I was SO excited about teaching a workshop on making herbal medicine. I’d made beautiful flyers with carefully crafted descriptions and graphics, copying them by hand on lavender paper at the local copy shop. I posted them all around town, though my fingers were numb with cold and I was new in the area and didn’t know the way. I’d gauged interest, eagerly taking phone calls and scrawling down names and contact information. I sent out press releases, even landing a slot on the 7PM news. I’d written articles for the local alternative health magazine, making sure the workshop was listed in their calendar and in my byline. I’d run the idea through a mastermind course I’d been in, and gotten lots of positive feedback. I made an order for the best herbs I could find–ethically harvested, organic or wildcrafted, fresh and fragrant and healing. I was ready to go.
Before the workshop, I carefully reviewed notes from a decade of studies. I’d gleaned wisdom from seminars, conferences, apprenticeships, internships, online classes, volunteering as a docent and even on the reservation. It was hard-won knowledge. At first I’d struggled reading the plants in nature, failing to properly identify them until I learned that I needed to sit with each plant, learning the patterns of leaves on the stems, the shapes of the leaves, not just the flowers. I learned to touch each plant and be still, memorizing its shapes and curves and essence.
And now I was finally going to be sharing the ancient wisdom of these plants with people who wanted to learn.
I cross-checked my carefully compiled notes from dozens of books, notes on safety and contraindications. I put together beautiful packets with recipes, photographs and notes. I reviewed my scrapbooks of dried plants I’d carefully pressed, photographs I’d taken, notes from field guides and materia medica. I was ready to go.
“I’m just calling to let you know I won’t be able to make your workshop tomorrow. I got really busy; it’s been a crazy week. Sorry about that!” I listened to my voicemail messages, holding back tears. I had five people signed up originally and one by one, they cancelled. Some didn’t even bother to call.
I had five people signed up and nobody showed up. Nobody but the owner of the store, who kindly waived the fee to rent the room. I’d spent money on supplies that nobody wanted, and invested hours of my time to put together a workshop that was a failure in every sense of the word. It brought back memories of birthday parties in middle school, when my dad checked out books from the library to come up with games for groups–but we didn’t exactly get a group. At least a couple of people showed up, though, which was more than I could say for my workshop. I went home that night dejected. So much effort with nothing to show for it.
Maybe you’ve had a similar experience. You have so much to share and teach the world but the world just doesn’t know it. You want to make sure people actually show up to your event BEFORE you pour your heart and soul into it. You want to make sure people want what you have to offer.
My story has a happy ending. I recently taught a packed-room workshop, on a different topic, here in Minneapolis. I had originally decided that 10-15 people would be a massive win. I got 35. How did I do it? Well, the number one strategy I used, which was drilled into me by the geniuses behind AppSumo’s How To Make Your First Dollar course (not an affiliate link), was to get people to sign up, and prepay, BEFORE organizing the workshop. Before setting up the website. Before writing the curriculum. Before getting fancy online payment options through e-junkie, and setting up an Aweber email list, and making sure WordPress and AWeber and e-junkie played nicely together. Before renting a space. Before making flyers. Before sending out press releases. And for God’s sake, BEFORE buying supplies.
That’s when people tell you the truth. That’s when people say, “Well, I’m actually not really interested in that topic,” or “I already know how to do that,” or “You’re charging way too much,” or “You have no credibility”. That’s when you can find out what you have to offer that people ARE interested in and tweak your events accordingly so you can actually get people to pay you to teach. BEFORE the workshop. That’s when you can address their concerns–in advance–before learning the hard way, losing tons of time and money, feeling dejected and picking up your toys and going home, feeling like a complete failure. Responding with sad silence when people asked how your event went because you don’t want to lie but don’t want to admit that it didn’t happen. Having so much to teach and share but nobody to teach and share it with.
The trick is to listen–really listen–to what people say. Otherwise, you’ll keep trying to sell people something they don’t want. That doesn’t work. Trust me, I’ve tried it both ways…and crafting your offer to what is specifically valuable to the individuals you want to reach is MUCH more useful.
If you liked this post and want more tips and tricks on packing a room–and having an amazing workshop–I’m selling an ebook on how to do just that. It’s 24 pages and loaded with information on validating your idea, lowering your risk, promotional strategies, planning your event, saving money, and more. It’s got screenshots and data from my own workshop–not the one that didn’t happen, but the one where 35 people showed up. I’ll be selling this PDF for $20 soon, but for now, you can get yours for just $5 because I love you guys. Just PayPal $5 to firstname.lastname@example.org (or hit the button below) and it’s yours!
P.S. Here’s to your next workshop. Make it a great one!