12 Tips for effective customer workshops

Seminars / workshops are a great tool to show thought leadership, promote yourPostit note workshop BD LRx product/service and most importantly engage with potential and existing customers alike.

Here are 12 tips to help you maximise the customer engagement/learning opportunity:

  1. Facilitate don’t Lecture – effective presenters engage conversation and guide the learning process, rather than talk down to audiences. The participants are your best tool, acknowledge them by integrating them & their knowledge into your delivery.
  2. Ask the audience what they expect  – Everyone turns up with different expectations. Do a quick poll around the room as to what people are expecting to get from the day. Make sure you either cover that material or acknowledge up front you will not be covering it.  Write up key themes on a flip chart to ensure you do actually cover the topics requested. At the end go back to list and acknowledge each issue. Also get them to introduce themselves, it helps participants work out who to target and avoid during the breaks.
  3. Don’t over script – Have structure and flow to the content you deliver. Go with the flow of the participant questions and their hot topics. I will use a standard set of slides, but speak differently to them dependant on the audience, using my arsenal of stories/examples to illustrate points, dependant on the audience. You are the subject matter expert, so trust yourself to deliver the magic.
  4. Death by PowerPoint: Never, never read power point slides – your PowerPoint is a supporting actor, you are the main act.  Get a balance between text, diagrams and other graphics on your slides. The worst presentations/ seminars I have attended all either had text only slides or too many low quality images. Remember the power of the message is inversely proportional to the number of words and if a diagram or picture is worth a 1000 words. Use istock.com or the like to get some professional low cost royalty free images and take the time to create powerful diagrams. Also use a good projector and leave lights on and blinds open.
  5. Use attendee examples:  Get people to apply the knowledge on the spot and share back their thoughts  – people will observe flaws in other people well  before themselves. Using examples from the attendees will make it a more personalised & relevant experience.
  6. Use flip charts / white boards: Work out your key messages from the seminar and keep referencing them on a flip chart. Also when answer questions putting some key annotations on a white board will accelerate learning. The vast majority of people prefer visual learning/comprehension over verbal or kinaesthetic.
  7. Manage time: You own the flow and interaction. Shut down persistent know it all’s or major diversions. Likewise poll opinions from quiet participants. If you have multiple speakers use an Master of Ceremonies (MC), it may even pay to get a professional facilitator in. Don’t run overtime.
  8. Put additional reading in hand-out material to pass on to non attendees:  Add a few articles / white papers to the hand out material over and above the power point slides. Make it easy for a non attendee to get an idea of what your core messages are, if they are handed the material post event.
  9. Subtle Selling / stay true to your brand:  95% thought leadership, 5% direct sales. Be clear on what impression you want to leave behind, style, brand positioning etc. The best sales methodology is a subtle thought leadership approach. Do not forget to put your logo and contact details on material and mention what services you offer without over doing it.
  10. Make a stand: as an expert in your field the participants expect you to have an opinion. The events where I have expressed a strong opinion and opened the floor up to debate, have been the most engaging workshops I have run.
  11. Continually develop your material: Constantly tweak your material based on audience feedback and new information that comes to hand.
  12. Entertain & enjoy it:if you have fun so will the audience. Great business is not boring. If your subject matter expert is a boring speaker: coach him, give him a co presenter, don’t leave him on stage for too long

mark cutawayLR

Give us a call if you would like a hand with coaching your team on creating high impact workshop delivery.

Growth Management Consulting also runs in-house workshops on a range of topics including: Business Planning, Pitching, Investment Ready as well as facilitating board/management team off sites and other business events.

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Simple Business Case Disciplines Can Save You From Yourself.

The “she’ll be right” era is gone; it is no longer good enough to make business decisions based on gut and napkin calculations.

Does your business use formal business cases to make major decisions?

“Just Do It” – Doesn’t cut it any more

In an economic environment of tight margins, rapid change and competition, there has never been a better time to put in place some improved business discipline and robust decision making. Many businesses are actively growing in this climate.

One of the easiest ways to de-risk your business and make better decisions is to business case out all major decisions. This does not have to mean bureaucracy overload. Give yourself the benefit of an independent review panel to critique and provide feedback before progressing on major investments. The process of writing a business case will in itself create a better investment choice.

Future stock market player

A project business case should stand up to robust debate, albeit from your board, bank manager or life partner before expending your time, passion and money.  Some major decisions that warrant a business case are: starting or purchasing a new business venture or product line and rationalising your product offering to improve focus or buying a major asset. Create a business case when failure of the project is going to hurt!

Too many business owners continue to fund projects without calculating true payback and considering long-term implications of their business.  Many of these become “the living dead”, “throwing good money after bad”.

 Ignore the value of money over time at your peril.

