment. Should the workshop be more about developing your course for it’s future launch, or connecting with early adopters, like beta testers?”
  • 14:12 The primary thing you want to go into your workshop with, if this is a precursor to your online course, is developing the course material and also developing your marketing material. The guys at the mastermind retreat this weekend were asking, “How much time do you spend developing the material vs. marketing?” and I said it’s 80/20 in favor of the marketing. Spend 80% of your time on marketing.

It doesn’t matter how great your course is if it’s not speaking the right message to the right person at the right time.

  • 14:53 You’re not going to reach people, no one is going to come, no one is going to sign up. Your marketing material is huge, that’s why I have my Supercharge Your Writing course. You have to write the right thing to the right person at the right time. You need the right message. You need to have the right marketing, you need to sell in the right way, or you’re not going to sell at all. It is developing your course material, but it’s also developing your marketing material. You’re going to miss things online and people write things differently online. When it’s real, raw, and in person, you want to note that exact language, because that’s what’s going to resonate with people to an even greater degree when you write it online.
  • 15:35 You’re going to learn people’s real struggles, not just the ideas they come up with. This is in the moment. Someone asked, “How can we make sure the participants tell us really honest feedback so we can improve the course and get more out of it?” That’s the great thing about charging for your event, which we’re going to talk about in a little bit here. When you charge for your workshop, then people are going to give you honest feedback, because they paid for it. They want value out of it. They’re not going to just say nice things anymore. Once the wallet comes out and they’ve paid for it, they want value.
  • 16:32 Ben: The paid workshop has a lot of benefits. It’s not just the honesty in what they say about the workshop and the value they received from it, but they’re also not going to waste their time with hypotheticals. If they have a real problem, they’re going to cut to the chase They’re going to ask in a more direct way than they would if it was free.

Get Incredible Feedback

  • 16:58 Sean: You can create deeper connections with people, you can get video testimonials, and you can get photos of the event for case studies. This is going to look way more legit when you have photos of an actual workshop where you were helping people. Compare that to someone who just makes an online course with a webcam with poor audio quality and no editing. Trust is the hurdle you’re trying to overcome. I’m not saying you can’t make something online and do ok, but I am saying that a photo of you in a room doing a workshop with real people is going to go a long way.
  • 17:51 A video testimonial of someone who’s there and learned from you while you were teaching is going to go a super long way. It’s so different from doing an online course where you might get written testimonials, but that’s extremely rare—a tenth of a percent of people might send you a video. Of all the people who send you videos, a tenth or less will be high-quality, professional videos. It’s not the same as if you’re there with a video guy who’s shooting for you and immediately after the workshop, when they’re excited and on this high, they get to share their experience. Think about how valuable that is as marketing material? You can only do those things in person.
  • 18:44 Ben: I don’t know if this counts as a tip, but if you’re doing a paid workshop, you try to over-deliver on the value and there still feels like a reciprocity issue when asking for a review. It’s not an issue you can’t overcome, but I wonder if there’s some additional value you can offer in exchange for a review.
  • 19:17 Sean: There’s a few ways you can get a testimonial from them: have them write it down, have them send it over email, or you could send a newsletter right after the event. You follow up with them and maybe provide some resources—send some slides, a recording, or photos. This will make them feel happy again and feel like they received value, at which point, you can ask them for a testimonial. Say, “If you enjoyed this event, just hit reply on this email and let me know what you thought. It would be super helpful for me if you left a testimonial.” People will do it!

As long as you ask for testimonials immediately following some kind of value, then it won’t feel weird.

