Behind the Scenes 3: Create Your Signature Workshop from Scratch

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Finally, the dust is settling after this year-long effort of creating a versatile signature workshop, which is to be repurposed into various content.

My mission for this series is to share the process exactly as it unfolds.  As you might have noticed, I have plenty of other posts that clearly outline how to do things for your business. This series does the opposite of that.

I’m baring it all this time in order to give you taste of the mess that goes into it.  As a result, my hope is for you to feel less intimidated by any business projects that you commit to in the long term.  Creating a signature workshop can provide many opportunities to grow your business relatively fast.  I hate to see you putting this off because you feel it is too big of a task to tackle. 

It's never pretty & it's perfectly OK.

Also, I want you to see how some things happen in a way that you could not have guessed. Both good & bad. 

This leads to another mission of mine- to prove that action creates clarity.

I often hear, "I need to know exactly what I'm doing before I get started."  Sure.  Have a plan so that, at least, you see a rough path in front of you. But my problem is the word, "exactly."

Sorry to disappoint, but you are not going to be able to know that unless you start.  What you can do instead is to course-correct along the way based on what you discover as you go. 

This is a kind of ambiguity that many get hung up on. The only thing I can tell you is... trust Nike's slogan- just do it.

In this post, I'm going to show you what that looks like. Trust me, by the time you finish reading this post, you will feel like you are a lot more “put together” than I did.

To do this, let’s break it down in 5 sections.


1. What I've Done for This 3rd Round of Workshops

2. What I Did Differently to Prep

3. Challenges I Faced

4. My Takeaways: Things to Improve & A New Plan to Move Forward

5. What Does All This Mean to You?


If you haven’t checked out Behind the Scenes 1 & 2, I strongly recommend you do before you go any further with this post, specifically, to find out why I am adamant about doing live, in-person workshops first, before offering them online, as well as why doing workshops can help you generate more revenue in many different ways.

Are you ready for a wild ride?  OK then, let's do this thing! 


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What I've Done This Time Around

Just to give a little more context to the process of creating a signature workshop, here is what I've done before this round:

11 months ago - First test run (solo-workshop)

5 months ago - Second run (no iteration / a joint workshop)


Now, I'm going to cover 2 workshops I've done back to back (2 days apart) for 2 completely different audiences recently. 

Workshop 1: "7 Deadly Sins to Avoid While Making a Massive Shift in Your Business," targeting entrepreneurs and small business owners with existing businesses. 

Workshop 2: "Market Positioning Strategy," targeting the finalists of the WeWork Creator Awards competition.

There are a few distinctive differences in these workshops, but what I want you to know is: They both came from the same workshop I did 11 months ago.

Versatility is important and also the recurring theme throughout my "How to Create Your Signature Workshop from Scratch" series.

This was personally a big win for me, as time allocation turned out to be a huge obstacle this time around.

Now, let's get back to the differences so that you can get the idea if what's possible with your own workshop. (Also, feel free to comment with your questions or just reach out to me if you are stuck.)


Difference #1: Audience

My workshop #1 audience is comprised of seasoned business operators.  Most of them have a track record of sales. They are interested in continuing to grow their businesses (mainly service businesses) over time.  Their focus is to work more efficiently on their businesses and to be better leaders for their teams.

On the contrary, the WeWork crowd is younger & also comes from different parts of the world, including Brazil, Germany, the UK & the US. They are extremely well-versed with the startup scene, as well as with business terms & lingo. They want to gain speed & traction by leveraging technology and/or expertise. Imagine teaching a class full of MBA students. Not much different from that. Their goal is to secure funding.


Difference #2: Topics

Workshop #1 focused more on the factors that can undermine or hinder one's effort to scale his business. This topic is not often discussed among business owners, and my goal was to provide a fresh perspective, so that they could incorporate what they learned from this workshop while they planned for a new quarter and/or a new year. 

On the other hand, workshop #2 was pure strategy. The entire workshop was based on a diagram I created.  No fluffy intro. It goes right into the subject matter followed by examples. A possible downside to this type of workshop is that it can become too cut & dry, but it seems I was able to keep them engaged for the whole time.


Difference #3: Style

For workshop #1, I incorporated a few exercises to make participants work, as I had allocated more time for this workshop. Also, I know it's not easy to get them actively involved, so I made sure to ask numerous questions, allowing them to share their thoughts.

For workshop #2, I anticipated it would be more of an active University style lecture. They would ask questions non-stop throughout the session (and that's exactly what happened.)  The pace is a lot faster with more strategic business terms thrown around.  This is the type of crowd that calls you out if you don’t do a good job.  No pressure there…

What I loved this time around was that I got to do both during the same one week period. This forced my mental muscles to stretch harder and adopt to different needs & environments.  It was not intentional to schedule them this way. I had a full control over deciding when to do Workshop #1, but I had no control over when Workshop #2 would take place. 

When I learned about the opportunity to do Workshop #2 for WeWork and realized it was only 2 days apart from Workshop #1, I was a bit hesitant. I could hear myself asking, “Would this be too much for my schedule that week?” 