 Let’s take an example: your IT manager just approached you with a $100,000 project offering $20,000 savings each year over the next 7 years. Basic maths says YES, spend $100K to save $140K, so “let’s just go for it”. BUT what about the cost of that money over time?  If your opportunity cost of capital is over 13% you are actually going to make a loss on this project.

If you invested $100K for 7 years with compound interest you would expect more than $100K back including interest, so you should with your IT project, or business itself. Check the Internal Rate of Return (IRR) or net Present VALUE (NPV) functions in Excel Help. With a little bit of help, you can use these calculations to automatically calculate for you the “true cost”.

As a business owner, or custodian for the business (Managers), it is your responsibility to create shareholder wealth and protect the long-term sustainability of your business, identifying and eliminating risk to your best ability.

Pre-mortem Reviews

 Many businesses perform post-mortem reviews on projects, analysing what did and didn’t work in projects.  How about having one of these meetings before the project begins? By publishing your project budgets, plans, risks and assumptions in many cases you can actually improve the project by simply asking “what could go wrong?” Given the chance, people will help you avoid disaster before it happens.

Our very enthusiasm for an idea will drive us to success, but equally so unchallenged we can quickly be over consumed with that euphoria to our peril.  Do a basic investment test now.

4 Point investment test?

  1. What evidence (trends & market validation) do you have of the long-term need for your product /service? (Strategic Market Opportunity)
  2. Have you calculated what the “true” return for your investment will be, including the cost of capital (Financial Business Case) i.e. will you make money from it?
  3. Have you clearly communicated to your team what you do and do not do? (business /project plan) i.e.  will your team be able to stay focused on the task ahead?
  4. Do you have a clear and succinct message to engage customers and stakeholders (Your pitch) i.e. can you sell it?

Common mistakes made in businesses cases

 Check that you are not falling into common traps for business owners prior to making business decisions:

  • Not creating a business case or having a 3rd party review it
  • Overly optimistic projections: delivery times, customer acquisition times etc
  • Inadequate budget for sales and marketing – budget at  least 10% revenue
  • Not accounting for the value of money over time – use NPV and IRR calculations
  • No market research / validation to de-risk savings, or projected revenue.
  • Underestimating the impact of competitive response
  • Lack of stakeholder commitment or talent
  • Not dreaming big enough – what could you do with twice the investment?

Don’t think of business cases as just approval mechanism, but more so as a mechanism to reduce investment risk. Business Cases provide an opportunity to clarify thinking, get input and focus for the project delivery team around clear outcome.

New training workshops for 2013:  I am now also delivering workshops under the Auckland Chamber’s Vital Training programme.

If you would like to know more about tool’s and techniques to simplify business decision-making and gain greater clarity in your business, then you should attend my  Auckland Chamber Vital workshops: Business Planning, Business Cases and Pitching More information is on the Vital Training Website   The next Business case workshop is 4th April at the Auckland Chamber – register here

Rapid Analysis of ‘What If’ Strategic Options

Too often we are stuck trying to evaluate a multitude of ‘what if’ options when it comes to strategic planning; trying to tabulate a massive matrix of all the variables.

Scenario Evaluation

A tool we use at Business Dominoes is to map out the different scenarios on a simple cost vs benefit matrix (click image below).   Simply referencing the centre point being business as usual (BAU) i.e what we are doing now. Then referencing the alternatives based on the relative cost and benefit.

Our brain has an amazing “gut calculator” that enables it to subjectively accumulate of all of the data to evaluate what does total cost and benefit accumulating a multitude of variables.

(click image for larger version)

This analysis will quickly highlight both quick wins and potential long term strategies, bearing in mind often you will need to adopt a couple of interim strategies to achieve your end goal.

Competitor Profiling

You can also use the same tool to compare your competitors. Remember it’s from your customers perception, not yours. The diagram below is an easy way to illustrate your market positioning.

(click image for larger version)

Business Dominoes – Strategic Development Programme

If you are after some fresh thinking around how to handle some major strategic decisions for your business and avoid being blind-sided by some giant guerrillas in the market I would suggest attending the Business Dominoes Programme. It’s a 4 day intensive boot camp, where you will be armed with and use a variety of tools to aid you strategic thought processes, make decisions and chart a lower risk path to success.

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Free Entry to MyBizExpo:

The My Biz Expo is running from 14-16 October, ASB show grounds, Auckland.  Business Dominoes will be on stand 2023Register online now at www.mybizexpo.co.nz and save yourself the $20 entry fee.

 Free 1 hr Seminars at Biz Expo
Monday 15th Oct 2pm

Creating Powerful Elevator Pitches

Tuesday 16th  Oct – 1pm
Funding Business Growth  – Tools and strategies to build a scalable business
Presenter  Mark Robotham

Finding New Strategic Opportunities

 Take yourself out of your business and explore the industry view

 We all suffer tunnel vision when it comes to running our businesses. Even worse, when it comes to finding time to do some true “blue oceans” strategic thinking.