  • 20:04 I like being in person because right after you’ve done a bunch of teaching, they’re going to be really excited, they’ll be there in person, and they’re going to say yes when you ask to shoot a quick video of them to hear about their experience. It feels so natural, the benefits are so huge, and you get paid to do it.
  • 20:37 I hope you’re taking photos during your workshop. Throughout the workshop, after you’ve given an assignment, just pull out your phone and take a few photos if you don’t have an assistant or someone there. Take way more photos than you think you’ll need because that’s going to make for an awesome case study. Write a case study on your workshop. The case study you write should talk about what you were teaching on, who this was for, what they’re going to get out of it, and what the result is.
  • 21:25 Document that whole process and imbed the photos in your blogpost. The photos will bring it to life. You can talk about a workshop and describe the venue, but a photo is immediately going to paint that picture. It’s immediately going to legitimize this as an event. It’s not something you made up in your head for a blogpost, you were actually there, real people showed up, and you’re legit.

What if No One Shows Up?

  • 21:56 Ben: Someone in the chat room mentioned they set up a workshop, but only two people registered so they cancelled it. At first my thought was that’s two people you can interact with and get real questions from, so I think there’s still a lot of value there in moving forward with it. From a presentation standpoint, after the fact, when it doesn’t go the way you hoped it would, how do you present that in the way you’re talking about? Do you not do pictures and instead talk about the experience with the few people?

If it’s a small group, don’t think of it as a failed workshop, think of it as a successful consulting gig.

  • 22:55 Sean: That’s the answer. You did not fail if only a few people came. Don’t feel bad if only a small number of people came. Think about it like it’s personalized consulting and think about how valuable it is for them! If you only get three or four people to signup, that’s three or four people paying you for your time to teach them! That’s an awesome thing! You just got people to come in and you’re going to invest in them. You’re giving them dedicated time, you’re going to help them, and these people are going to become your ambassadors. There’s really no way to lose with that.
  • 24:30 If you open up pre-orders and nobody buys, that’s great! You didn’t waste money, pay for a venue, waste your time, or start working on the presentation. You find out that not many people are interested in this. It didn’t resonate with your 50 subscribers because not even one clicked, signed up, or asked a question. Now, you need to have conversations with people. What do the people in your audience want to learn about? This is a good thing.
  • 25:02 If you opened up preorders and you got five people to signup, then you ramp up to the event and you get eight or 12 people. Maybe only two people buy, then it’s personalized consulting. If 12 people come, it’s going to be an awesome event and look great in photos. What if you get 20 or 30 people and you max out the capacity? That looks super good. That means there’s more demand and you can do another workshop in a bigger venue. It’s win-win-win all the way around.
  • 25:38 Ben: Even if you don’t have anyone show up, you have the benefit of seeing that there isn’t a market there yet. You’ve also probably done some preparation so when that market is developed, you already have your message in place. You still benefit from having put in some of the work to solidify that message.
  • 26:06 Cory: I was talking about workshops with someone and I mentioned Sean’s method with preorders and they basically asked, “Who’s going to pull out their wallet for a preorder when there’s not a date and a location set in place?”
  • 26:27 Sean: Well, you have to have that.
  • 26:28 Cory: So then you do have to spend money on a venue? It seems hard to get people to pull out their wallet if it’s a little vague.
  • 26:38 Sean: You could rent a venue and do whatever it takes to fill it up. If you’re hesitant or you want to go about this in a way that’s zero risk, you could work with a venue who is willing to host it and offer all of the resources for free, they just split the profit on the tickets. That way you don’t have to put money up front, but they get a bigger cut. If you put money up front, maybe you’d make a bigger profit than 50% of each ticket, but there’s less risk for you there. You would want to give the date and how much it will cost because the participants need to know if they can afford it and if it’s somewhere they can get to.
  • 27:45 You don’t actually have to have the whole thing planned out. You could have a general idea in mind, but you ramp up to it a few months in advance. Say it’s a month out, open up preorders for a week or two and then you close preorders two weeks before the event starts. That way there’s urgency on the preorder. Maybe you have an early bird price or you offer at-the-door tickets. You could close off regular priced tickets a week in advance. You can sell the early bird tickets three weeks in advance and if people are buying the preorders, you have three weeks to prepare it, which should be plenty of time.
  • 28:38 Cory: That answers the buyer’s question of where the venue is.
  • 28:45 Ben: I like that you can get that stuff set up, but you don’t necessarily have to have every specific point you’re going to be going over.

