Tuesday, August 04, 2009

The Evolution of an Exercise

(Rhonda asks Jerry for a little consultation.)

RHONDA: I'm a little nervous about my "speech" at a conference in a couple of weeks and wanted to see if you have time for some feedback.

JERRY: First feedback: If you weren't nervous, then you'd give a boring speech, guaranteed. Breathe into your nervousness and it becomes excitement.

RHONDA: It's the first time I'm presenting representing my company, the virginal gig so to speak, and I'm unsure what to prepare to make best use of the limited time while not knowing how many participants are going to join my session.

JERRY: Don't worry about "using time." Design the session so that the most important things come first (or early). That way if you "run out of time," you've covered as much as you could have.

RHONDA: "Whatever happens, happens" has been my mantra for a while already, and most of the "what-if's" won't get my blood pressure up (at least not until the hour before I go up front). To be honest, I've thought about this session for so many weeks now and feel so close to it that I feel stuck, like I have blinders on, and can't see alternative options how else to execute it.

JERRY: Stop thinking about it.

Instead of thinking, start doing. Figure out a way to practice it on some friends. Invite some of those friends over for wine and cheese or beer and pretzels or something, then use them as a surrogate audience and listen to their feedback.

RHONDA: I'm advertised thus: Starting Your Own Business - Building the Life You Want. The purpose of this presentation is to share with the audience the journey the presenter followed from international student via international employee and trailing spouse to expat coach and owner of her own company.

JERRY: Rewrite this, if only for your own use. The purpose is not to "share experiences with them." That's a means of achieving the purpose, which is something like "helping the audience members to succeed in starting their own business." IOW, more about them; less about you.

RHONDA: Rhonda draws on over 10 years of personal expatriate experience that made her want to support others. The audience will hear tips and descriptions of how and where she got the necessary information to dot the i's and cross the t's en route to realizing her dream. She will also make time for and encourage the audience to share their experiences and brainstorm ideas to make sure everybody who wants to start a business will leave her presentation motivated and informed.

Objectives I have for the "speech" (assuming participants come to hear about how to start their own businesses - is that a mistake?

JERRY: It will reduce your audience, which could be good or bad. Who else would benefit from this session?

RHONDA: Should I assume anything at all?):

   a) clarify their vision / focus their goals

   b) raise awareness of hidden obstacles

   c) identify concrete action steps to get started

Writing a business plan answers all three objectives.

(I've compiled a handbook with information about expatriate work permits, business structure comparison, business owner character traits, and useful links and resources to cover more start-up info. The handbook will be available either as print-out or .pdf file in exchange for their email address after the presentation.)

JERRY: Emphasize the handbook. People like takeaways.

Also emphasize what Eisenhower said: "The plan is nothing; the planning is everything." Maybe you could have them step through your planning process with you, each one (or team) doing their own planning steps as you go along.

RHONDA: Here are some of the parameters:

   75 minutes

   Should expect between 20 and 50 participants

   Don't know exact number

   Can't put the whole start-up process in 75 minutes

JERRY: So do selected parts, most important first.

RHONDA: I won't spend 75 minutes lecturing

JERRY: You'd better not.

RHONDA: Session Outline

   (5-10 minutes intro/warm-up)

   Exploration: 10-15 minutes to explain benefits, structure, and reasoning for a business plan
   Introduce business plan segments (e.g. client and product profile, market profile, marketing strategy, organizational structure and finances)
   Set up exercise: If I have 20 participants, I'll use one new venture/market scenario. One group per segment. Each group reads background information I provide (or would it be easier if they make up their own venture and background?) and answer business plan questions. Time: ca. 5 minutes

JERRY: Definitely better if they use their own, and you do it incrementally. You don't need to do the overview up front. You want to get them doing things more quickly than that. As it is, you have more than 1/2 hour before they do anything.

For example, pick the part of planning that's most important and start with that. When you've done that, and everyone has done that and questions are answered, move to the next most important. Do as many as you can cover properly without rushing. Then, when you see that ten minutes are left, conclude with an overview of all the segments they need to do to have a plan, and tell them about the handbook--again.

RHONDA: If I have 50 participants, I'll use two or three new venture/market scenarios, e.g. dog-wash salon in Seattle, pizzeria in Paris, recruitment office in Barcelona?

JERRY: No, too much time explaining the scenarios, which do them no good. Doing their own scenarios saves this time and ensures real interest in the exercises. If someone doesn't have one of their own, have them pair with someone who has one of their own.

RHONDA: Discovery/Application:
   Participants write a business plan for their venture. Time: ca. 20 minutes.
   Debrief/Application: In whole group, write executive summary for each venture, taking most important bits from each segment on flip chart, (take a picture, send it to them afterward with a thank-you note). Time: ca. 30 minutes.

JERRY: You can do this with lessons they learned from each different
startup, which lets them see what different startups have in common, and
what are the exceptions.

RHONDA: Question: Is 30 minutes enough debrief-time for an exercise like this and group size of 50 people?

JERRY: No. At least five days would be required to do it properly. But, you don't have that, so do what you can. If you do this incrementally, you can extract lessons after each segment, then do as many segments as
develop naturally.

RHONDA: Am I trying to cram too much in in general?


RHONDA: Ideas for a possible shorter exercise that would make 50 people feel involved and stimulated?

JERRY: Basically the same exercise, but chopped up and presented incrementally.

JERRY: BTW, if you really have 50, best to have them work in teams of 3-5 people, each formed around one person who has a specific startup in mind. To do this, you have individuals write signs that say, "Dog- walking business," or "Real-estate for the rich and famous," or "Coffin upholsterer," or whatever they're actually thinking of starting. Those that have signs hold them up, and people attach themselves to the ones they're interested in to make teams.

Does this help?


1 comment:

Doris Fuellgrabe said...

Hi Jerry! :-)

After Swedish-Chris alerted me to this post, I actually spoke with Rhonda and she totally credits participating in your one-day "designing experiential workshops" at last year's AYE coupled with your timely email consulting to her presentation-success. Wouldn't shut up about it, either. ;-) Please read on if you're interested in how she applied your advice.

Apparently, what happened was that first of all, Rhonda joined a local Toastmasters group to work on her public speaking and leadership skills. (This weekly practice is something she's been doing for about a year now, and she continues to learn and grow while enjoying herself tremendously.) So, when she found out about this conference in her field, she was confident enough to apply for a speaking slot. It was only after talking with you, though, that she got useful ideas which she practiced two or three times with a smaller group of friends before going on stage.

She used an experiential hybrid of 15 to 20 minutes of explaining the premise of a business plan, and then invited the 22 participants to gather around pre-prepared flip charts to discuss the various aspects, include personal examples where appropriate, and share findings with the whole group. Those remaining 60 minutes flew by, and the energy in the room was amazing. Supportive, encouraging, sharing - it's so beautiful to see what happens when people have a forum to exchange ideas in. The feedback Rhonda received was overwhelmingly positive, and she was invited back by one of the conference directors to give a half-day workshop next year.

"The End."

Except this isn't a fairy-tale, it really happened, thanks in no short measure to you, Jerry! :-)

Wishing you and Dani a great weekend, hugs, Dee xx