Keren Lerner and Stand Out Content Workbook - at Vistage talk

I’ve been going to far flung places to run Vistage workshops and now that I am back and catching up I thought I should share some of my experiences.

I first heard about Vistage from my friend (client, neighbour, advisor etc etc) Julia Langkraehr. She does a lot of speaking, facilitation and consulting herself and works with a very similar target audience to us.

What is Vistage?

Vistage is a peer and business network with groups where members meet monthly. Each group has a chair (a person) who has had real world business experience and success and now mentors and runs these groups. There is a specific agenda followed by meetings designed to help members with their challenges and help with business development and growth. So some similarities to EO (another network I am a part of) but some differences – for example the meetings in Vistage are for a full day and there is a very stringent selection process for “chairs” for each group. Vistage isn’t only for founders (like EO) but for business leaders as well. Here’s a video explaining it in 60 seconds!

One main difference is the speaker network. There is a full system about it and high stakes in the way they choose and develop speakers. I believe 8 out of 12 monthly meetings include a speaker and they have to have content that’s applicable to the types of people in that group. Speakers also get scored and rated.

So I signed up and started the process to become selected as a speaker with my workshop on content marketing – “Stand Out Content.” I went to an assessment day, delivered a taster, and then waited eagerly to see if I got through. Later that day, I got the good news that I was chosen (and I did a little happy dance) and within a couple of weeks was booked into some of the Vistage meetings.

Following even this first taster, the chair who assessed me, David D’Arcy, gave me a  comprehensive list of recommendations to adjust my teachings for Vistage. From this, I updated my slides and created a new workbook to go with the talk. I then tested this with a group called “Buckinhamshire Business Leaders” in January (which went great, thankfully!), and from that updated things even more for my first Vistage talk.

Durham for the first workshop

I was booked to go on the 12th/13th March to Durham. Train travel is not my strongest suit but somehow I made it on time to have a briefing dinner David. He also runs 2 other groups has become somewhat of a mentor to me in this new experience. The following morning was my first workshop. In my audience was an incredible array of business people – including host Elisa (yes, same name as our Elisa at TLD!) from award winning architecture firm Howarth Litchfield. She was the first in that morning and shared a bit about the architecture and interior design work they are doing. At Vistage meetings, the host for each meeting organises the venue and catering and officially thanks the speaker, plus in the confidential part of the meeting (not the speaker part) they give a talk around their businesses. Since the workshop Elisa immedietely got to action implementing marketing ideas. And she updated her LinkedIn profile too!

Also in attendance were 3 marketing people from a famous retailer in the northeast – Ringtons – I hadn’t heard from them before but they’ve been around since 1907 and have a very smart marketing team!

David followed up that day with feedback which helped me prepare for my next 2 workshops – 2 weeks later this time in Edinburgh with another “chair” – Paul Pinson!

Edinburgh for the second and third workshops

Edinburgh for Vistage talks - outside the Malmaison

I arrived on Monday night, with the first workshop scheduled for the Tuesday morning, and the second for a different group on the Thursday afternoon.

Paul and I met for dinner and a briefing on the members of the first group. Another set of fascinating individuals and businesses. On Tuesday we headed early to the venue. This meeting was hosted by Lindsey, founder and MD of Integrity Events who, along with the team, provided delicious breakfast, refreshments and lunch and a fantastic welcoming energy. As the host she had members of her marketing team along so I could get a sense of the values of her company – I felt a great vibe from their team and their working atmosphere!

This is Paul Pinson, Vistage chair for three groups in Edinburgh

They very kindly invited me to dinner with a few of them, and some of the ex members from their group. As they share so much with each other during their Vistage days, strong friendships form!

Vistage - dinner after the first workshop in Edinburgh

Then a debrief with Paul and a new brief on the next group.

Because this group was made up of CEOs not small businesses and founders like the first group, on Paul’s advice I adapted my workshop to include more “live content ideation” (on the spot content marketing ideas based on a bit of Q+A) with volunteer members.

Malmaison breakfast

This event was hosted by another friendly and welcoming member Kerri from Busy B who has a fantastic Edinburgh based stationary business with clever organising ideas behind their products.

I also got to meet Edel, winner of the EY Scotland Entrepreneur of the Year award). She is the CEO of a social care provider called Cornerstone which helps people with disabilities and other support needs in Scotland. Cornerstone employs 2,200 people, most of whom are women. I had already met her colleague Lisa (leader of the Cornerstone Foundation) from the Tuesday group in Edinburgh.

Was particularly starstruck in a way to meet Kevin, founder of LiveCode – he created this open source code that helps non-coders develop applications – very impressive.

I got a chance to have a glimpse into the way they run the other part of their meetings – and a nominated “historian” from the meeting summarised very concisely the key learnings (including some from my workshop) and a “quotatarian” who read out the most memorable soundbites and quoted from the meeting.

Then we all went out for drinks at a bar called The Refinery.

Edel from Cornerstone and Keren Lerner from Top Left Design

Overall so far it’s been a fascinating experience and a chance to see new places in the UK and meet extremely impressive business leaders and share with them my passion for content marketing!

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