Charge for Your Workshop

  • 28:55 Sean: On the question of charging for a workshop vs. making it free, there’s two answers. One, you should charge for it. Two, you should charge for it. If you don’t like those two options, the third option is to charge for your workshop. Definitely charge for your workshop. You’re going out of your way to provide a ton of value. It’s more valuable than a course, because you’re teaching the material and you’re there in person to answer questions.
  • 330:03 You’re personalizing it, you can give advice, and it’s like you have a consultation package on top of your material. The experience is even better in person and there’s physical costs involved—it just makes sense to charge for your workshop. I’m not saying you can’t do a free workshop. You can, you just don’t have to and I think you should charge. I don’t want people to think of it as an option.
  • 30:39 Ben: Whatever your end game is, whether this is a way for you to get clients or a way to get people interested in purchasing a course from you, people value things more when they spend money on them vs. things they get for free.
  • 31:01 Sean: You’re actually making sure they’re taking action on it—that’s the difficult part. We don’t just want people to pay for education and then not apply it. We want them to see the results of it. We feel better as teachers and that’s a great case study for everyone else. Everybody wins when someone applies the material, so if paying for it is going to increase the likelihood they take action, that’s a good thing. Rob says, “How long should you sell the workshop for? Should you do a launch for it? How much should you sell it for?”
  • 31:42 Give it some kind of a deadline on the sales window, whether you do a preorder and it’s available at the door or you give an early bird price. You want to create some kind of urgency. Preorders allow you to validate, because if nobody preorders, you don’t have to actually do the workshop. Scarcity and urgency are both ways you can incentivize people to sign up. Scarcity is where you limit the amount that’s available, so in a workshop that would be the number of seats. I would recommend limiting the seats to 20 or 30 at the most because otherwise, you get to the point where you can’t give personalized advice. Then, it’s really more of a presentation or lecture. I like the hands-on nature of the workshop.

Your workshop needs to have a goal.

The difference between a workshop and a presentation is people should come out of a workshop with something to show for it.

  • 32:59 To limit the number of seats, 20 or 30 is the sweet spot. Most workshops are two or three hours and in two or three hours, you’re going to have a hard time getting good one-on-one interaction with 30 people. Even if you didn’t do any teaching at all, think about the precious few minutes you would have with each person and how much you could get done. It’s not really that much.
  • 33:33 Ben: I did a two hour workshop at the end of last year. I had eight people and I spent the first hour presenting the materials and preparing them for the other part of it, and it took us 45 minutes to go through the workshop. I spent some one-on-one time, but we also had people contributing to whatever that person-specific thing was. That was only eight people and it took us that long to work through the stuff. It probably will take you longer than you’re estimating it will.

Creating Scarcity & Urgency

  • 34:12 Sean: Karma says, “What about doing a two or three day workshop?” Sure, do a two or three day workshop, but think in terms of depth, not in terms of width. If you’re doing three hours on one day and you can’t even get to 30 people, don’t do a three day work shop for 90 people. Then, it’s just as shallow and you’re going to get stretched thin.
  • 34:37 Ben: I love this idea too. What if your workshop is fantastic because you’re able to focus on fewer people and they’re excited, so they tell other people about it? Now, you can do it again. That’s how you reach a wider audience.

It’s not about trying to get more people in the seats for one workshop, it’s making the most of the time you have with fewer people.