Too often our thinking is constrained by looking at our world from our own perspective rather than that of the customers and the industry eco-system we exist in.

We all got a great reminder of this when Kodak got into major financial trouble in Jan 2012. How could such a giant with 1000+ patents in digital photography screw it up so bad.  My take, they failed to adapt the culture (attitude) of the business to the new value chain and eco-system that emerged into the new digital age.

Real Strategy

Strategy is most probably the most miss used word in business. Strategy is about understanding the lie of the land, understanding the geography you are about to do battle in, assessing the enemies strengths and weaknesses looking for gaps and opportunities to capture a market.  Its not about what to do every day operating your business – alah business planning and execution.

Mine your external value chain for opportunities

If you are looking for investment, market or channel partners the best place to start is looking at your customers and end users. Then map all of their suppliers, customers and their influencers out on a huge mind mapped value chain. Documenting suppliers, to suppliers, to customers and so on. By reviewing all the players on this map e.g. who holds the power of influence, who owns critical scarce resources and who is making the profit etc you will uncover a raft of possibilities.

Include in your thinking competitors as well, most NZ business shy away from conversations with their competitors let alone doing deals with them to collaborate in the global marketplace.

Look for market trends that will uncover future change in your industry

Take the time to look for current trends across your complete value chain so you can spot hot spots or market opportunities to take advantage of.

 Business Dominoes – Strategic Development Programme

If you are after some fresh thinking around how to handle some major strategic decisions for your business and avoid being blind-sided by some giant guerrillas in the market I would suggest attending the Business Dominoes Programme. It’s a 4 day intensive boot camp, where you will be armed with and use a variety of tools to aid you strategic thought processes, make decisions and chart a lower risk path to success.

_________________________________________________

Free Entry to MyBizExpo:

The My Biz Expo is running from 14-16 October, ASB show grounds, Auckland.  Business Dominoes will be on stand 2023Register online now at www.mybizexpo.co.nz and save yourself the $20 entry fee.

 Free 1 hr Seminar at Biz Expo – Tuesday 16th  Oct – 1pm
Funding Business Growth  – Tools and strategies to build a scalable business
Presenter Business Dominoes – Mark Robotham

Don’t let your public speaking skills limit your potential

Finding your voice – could be the easiest way to accelerate your business or careers success.

Whether you are a business owner or executive trying to get ahead, your success will be severally limited unless you can master the art of public speaking.

Standing out from the crowd is an essential element of success for people and businesses alike. Public speaking is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to stand out in the crowded market place.   Whether it is how you speak at meetings or getting a speaking engagement at trade conferences.

Some people love public speaking, others dread it… but whether it’s speaking to conferences, sales calls or just plain networking and major meetings; it is clear that even to day in the digital age you need to master the art of speaking to get ahead.

Only 7% of message impact comes from the words we use. The rest from the way we deliver it.  The way that you deliver “your words”, comes from how we process things internally and can be reprogrammed.

To develop confidence and passion into your speaking here are a few tips:


Personal brand – Consciously own a style

Too often the inexperienced speaker will put on their “speaking voice”, inadvertently becoming someone other than themselves on stage. Generally that “speaker voice” is a poor version of you and they are selling you short. Save the being someone else to the professional actors. The easiest person to be is you.

Get clear about who you are and what your personal brand stands for. Develop a written list of key characteristics of your person brand, values and style in your normal non-speaking business life. Then use this list to encourage and challenge yourself to be that on stage. Remember being “consciously competent” is the step in learning before “unconscious competence”.

If you work for a corporate do not loose your individualism and personal brand completely to the company brand. For “owner managers”

Use a topic you are passionate about to start

Ask yourself “What part of my topic am I most passionate about?”  Use this in your opening, if you are truly passionate about it, your body will change its physiology and you will become alive on stage.

Stand for something: Have a few “soap box” topics

Have a few pet topics that you can speak on, so that given short notice you always have something to talk about. Make a bold claim; debate is one of the most powerful ways to engage audiences.

Just Do it

Yes nothing will get you better at speaking than practice. Take every opportunity to practice. Start by always asking questions at conferences and large meetings. Hunt down speaking opportunities; industry associations are a good place to start.

If you lack speaking opportunities join a toastmasters club. Toastmasters provide a friendly and inspirational environment to learn and improve every week. I personally got a lot out of attending a club for a while and was blown away by the relaxed format and inspiration speeches I heard.

Get Help

The quickest way to improve you learning is to get some one on one coaching and critique.

