A-ha! Moments…

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I live for those blinding flashes of insight that literally have you stop and go “wow!! I get it now!” Lucky for me, I have these “a-ha! moments” all the time, pero like, ALL THE TIME. And if you know me, you know my mantra: “the uh-oh precedes the a-ha!” In order to have an a-ha, there must be an “uh-oh” that necessitated it.

So recently I decided to learn about a-ha! moments, investigate them and start understanding why and how we have them — and how to have more. One thing I realized (a-ha!) is that one if the best times for me to experience the phenomenon is early in the morning, in that halfway period between awake and asleep. (Problem is, I’m usually so sleepy that I don’t want to get up and write it down!)

Well this morning, I had one, and I came here to write it — because this was my a-ha! moment (actually this was the uh-oh that preceded the a-ha!): I write thousands of words a day and have tons of original, interesting thoughts each day… Yet I struggle to put together content for my blog, emails and social media. What’s THAT all about? Ridiculous.

The realization I had right after that, is that all those thoughts are being recorded in random, scattered places, with a large chunk of them being written by hand, in Sharpie or just recently, by hand with a stylus the iPad “Penultimate” app.

My a-ha!: I love to write by hand. Instead if trying to fix or change that, why not embrace it and post those notes… Just as they are, in real-time? I can always type up an intro to explain them, if needed. Gotta figure out logistically how to make that work, but at least now I realize the big disconnect — I prefer to write by hand, and my notes are interesting and beautiful just the way they are — and now that I am aware, something can shift.

What’s the lesson in here for you? No idea. Why don’t you tell me!?

Ciao for now,
Michelle Villalobos (vee – ya – low – bos)

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The Big CLOSE.

Ever wonder how you got to where you are?

Today I was thinking about that…

When I was a kid, every year we’d visit my cousins’ house in Chicago. My family would drive out from Longmont, Colorado and stay there for a couple of weeks, during which time my (indulgent) teenage cousins and I would plan and execute our annual Talent Show in their basement.

The Talent Show featured your standard musical, dance and gymnastic lineup… mostly on roller skates. My mom still has a picture of me at 8 years old in pom-pom pigtails and overalls roller skating in circles around the “audience” (our parents), singing “Tomorrow” from Annie. At right is a picture of me posing before a gymnastic performance.

My talent show duties included: talent recruitment, ordering the numbers, hand-crafting invitations, designing costumes, spreading the word, and getting the parents to attend.

Ah, the glory days…

So no surprise, I guess, that nowadays my favorite time of the year (twice a year, actually) is Summit SeasonThe Women’s Success Summit (May 17th & 18th) is my grown-up version of the talent show. The Summit brings together South Florida’s most ambitious, talented and successful women (and men!) to inspire, educate and ELEVATE the business community.

The theme? The Big CLOSE – all focused around the principles of selling – selling yourself, your ideas, your products, your services. (And by the way, we are ALL selling SOMETHING.)

Clear your calendar, friends, this is one event you must attend. Personally, there’s nowhere else I’d rather be. And yes, men ARE welcome to attend, and in fact, several often do!

Aside from the phenomenal content and national powerhouse speakers (check out the lineup here: www.WomensSuccessSummit.com), we have new and exciting sponsorship initiatives for businesses that want to engage 800 upscale, professional and highly influential women over 2 whole days. Check out the sponsorship deck here. Or contact Jessica Lurie for details (888) 531-3830, jessica@mivistainc.com.

By the way, I’m SO excited to announce our new venue, The Miracle Theatre in Coral Gables, (YAY!!!) and our partner, Chispa Marketing, that is producing this Summit.

This Summit will deliver game-changing strategies, foster powerful relationships and inspire those oh-so-important “a-ha” moments to help women like me elevate themselves beyond where they are today. Take a look at some of the amazing speakers and sessions we have lined up, and prepare to be blown away…

How To Deliver a “WOW!” Workshop, Presentation or Speech Every Single Time (Without Boring Your Audience To Tears)

Audience Photo from Michelle Villalobos Workshop "Networking" Miami Beach Chamber

So much business education, training, workshops, seminars and keynotes is based on old school (literally!) ways of educating. Back in the day, students sat in neat rows, stayed quiet and respectfully listened to one person speak (or rather, drone on and on). BOOORRRING!

Meanwhile, we know that human beings learn far better and retain far more of what they learn by participating actively in the process and “discovering” rather than passively “being taught.” Not only are the results better, but people actually enjoy learning much more when it mimics our natural approach – the approach that’s been evolutionarily programmed into us for millions of years – instead of following the didactic, pedagogic approach most of us suffer through in school.