  • 35:03 Sean: That’s exactly why we’re capping the attendance of seanwes conference. It’s going to be limited to 150 people because we want them to have an excellent experience. We want this to be a more intimate event where people don’t get lost. Like everything else, I approach it with all of the status quo that’s in my mind that I don’t even realize. Years ago I discounted my products on holidays because that’s just what people do and you don’t really ask questions. I originally thought if I’m running a conference, we want as many people to go to it as we can, because that’s what successful conferences are. Then, Nathan Barry on this retreat gave me the advice, “You want this to be a more premium event. Let it sell out. Get it to the point where it’s full and you’re getting 20 emails from people asking you to get in.” Too bad, there’s next year.
  • 36:51 It’s two-fold: it’s a more intimate, higher-quality experience for the fewer people that come and it’s also creating desire for the people who miss out. Everyone is trying to maximize this one workshop—how many people can I get in? What’s the max head count? Where’s a venue that can accommodate more people and what’s the sweet spot on profit? What about the experience? Why not think in terms of: How can I do an eight-person workshop that’s $1,000 a piece, where they tell a friend and everyone wants to get in, and I do six of these workshops? Then you have $48,000 compared to trying to get 30 people in at $500. You’re actually making less money and creating a worse experience because you’re trying to maximize something that should be personalized.
  • 38:12 That’s scarcity. I would say if you’re pushing the upper limits, no more than 20 or 30, but I would say to come down from that and get more intimate. There’s a reason for someone to sign up! You don’t have to be all about how cheap the price is and give out discounts or coupons, now it’s just going to be awesome and there won’t be that many people there. The most common way to create urgency is with the price, though. Say, “If you sign up first, I’m giving the first 10 people an early bird price,” as a way of rewarding loyalty and belief in you. The introductory price can be for the first number of people or first week. In most cases, you don’t even have to use both scarcity and urgency. You don’t have to say, “Here’s an introductory price and there’s only this number of people.” You could just use one of those methods.
  • 39:28 Ben: When I hear something could create urgency and something else could create more urgency, I start to get focused on that and think I need as much urgency as I can get. If I believe in the value of the product I’m providing, if I try to build in too much urgency, that betrays the way I project how I value the material and what I think they’ll get out of it. Then it’s like, “He’s using all these tactics, does he really think his stuff is worthwhile?”

See scarcity and urgency as tools in your tool belt, but don’t feel like you have to employ them all at once.

  • 40:05 Sean: I really like the focus on creating a more intimate experience and I’m almost kicking myself that someone else had to tell me that. I should have come up with the idea to limit conference attendance—it just feels right. It’s the same thing with the Community—both are tied together. This is our flagship event; when you sign up for the conference, you get a full year of Community membership. No one at the conference is not going to have a membership, so you can continue the relationship with every person you meet at the conference.
  • 40:55 With the Community, we don’t do free or $1.00 trials. It’s just an awesome place with awesome people and if you want to join it, you can. We’re not pushing it, so we don’t have explosive growth like some kind of venture-backed company would have to do because the investors want to see the numbers. We’re not about numbers here, we’re about quality. Everyone who is in the Community has overcome the hesitations—they’re serious enough to make a commitment. We don’t cheapen the Community. We don’t say, “Everyone can come in and get a free week!” You don’t have to wonder who’s really serious here and who’s poking around. I’m disappointed that I didn’t even think of it myself to limit the conference attendance. None of us are immune to blindly following the status quo that doesn’t align with our business objectives. It took someone else auditing me and giving me feedback and I’m grateful for that.
  • 42:29 Ben: It’s such a gift to have people around you who are your peers, who are in different places in their businesses, and in similar but different industries, and to get that kind of insight. I feel like anyone should try to get those kinds of people around them. It doesn’t mean you have to find a Nathan Barry, or a seanwes, or someone way ahead of you. It’s really the people who are in the same place as you are that can give you the most value because they’re the most familiar with your struggles and can have an objective view of your values and your business model. They can help illuminate things that are more in line with that that maybe you aren’t considering.