The logical side of me wanted to turn it down because it seemed risking- doing 2 completely different workshops back to back… 

But, the rebellious side of me wanted to do it because it was an opportunity to step outside of my comfort zone.

Luckily, I took the advice from the rebellious side of my brain.  This experience forced me to prepare 2 different types of workshops & it brought me to the point where I can do them with no advance notice going forward.



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What I Did Differently to Prep

It's probably easier for me to show you rather than to explain how I approached the prep process for both workshops.


As I mentioned earlier, the original workshop played a huge part in prepping.  Basically, that workshop housed the mindset strategy, as well as a strategic planning component.  What I did was extracted the mindset strategy part and used it as an inspiration for Workshop #1 and created whole new slide decks. 

As you recall, the original workshop had a total of 70+ slides.  This time around, I kept it simpler overall with total of 57 slides.  Although the idea was based on the original workshop, the outline and the content of Workshop #1 was completely re-written. I started to work on this one month before and spent about 3 weeks just reworking on the outline. 

Once the outline was nearly done, I spent about 10 hours working on the slides over 2 days. In comparison, the slides for the original workshop took me 28 hours!

Just to clarify, during 3 weeks of outline prep, I’ve only spent about 3.5 hours total. 1.5 hours less than the last time (add link to the first post.)

Compared to the original workshop, it only took 45% of the time to complete Workshop #1.  Another difference was that I was able to do more walk-throughs before the actual workshop day. 

For Workshop #2, I did not have to do anything from scratch. I had already made 3 slides back in July to hold office hours for the same competition WeWork hosted for the same topic.  All I had to do was to expand the slides by going over the diagram in detail, ending up with a total of only 15 slides- far fewer than the other workshop.

For this one, I did not have to work on an outline.  I spent about 3 hours prepping for the slides the night before the workshop.  That was it. 

Overall, it took less time for both workshops combined.  This is a good example of how front-loading work does pay off. 

In addition, having the experience of giving a workshop 5 months ago to a similar crowd at WeWork helped tremendously for Workshop #2. I knew what they were looking for, and I made sure that I did not make the same mistakes I made back then.  Startup crowds prefer a lecture style jam-packed with strategies & frameworks. They tend to dislike the experimental/interactive style, which focuses more on “learning by doing.” 

Basically, they don’t want to fiddle with experimenting on site.  They want to know what, why, & how during the workshop, ask as many questions as they can possibly think of, and then do all the experimentation on their own.



Challenges I Faced

There were 2 things that stood in the way of putting on Workshop #1. 

The first major hurdle was time allocation.  Compared to other times, my schedule was extremely limited due to a combination of workload and some personal matters.

Another struggle I had was with the flow of Workshop #1. As the workshop title suggests, I planned to present “7 Deadly Sins.” Initially, I was able to list 7 items rather easily.  However, when I started to add more details to each of them, I began questioning myself about 2 or 3 of the items that were disrupting the flow of the workshop.   

This challenge lingered throughout the outlining process.  I switched a few items around, walked away for a day or two, and changed things around even more.  What helped to overcome this challenge was actually getting on with creating the slide decks without finalizing the outline. 

I was running out of time, and I had no choice but to get started with the slides.  

Interestingly enough, the task of creating the slides suddenly opened up the path to clarity and fluidity I was looking for.  Once again, the recurring theme is, action creates clarity.  Sometimes, you need to move forward even if you don’t feel ready. 

I must admit that it was a painful few weeks, though.  At one point, I felt I had to scratch everything. This was one of those moments when we say to ourselves, “I thought it was a phenomenal idea, but now it sucks really badly.”

To sum things up, it still took less time to create the final products, but it was not without its challenges.




My Takeaways: Things to Improve & A New Plan to Move Forward

Finally, I feel I have created a presentation that is unique & repeatable.

Not to say that this is the final product at all. But I'd like to say both workshops are at the 88% mark.  Nothing scientific- this feels just about right to me.

Let me first cover the one thing & the most important thing that worked well strategically before getting into improvements and a new plan. 

I had a very clear goal for Workshop #1 from the beginning, which was to record a video of the entire workshop.  From the perspective of documenting workshops for future use, here is the evolution over 3 tries in one year:

The Original Workshop (11 months ago) – Low quality video and photo DIY style.  I can only use this for internal purposes.

The Joint-Workshop (5 months ago) – Invested in photos by hiring a professional photographer. This gave me a ton of images I can use over time. But no video.

The 3rd Workshop (now) – Invested in a videographer who also took some good photos during the workshop.  A high-quality video will help me convert this workshop into a few videos, which I plan to use for content.

You can see the improvement over time.  Naturally, the next one up is to have both a photographer and videographer to document it.  Special thanks to Mike Vernazza, who pretty much pulled off the impossible – shooting with 2 cameras while he used one of them to take photos from time to time. 

