The best way to engage an audience – The Columbus Principle

I was exposed to a great learning environment very early on in my working career. I didn’t appreciate it fully until much later.

I’m grateful for my 10 years at the University of St Andrews. I began working there when I was 19 and I left when I was 29, in 2011.

After achieving an HND in Hospitality Management at Fife College in 2001, I started as a chef in the kitchens, and after a few months a trainee management role opened up.

That was the start of my next 10 years in leadership and management.

One of the main advantages of working for a larger organisation is the access to a learning and development budget.

Every year I was involved in some sort of diploma or certificated training.

One of the people that had a hugely positive impact on my working career was Ian Hunt.

Ian was the first person to teach me about using questions as a facilitation technique and teaching style.

I remember it clearly to this day.

It was a group training workshop. Ian was facilitating, and I was learning.

We had to design a short presentation and deliver it to a small group of people.

We delivered our presentation twice. The first time for critique, and the second time for assessment.

The advice Ian gave me for my second presentation was profound and changed my approach forever

“You’ve got to ask more questions”, Ian said. So I asked more questions. So many that Ian lost count!

From that point forward asking questions became a big part of my presentation and facilitation style.

But that’s only part of the story.

It wasn’t until recently that I learned I was only really half way there.

I hadn’t fully appreciated and embraced this technique as not only a method of teaching, but a truly effective way for other people to learn.

The Columbus Principle

It was working with Marcus Sheridan in May of 2016 that really helped me to go ‘all in’ on what he calls ‘The Columbus Principle’.

Now, before I start facilitating or speaking, I look myself in the mirror and say to myself “get them to teach you, what you are trying to teach them”.

In other words, just like discovering America, you help the people in the room to discover the answers for themselves.

There is a distinct difference between asking, and telling. When you lead people to the answer through questions, the level at which people learn is far greater.

The relationship they have with their new knowledge is completely different. They had to get there by themselves, and they own it.

After my session with Marcus I feel like I’ve now got full permission to go ‘all in’, and I have noticed a dramatic impact…

  • The audience is far more engaged – they are learning, not being told the answers, and therefore far more interested
  • My segments take me longer to deliver – because I’m not telling them, and they are telling me, it takes longer to pull out the lessons
  • I’m more confident – and as a result I’m more excited and having more fun, which improves the whole learning environment
  • The feedback from those in my sessions is incredible – they love the style, they are interacting, and above all else, they are learning

When you go all in on The Columbus Principle, everything changes.

It’s like Marcus has tuned my brain to a completely different frequency. It’s incredible.

You may be surprised to know that every single speaker I have seen since, almost always never asks a single question in their presentation!

I simply cannot watch or listen to another speaker without picking up on what I’ve learned.

I’m seeing the world through a completely different lens.

Where are you with your communication skills?

What’s obvious to me is that:

  • A high level of subject knowledge doesn’t mean you are a great speaker
  • A great idea doesn’t mean you can communicate your idea well in public
  • A best-selling book doesn’t mean you can engage a large audience

The Columbus Principle has had a huge impact on me, but it only scratches the surface of what I have learned from who I believe is one of the best communicators in business today.

So, where are you with your communication skills?

Are you doing everything you can to become the best communicator that you can be?

Perhaps you are leading teams, facilitating workshops, doing 1-2-1 sales pitches, using Facebook Live or striving to be a better public speaker?

If so, maybe it’s time to move up a grade in learning, and challenge yourself to become a better communicator?

Click here to find out more about how you can learn what I have and work with the CMA and Marcus Sheridan to be a world class communicator.



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About Chris Marr

Chris is the leading voice of the growing Content Marketing movement in the UK. His pioneering work has helped countless organisations grow through content marketing. His drive comes from a desire to help people break free from the world of interruption marketing.