Hosting a Great Event

  • 43:19 Sean: Similar to the workshop thing, we only have seven people in this group and even then it’s the upper limit for us. We were doing four 90-minute sessions a day. In the whole five-day retreat, we got coffee three times, went out for dinner two times, and walked down to the beach once. That was it and everything else was sessions. We did this about half a year ago and we were pretty astounded by the progress everyone had made. We’re so excited about the future of the people at that retreat. We’re all running six-figure businesses and it’s just the beginning.
  • 45:06 The intimacy of that group is super important. We have to spend a lot of time focusing on an individual person, getting to know them really well, getting to know their weaknesses, struggles, challenges, and strengths. Throughout the multiple days of these retreats, we get to know each other better so we can go into these focused sessions (Related: e209 Unsolicited Advice – Recap of A Mastermind Retreat).
  • 45:46 The concept of Unsolicited Advice is where the six other people in the room are talking about me as if I’m not in the room critically for 10 minutes and I can’t say anything, all I can do is take notes. At the end, we have a five minute timer for a recap. We literally spend thousands of dollars on the travel expenses and five days of our time for this 10 minutes of advice and it changes everything. It’s that intimacy—that’s the important thing. That’s why I want you to prioritize the intimacy of your workshop or conference, because that’s where the true value will come from.

Don’t focus on the numbers, focus on the intimacy of your workshop.

  • 46:48 Then they’re going to tell people about it. I’m excited about it right now because we just had a seven-person event, not because I want to a 70 or 700-person event. That’s what’s going to overflow for people. They’ll share this incredible experience with everyone else and they’re going to want to come to your next workshop.
  • 47:06 Ben: Being a person who goes to a workshop like that and looking around the room, knowing a ton of people could be there, there’s this feeling of being special. Not only that, but because it’s in person, the presenter set aside time to meet us here. I made time to be there in person too, which means I’m not going to waste the opportunity. It feels really special being in a small group with a person who’s willing to come and work through this stuff with us and leave us with something that can make our business better.

Give 3 Assignments

  • 48:12 Sean: Guy asks, “Should a workshop be interactive (with audience participation) or purely a lecture or presentation? If interactive, do you know of any tools/software to help with this?” If you’ve ever spoken or given a presentation, you’re going to be inclined to treat this like a talk where you give a presentation with slides and teaching, but it’s an interactive event. The people are there in person, you’re not streaming it or doing it at an auditorium. It’s a workshop so you want to treat it like that. It’s not called a presentation-shop.
  • 49:08 You’re there to do work with people. You’re there to show them how to do something and you want them to produce some kind of result. At the end, they need to come out of this event with something. They need to learn how to do something, which means they need to do work in the workshop. Since it’s not just a presentation, I recommend breaking it up into three assignments. You want to have different sections of the workshop. That’s not to say you can’t do an orientation or slides if you want to.
  • 49:41 I’ve done workshops both with and without slides, and it didn’t feel right with a 30-minute to an hour long presentation. I was torn because I had great slides, but I more wanted people to focus on the concepts, be working on something, and think about how to apply it. It varies from industry to industry. Give them a brief orientation, but don’t spend too much time on it. Maybe have some slides and a little talk for that part. You want to get to the point where you give them their first assignment and then have them do work as you’re talking. You can also go around and see how they’re applying it, work with them, and show examples to the rest of the class.
  • 50:33 Ben: If you’ve got them working while you’re talking, it’s less pressure, because their focus isn’t completely on you.
  • 50:43 Sean: I’ve found that makes me a little less nervous. Just don’t have 100 slides. I’m not saying you can’t have them, just don’t prioritize it. Your workshop definitely needs to have a goal: What is this person going to come out of your workshop knowing how to do? That’s a question you need to answer for yourself and bake into your marketing. That’s the reason people care about this. People want to know what they’ll know how to do when they’re done with the workshop. The hardest part for me, because I’ve done a lot of teaching and speaking, is really limiting this. I tend to go overboard because I have a lot to share and teach, but there’s just not time. Simplify it. Don’t teach them three or five things; don’t show them how to do seven things. Give them one really actionable thing that they can know holistically and be really good at. Cory, you want to do a video workshop. Give me an example of things it could be about.
  • 51:57 Cory: It could be about framing, camera movement, camera settings, exposure, lighting, or how to hold certain cameras.
  • 52:08 Sean: That’s not even production, short-films, talking head, two-man crew, etc. There are so many variables. You could call your workshop Learn How to Shoot a Talking-Head Course for Clients With a Two-Man Crew. Even that’s a lot, but narrow it down—Master Adobe Premier or Learn How to Move a Camera on a Dolly. Go really specific. You can give an overview of the other stuff and that’s just going to get them excited for other workshops you can offer. You don’t want to go into all these things with really shallow depth and nobody gets a good sense of anything. It’s harder when you have a bunch of experience, because your tendency will be to pour everything out. You feel like you’re really helping people because it’s a lot of information.