If you’re still in doubt, just watch how a 2- or 3-year old child learns – they LOVE it. They’re curious and eager and want to know everything about everything. And they’re like sponges too, learning huge volumes of information so quickly and adeptly it’s astonishing when you pause to truly consider it. Part of that is because their brains are still forming, but part of that is also because they haven’t associated “learning” with “boring” yet.

How many of us still felt excited about learning by the time we hit the 10th grade? Not I, that’s for sure (though I was still kind of a nerd… but that’s a story for another day). So many teachers, educators and trainers will nod and agree while reading this, but then they’ll go back and create still more boring, yawn-inducing lectures, speeches and seminars.

Why?

I can only assume it’s because they’re lazy, and it takes a lot more preparation to do a seemingly improvised, spontaneous and active program than a scripted, static, prepared one.
So how do you create a great workshop that gets everyone engaged, excited and prepped for learning? Here are five great ways to turn any learning experience into a fun, interactive, educational workshop for adults or teens:

Show, don’t tell. It seems obvious, but make sure you’re really putting it into practice. Instead of describing a case study or a story or a situation, show it. Some ideas: use images, video, cartoons… anything that will engage your audience more than just you, talking, and talking, and talking (“Bueller. Beuller. Beuller…”)

No bulleted powerpoint presentations. If you MUST use a slideshow (even I do sometimes – though I prefer Keynote by Apple) at the very least use it to illustrate points, not to enumerate them. You can always follow up with a handout afterward if you want to make sure they remember all the main points (or if you’re going “green,” upload your handouts to Slideshare, so your attendees can view online or download the files, all for free). I keep all my presentations on my website at www.MichelleVillalobos.com so anyone can see my entire repertoire too. And having that much quality content housed on my site certainly doesn’t hurt in terms of Google rankings either.

As Dr. House of “House, MD” so aptly stated: “Without Socrates, we wouldn’t have the Socratic Method, the greatest way of teaching things known to man (apart from juggling chain saws.)” The Socratic Method is a way of teaching people using leading questions in a logical sequence. These days, with our increasing ADD, using the Socratic Method is a great way to keep people active in the learning process, so they don’t get bored or lose concentration. Study it, learn how to do it, it really works. I once read a transcript in which Rick Garlikov used the Socratic method to teach a classroom-full of 2nd graders how to do binary arithmatic, true story!

Encourage dialogue, particularly with an engaged, interested and active audience. People tend to walk away from workshops and seminars a lot happier when permitted to share their own experience or opinion. Just be careful, there’s nearly always at least one “attention hog.” You’ll need to have limits in place to ensure even distribution of the limelight. For example, let people know they will have 30-seconds to posit a question, or share an experience. This is a great way to get people to “get to the point.” But you’ll need to enforce it…

Speaking of activities, you should always have at least one. For every 1 hour workshop, I try to have at least 2 or 3. They can be short and sweet, just as long as you’ve tested them and they’re sure to illustrate what you’re trying to teach. To give you an example, rather than tell people about body language I’ll bring up two volunteers to act out a scenario based on my direction. The attendees crack up watching their colleagues and the process dispels a lot of resistance to what we’re discussing. Not to mention it’s a great way to put the aforementioned attention hog to good use.

Well, there you have it. Some of my best advice on how to put together a wow! seminar, workshop, keynote or other learning experience for adults.

Good luck and let me know if this article helps you by visiting www.MichelleVillalobos.com and dropping me a line!
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About Michelle

Michelle Villalobos is the founder of Mivista Success Skills Training, based in Miami, FL. She helps people develop their business skills – particularly networking, marketing, personal branding, sales, communications and presentation skills. – in never boring or yawn-inducing workshops, seminars and keynotes.

You: The Online Brand Slideshow, July 16th, 2009 Miami Social Media Workshop

Video Clip: On Networking Effectively

A quick clip about how to network effectively by building relationships with large groups of people in order to generate leads and draw business to you (rather than pushing, peddling or shamelessly promoting.)

The clip is from a recent workshop: “If They Don’t LOVE It, It’s Just SPAM,” which I did with Lisa Sparks from Constant Contact.

More videos to follow in the weeks ahead. Subscribe and stay tuned.

Michelle Villalobos
For more tips, tricks & techniques, visit: http://www.MichelleVillalobos.com