Basic steps to finding your voice:

  1. Personal commitment to fix it
  2. Process of creating a conscious personal brand – and using it as a strength in presentation style
  3. Learning some mechanics / tools of delivery that are compatible to you
  4. Creating the message to deliver for the voice medium.
  5. Personal coaching on all above – including follow up coaching

At GMC we help business owners and executives who want to “find their voice” in the business environment,  helping you discover what to say and how to say it. Unlike traditional speaking coaches we get business and business people – and come from a business perspective rather than entertainer or actor mind-set.

Personas & Zero-Based Strategic Thinking

Incremental change is dangerous, particularly come planning time for your business. Left unchallenged you can suffer a slow death, or be taken out by a gorilla in your market. Here are two ways to break your normal incremental thinking.

Personas at the Boardroom Table:

What would Steve Jobs, Richard Branson, or John Key be saying in your strategy day if they were on the board of your company? This is the power of personas.

Edward de Bono first popularised this method with his “Six Thinking Hats”. User experience design people adopt a similar approach to ensuring real users can utilise modern software applications. There is a great article on “The Power of Personas” for user design in the MSDN Magazine.

Create some imaginary board members to your company, they come cheap, and give them a seat at your boardroom table. Then listen to what they would be saying if they were in the room.  To balance the big thinking of a Jobs or Branson, you may want someone else at your board table to balance out their big budget thinking.

If you are known to dream big, perhaps you need the conservative ‘black hat’ thinker at your table to question the reality of your plans.  This is a great way to break with conservative limited thinking, beliefs that exist in many boardrooms, whether your problem is not dreaming big enough or you need a hand break. Do not invite too many imaginary friends too frequently or your friends and family may think you are going nuts!


Zero-Based Thinking:

Accountants often refer to zero-based budgeting. This is the method of creating your budget from a clean sheet of paper, rather than simply modifying last year’s budget by X%.

The same goes for business planning: take the stance if you were starting your business over again, but with the resources and capabilities that you have now – what would you do? Invite your new board members (personas) to the table as well to help you with this exercise.

Kick Starting New Ventures

Many people are stuck in a deadly procrastination loop over whether to start a new business venture or not. Bending any ones ear that will listen, but never actioning it or getting into enough detail to hit the go button. Business is not a spectator sport.

My advice to people is that this activity is wasting your live away. My motto is – new ventures should “grow fast or fail fast”.

5 Steps to Kick Starting your new venture:

1: Find out what you don’t know – you don’t know
2: Create a brief business plan and get it challenged
3: Identify what’s in the way of getting started
4: Validate your market
5: Revise you plan and get it challenged again.

GMC in conjunction with Grow Wellington run the Activate – Jump Start boot camp. Taking  new ventures through steps 1-3 in 48 hours, helping all of them make significant progress in moving their businesses ahead.
Then following the weekend up with a support programme, including a post weekend strategic review and follow up mentoring.

Learning’s from the weekend included:

–   Peer review of your business model and plan is the quickest way to transform your thinking
–   Being away from home and the internet for a 2 days and nights can aid your thinking process and help you get clarity
–   The simple act of presenting your business model and plan to someone – will help you get clarity.

If you are sitting on the next big thing, or are stalled making the next big change to your business than would recommend signing up to one of the remaining jump start weekends for 2011  Wellington-Palmerston North 18- 23 Nov or Auckland 25 – 27 Nov.

If you have a GST registered business you may qualify for up to a 50% discount for events like this, contact me for more information.

Typical feedback from the weekend and follow up sessions:

“Relevant and to the point… with immediate and significant impact on my business.  It has paid for itself in the smart decisions I have made since.

The Activate weekend is different to all other business workshops I have been to, no hypothetical cases leaving you to interpret and apply to your business.

It was amazing what we all learnt from analysing each other’s business; I left having made some fundamental shifts in my business strategy.

The post weekend mentoring has been invaluable in accelerating the journey of my business.  

John Matsis – Founder Tonic Foodgroup Ltd

“Exhausting and inspirational in the same moment… this is gold.”

“Mark and Activate have transformed my business from a cool product, into a focused business with a clear strategy to market. ”

The ability to get clarity out of the chaos for my new venture is invaluable, the investment to participate paid for itself 10 times over in saved time.  

Rachel Hatch – Founder Mexis – Virtual Reality Devices

“Brutal and inspiring… don’t start a new venture without attending Activate.
It begins with a startup bootcamp weekend that exposes and plugs any gaps in your business model
“.

“Mark has a great way of saying what needs to be said – even it’s not what we want to hear – and making us feel good about it.”

“We are operating at warp speed as a result of attending Activate The follow up support has been key in keeping me on track and focused on getting the important high value stuff done. I recommend any business owner, new or nearly new, attend this practical programme.”

Judith Eastgate – Founder, Perfect Accent