I don’t pay for group workshops and seminars. That’s a traitorous, semi-suicidal confession. It’s like a chef saying “I don’t eat here.”
I’m a trainer, a lover of trainers, a booster for the training field. Training, yay!
But no, I don’t pay for those group things.
When I pay for training, it’s one-on-one with a solid, local teacher.
It’s not a 4-hour presentation at the airport Red Lion conference room with 150 other lucky registrants. It’s certainly not the 3-day follow-up course at a Colorado retreat center where I’m promised to get a full 30 minutes alone with the facilitator. It’s for sure not the 5 week intensive where I’ll earn a teaching certificate in that guru’s trademarked brand of revolutionary whatever-the-hell-he’s-selling.
Am I jaded and snarky? Don’t I know that some of these large-group presenters are award winners, the real deal, amazing storytellers, inspiring motivational speakers? Don’t I know that some of them have changed lives, been on Oprah, and founded multi-million dollar empires?
Yeah, I know. I’ve met a few of them. (Remind me to tell you an embarrassing backstage story about Les Brown*.)
But when I spend money to improve MY skills, no group training is as effective as a solid, local, one-on-one teacher.
For the same reason Jon Hamm goes to a tailor for his suits: specificity. You are not an average.
Also, for skills development, timing matters. Your kid’s pre-school teacher knows that one, but somehow as adults we forget. You can be given great info but if it’s not attuned to where you are in your progress, it’s wasted. A good teacher sees your unique profile and progress, rather than plastering you with their patented fix-for-everything product.
So why are there so many personal development coaches offering giant group sessions at the Red Lions of the world?
Girl, we’re just trying to make a living.
We don’t sell group training because it’s more effective than one-on-one training. We sell it because it’s a better economic model for us. It earns us more money, in less time. I might make $500 for a 3 hour workshop, plus maybe merch sales and freebie brand PR, but I’d only make $200 for the two private coaching students during the same time. (For bigger name folks, inflate those numbers to $1500 vs. $500, or $10k vs $1k).
And for the workshop, I just repeat something I’ve done lots of times, my signature bullshit that gets applause. Whereas for the private students, I have to actually pay attention, tailor the work to the student’s real goals and skills, and then care about their actual growth beyond just this session. What a colossal pain in my ass. Especially when you compare it to being fawned over by a large group of people at a swank hotel. Ooh, that’s a high, totally.
No doubt, a group training is nice for the trainer. And the meeting planner who snags a slam-dunk speaker for the company meeting is a freaking hero. But when I’m the one looking for education, I want measurable impact on ME, and that means one-on-one with a master. (also, I have to say my students are all delightful, and not ass-pains at all, but maybe they’re special…)
If you need to make change or build skills, take one-on-one instruction, not just group sessions.
Be warned: the one-on-one won’t give you that excitement of being among 700 like-minded people (our team is the biggest team!). It won’t give you the feeling of being associated with a national-status leader (our teacher is the most popular teacher!). It won’t give you the safety of potential back-row anonymity within that large group, nor the promise of a set path of rank advancement up a pyramid as you become more and more invested in that brand-tribe.
Instead, it’ll work. As actual education.
So is going to those big group things just stupid? Nah, not any stupider than going to Disneyland, or a pep rally, or a shopping mall, or a fast food joint. If you go with full knowledge of what you’re doing, then so what if it’s a little cheesy and impersonal? Maybe it’s fun.
But if your point is personal development, well, then yeah. You don’t get that at the drive-thru.
*The story I promised: Okay, so I’m on a conference music team in Vancouver and everyone is buzzing about the upcoming keynoter that day, Les Brown, who’s supposed to be amazing, and almost all of the rest of the production team is making sure they get out front to see the guy’s talk, right?
I’ve never heard of him. But I’m not letting on, cuz I’m being told he’s a multi-millionaire, has several talk shows, books, has won multiple public speaking awards, Emmies, and generally gets 40k per gig.
Cool, maybe I’ll get to meet him, though first we’ve got our little music set to do.
I’m prepping, uncomfortable in the backstage darkness, not thrilled about having to wear Spanks for 13 hours a day for the past 3 days of this conference, but it’s a good gig. I’m lucky. The spanks really are riding twisted, though, so I slip into an extra dark corner to rearrange the whole affair under my skirt until the camel-toe madness stops assaulting my tender ladybits. It takes some time and effort, because Spanks fight back, but I manage not to attract attention.
I turn around in time to see Mr. Amazing Les Brown and a giddy entourage rounding my corner like a backstage royal parade, Les smiling, very charming, clearly at ease, alpha, flirting, cajoling. He’s greeting some of the conference leaders and backstage crew. I smile my best bland Bond-girl smile, and he stops to ask my name. I tell him and reach to shake his hand, exactly as I realize I’ve had my hand straight down my crotch for god-knows-how-long-and-oh Jesus – he’s decided to kiss my hand. He’s kissing that hand.
His smile doesn’t change. My smile doesn’t change. Words are said (probably? I have no recollection) and he eventually moves past. I melt back into the corner and take a hesitant diagnostic sniff of my hand.
I can only imagine he is a very straight man, with no small amount of worldly experience.