The value of your workshop is not in the information you provide, it’s in the application of that information.

  • 53:31 If people aren’t applying it because it’s too complex or overwhelming, then you’re doing them a disservice. It’s not a good thing.
  • 53:41 Ben: It’s counterintuitive. You think the more information you provide, the more valuable it is, but if they can’t actually do anything with it because it’s too much, it’s not really valuable to them. You can give someone in the US whatever the equivalent of a million dollars in yen is, but if where they’re going only accepts US dollars, it’s worthless to them. You’ve got to convert it and put it in denominations they can actually use. Sometimes that means getting really specific and deep on that one specific thing so they walk away from it feeling like they have a better understanding of that one thing and they can actually use it, and make an impact.
  • 54:36 Sean: Get as quickly as possible to that first assignment. Give an orientation, but as soon as possible, give them something to do and work on, then you keep talking. They can be applying what you’re saying as you’re talking about it. The second assignment should be something that relates to whatever the promise is that someone will come out of this event knowing how to do. Before you get to the second assignment, give them some feedback. Walk around the room, critique what people did with the first assignment and share a good example with everyone in the room. Say, “James did this. This ss what he did really well. This is a good example that I noticed no one else is doing. Also, here’s how it can be improved. Maybe a lot of you are doing it this way. This is a more efficient way to do things.”
  • 55:38 Give them an example and share different examples of people doing really good work around the room, and also ways they can do it better. This should give them more context on what to do for the second assignment they’re going to do during the event. You continue teaching and go more in-depth. Get slightly more advanced here. The third assignment will actually be their homework. A lot of workshops end with, “Great! Now you learned how to do it!” and that’s it. The third assignment, giving them actual homework, has so many benefits.
  • 56:25 They’re going to remember you after the event because they’re still doing stuff. It depends on what they paid you and what options you had, but maybe they turn in these assignments. Maybe you continue to help them with it or you could say, “Share your finished piece with this hashtag,” so everyone can see what each person is working on. You could even post it on your blog. The benefits for them is that they take what they learned and go home to apply it. People compartmentalize that, “This is what I learned when I was at that place and now I’m done.” That’s not the point!

The point is to learn something and apply it, so give participants something to take home.

  • 57:06 Ben: That can also create a mechanism where you necessarily followup. I’ve had experiences before where I’ve put on the workshop but there wasn’t anything like that after it, so we shake hands and they thank me for the information I shared. Without something that has to be followed up on, you don’t get to continue that relationship. Especially if you provided a lot of value and they’re excited about it, that second touch after the workshop can be really valuable in terms of helping them remember it.
  • 57:53 Sean: You get to continue the relationship. Maybe at the end of the event, if you didn’t already have their email depending on how they signed up, you could get their email, add them to a specific newsletter list, and then follow up. Maybe you continue some kind of assignments over email.
  • 58:36 Cory Miller asks, “How do you go about scheduling a workshop? I would love to do a workshop but nobody is asking me, and I feel weird asking someone to host me.” Maybe he’s waiting for a venue to host a workshop for him, bring all the people out for him, and he gets to apply his expertise. I think everyone would love that, but you have to hustle. You have to go find a place, like a coffee shop with some extra room.
  • 1:00:12 Ben: Starting the conversation is the hardest part. You have no idea how people are going to respond or what ideas might come out of those conversations unless you start them. I was running into a similar things recently and then it dawned on me that I know people who would be interested in this information or that at least know some people who are interested in this information. Instead of thinking I have to cold call someone I don’t know, I started thinking about who I know who might actually connect me with a venue. When I approached it from that perspective, it felt a little less awkward because I already have history with these people. These are people that want to see me be successful in what I’m doing, so they want to help me out.