It is a challenge to find someone who is as versatile as Mike and whose judgment I can trust, which saves me from decision fatigue

Because you will be investing a lot of your time in creating a signature workshop, you will also want to invest in a good photographer and videographer. If this seems a little daunting because you have to spend money upfront, consider this an investment that pays off, not an expense. 

The next time I share another update on my journey of creating a signature workshop, you will know how many different ways I use this particular video. You will be amazed by what you can do with it. 



Things I Need to Improve

This is actually a simple one – performance.  This can only be improved by doing the same workshop over and over.  There is no way to get around it. 

Although I was comfortable presenting for both workshops, I can move along a little more smoothly, especially during Workshop #1, and keep a better pace. The best word to describe my first attempt would be a little “cranky.” 

Luckily, now it is a matter of programming more Workshop #1’s throughout the year.  I am pumped and ready to go.  Besides minor tweaks I need to make based on the reaction I got from the participants, all I need now is to repeat the same workshop. 

As for Workshop #2, it’s a different story.  There was one section towards the end of the workshop where I did not give much thought to developing it.  It turned out that many of them wanted to know more about the subject matter.  Also, I underestimated their capacity for digesting info. 

Historically, I’ve been told I need to break down more and simplify (more on this in pt. 1 of Behind the Scenes), but I may have over-simplified the workshop for this particular crowd of incredibly fast learners.  

Again, this is a completely different audience. They digested quickly, and they wanted more.  The good thing about this is that it’s also an easy fix.  I just need to beef up that section.  Done. 


A New Plan to Move Forward

There are 3 things I will be super intentional about for the next 3 to 6 months. 


1.     Pre-schedule Workshop #1 throughout the year and continue on with video-shooting.

2.     Tweak Workshop #2 and start pitching for the right audience.

3.     Produce content using the video footage.


As for the original workshop, it remains my idea vault.  There is a piece that is still left there that I have not repurposed.  For now, it is not my priority to dig that up.  However, I am keeping a mental note that it is there in case I need it.


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What Does All This Mean to You?

At the end of the day, I am sharing this for your benefit.  Yes, it also serves as the place where I can observe my progress too, but my main goal is for you to be empowered by seeing how I am going about it. 

Here are my top 3 tips on what you can take away from my journey:


Tip #1: Focus on the End Result & Don’t Worry about Tightening It Up in the Beginning.

For your 1st workshop, I encourage you not to overthink.  But, be clear about what you want your participant to achieve from your workshop.  Put everything in your workshop that would promote the kind of results you want your participant to get. 

At times, you may wonder whether your topic is too narrow or too broad.  Don’t dwell on it.  Use your best judgement & go for it. What will happen is that you will know what you need to do after you do the first workshop. 

Maybe you thought it was too narrow, but in practice, it turns out not narrow enough.  Or, you thought it was too broad, but it turned out it was just the right amount.  You just don’t know & it’s OK.


Tip #2: Invest in Documenting Your Workshops

If I could go back, I would have invested in videos and photos from the beginning.  I am definitely kicking myself for that.  You absolutely want to fine-tune your signature workshop overtime to be as effective as possible, but don’t forget that you also want to leverage as much as you can to get the biggest return on your time & effort. 

This means having a rough plan in the beginning of how you want to repurpose your workshop and convert it into various content.  If video seems too much for you, then you can still try recording high-quality audio that can be turned into a podcast episode or even a video without the footage by layering images and slides over the audio. 

Some of the video I have may be used for a promo clip without audio.  (I had this idea from the beginning.)  Photos can be used for promotion of future workshops. 

So, even if you feel a bit stretched to invest in all of this, I recommend you make it work.  You will thank yourself for it afterwards. Trust me.


Tip #3:  Everyone’s Journey is Different

As the title of this series suggests, originally, I only had the intention of creating one signature workshop.   only needed one.  11 months later, what did I end up with?  3 workshops, including the joint-workshop, which is still in progress with Elaine Pofeldt.  (In fact, we are meeting about this in a couple of weeks.)

It is important to note that what I went through is not what you will experience.  Maybe you are a lot more organized, and you can continuously work on your original workshop just to make it better each time.  Or, your mother workshop will split in half & you will end up with 2 separate workshops. 

When I look back, I would not have predicted this was the way my project was going to roll out. The point is, I did not have to know how it was going to evolve, so long as I continued to work at it over time.

You just have to start.  As you go along, opportunities will present themselves.  If you are too rigid with your advance planning, you may miss some of those opportunities just because they don’t adhere to your plan.  I have discussed this point extensively in pt. 2 of this series. 

So, there you have it.  The next post will focus on the actual repurposing of my workshops.  Finally, there will be something you will be able to watch or hear other than just reading about it. I hope the series has provided the raw & real process of doing a side project that opens up more business opportunities. 

More importantly, I hope that this encourages you to get started with your own signature workshop creation.  Beginning is always messy until you get to the point where you only have to do minor tweaks. Too many business owners give up during the messy period. Don’t let that be you. Just believe that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. I did.