Workshops vs. Webinars

  • 1:01:12 Sean: Garrett asks, “Workshops vs. webinars? Is there a difference?” We talked about doing in-person workshops, but you can do online workshops. There’s a lot more benefits to doing it in-person, but online is a lot less hassle and it scales a lot. You could have 100 people, they’re just not going to get a ton of personal attention. There is a huge difference between workshops and webinars. Webinars are generally a pitch, like an overview or a strategy, and workshops are more of the how. A workshop is more practical steps, tactics, and value, but there’s certainly an overlap there. I have a little bit of a stigma with webinars because I study a lot of marketers.
  • 1:02:18 I wade through a lot of slimy tactics to find the good stuff and bring it to this show, so maybe I’m jaded, but there’s a lot of webinars where people are flipping through 12 slides with no substance and selling something. That gets them sales, but I don’t like it. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with doing a webinar, but in the marketing world, I’m overexposed to that so I’m sensitive to the word. By definition, a webinar is more of an overview, a story, with some practical steps, but generally it comes to some kind of pitch where you want someone to do something. A workshop is generally something very practical, tangible, with a lot of takeaways and tactics. It’s a lot more value and it’s something you would sell. If you could take a recording of this, would you feel right selling that?
  • 1:03:42 Ben: It’s selling a video of yourself selling something.
  • 1:03:47 Sean: Internally on the seanwes team, we don’t use the word “webinar” because I want to differentiate from everyone else who does 12 slides and a pitch. I want people to feel like they just got hundreds of dollars of value from me, regardless of whether they buy whatever I have to offer, so I call it a “live training event.” I’ve literally taken those events and sold them for $197 dollars. I actually did 250 slides on that and it’s actually something that’s almost a mini-course that someone can apply and make thousands of dollars from. I give something like that for two hours before I even say, “By the way, there’s a course that’s more in-depth.”
  • 1:04:36 It’s semantics, but understand there’s an inherently huge difference in meaning between webinars and workshops. Marinda says, “The workshop prepares you for an online course. How do you prepare for a workshop? Do you teach ONE person, in-person? Then later organize a local group event?” I don’t think you need to go so far as to just start with one person on purpose. If you try to do a workshop and it ends up being one, two, or three people, that’s fine. If you’re keeping it intimate, that’s the main thing. Six, eight, or 12 people is great, but more than 20 people will be hard to give individual attention to.
  • 1:05:25 Ben: I feel like that has more to do with how comfortable you feel than it does with how valuable the information you’re presenting is. Saying, “I’m going to do a free event first,” or only going with one person, if the information you’re sharing is valuable, it’s worth opening it up to more people if you can in the beginning. If you’re having anxiety about presenting, you’re not sure how to structure things, or there are logistical things you don’t know anything about, then you need to do some learning. Ask around from people who have done some workshops. Even an event where you’re sharing valuable information and you’re inviting people into the process and letting them do the work, you don’t have to be an amazing presenter for them to get a ton of value out of that.
  • 1:06:33 Sean: I think you should feel a little uncomfortable. Get outside your comfort zone. Like Steve Martin wrote about: we’re not born standing up. We’re not born workshop presenters and public speakers. Getting in front of 1,000 people staring at you is weird. You feel vulnerable, sweaty, and scared, and that’s normal! It’s not natural to want to get in front of people and have them all stare at you. Get outside your comfort zone and embrace that. If you’re paralyzed and you can’t even walk outside your front door, start with recording your voice, then record videos, and then think about giving a presentation in front of a small group you know before doing a workshop. If you’re paralyzed, warm up to it, but don’t wait until it’s not a big deal to you. It’s never going to feel that way until you’ve done five or six of them.