11 Ways to create an Intensive that will make you—and your clients—fly
If you want to be an extraordinary coach, you need to create powerful live experiences for your clients.
I’ve been stretching the minds, the hearts, the skills and the courage of coaches, in my Intensives, for over ten years. And I am going to share with you 11 ways to create powerful Intensives that will inspire you and your clients:
- The only reason to run an Intensive is to change the world
- The first sale is always to you
- Make them vulnerable before they’re ready
- Wisdom > knowledge > information
- The biggest acts of courage increase your confidence
- Service is the best seat in the house
- Teach from the inside out
- The Monday Morning at 9am Test
- Read the room
- Here’s what I require of you…
- Create a “nothing is impossible” community
I have a low threshold for boredom, so I made a commitment, long ago, to never run the same event twice.
I’ve run Leadership Intensives, Confident Woman Intensives, Independence Intensives and Prosperous Coach Intensives. I’ve run personal 1:1 Intensives, private Intensives for ten people and public ones for over 200. I’ve run 20 different 4PC Intensives, over the past 7 years. I’ve run Intensive experiences in Los Angeles, San Diego, Toronto, London, Arizona, New Mexico, Estonia and Croatia. I’ve run Intensives over Zoom, in the middle of a pandemic.
I’ve run an Intensive at one of the world’s best spas. I’ve run an Intensive at the private offices of one of London’s medieval guilds, founded 650 years ago. And I’ve run an Intensive where we slept outside, surrounded by wolves!
The word Intensive means to focus on a subject, in a short time frame, in a thorough and vigorous way. And I’ve designed every single one to feel intense.
Here’s how I’ve done it:
1. The only reason to run an Intensive is to change the world
John F. Kennedy once said, “The only reason to give a speech is to change the world.”
That’s my mission for every event I run.
To change the world.
But it’s not as overwhelming as it sounds because there’s only one way to change the world.
It’s one person at a time…
It doesn’t matter if I have 20 people in a room, or 200, I’m only ever working with one person at a time. And I know that if I’m coaching one person, I’m coaching every person.
My context at every Intensive—no matter the reason people may think they are there—is to do 2 things:
- To remind each person that they are far more powerful than they know.
- To draw out of each person a mission so powerful that nothing could stop them. A mission that makes them cry.
I had no idea when I started but it turns out that over ten years, I have built a powerful community of tens of thousands of people who are changing the world.
- Before you even plan an Intensive, set an Intention so powerful that nothing could stop you. Then deliver that, no matter what.
2. The first sale is always to you
Before you create a sales page, write a love letter…
Write a handwritten letter about all the reasons you are in love with the event you are creating.
You can’t sell anything you don’t love. But when you love something you’ll never need to “sell” it, just share it with others.
I love my Intensives.
During them, I witness people’s transformation and I see people making small acts of courage and building their skills.
After them, coaches write to me with stories of how they have enrolled more powerful clients, or doubled their fees, or their coaching is more impactful. I’ve seen lonely coaches become part of my community and create friendships that last for years.
- Grab a pen and a piece of paper (it will draw out more creativity than typing).
- Write a letter with all the reasons you are in love with the Intensive you are creating.
- Write about the impact it will have on the participants.
- Be selfish! Write about what your intense will do for you. My Intensives are fun for me. They let me perform on a stage—we play the James Bond theme before I walk out! They help me create a community of high-performing colleagues and friends. And they give me an extra reason to get together with my team and with 4PC members.
3. Make them vulnerable before they’re ready
In early 2013, The Prosperous Coach was about to be published. I called Steve Chandler and suggested that we have a book launch, the day before our upcoming Intensive. He thought it was a great idea.
We told everyone who purchased a ticket to come to the hotel the night before the Intensive because we’d be doing something special from 5pm-8pm.
Steve called me, a week before the Intensive, to ask what arrangements I’d made for the book launch. I laughed and replied, “I thought you were making the plans!”
Lesson learned: Never put two introverts in charge of a party!
Well, Steve and I are coaches in our bones—and we’re masters of reframe. Book launches aren’t particularly exciting. But Deep Coaching… That’s priceless.
So, we turned on a dime. We created Vulnerability Night. Three hours of Deep Coaching and Connection. The entire intention was that you wake up the next morning with a Vulnerability Hangover. That feeling of “I can’t believe that I shared so much with a stranger…” And—if you don’t wake up with a Vulnerability Hangover—you probably didn’t go deep enough.
You know that feeling when you attend an event where you don’t know anyone and it takes a day or more to relax enough to connect with people and to begin to feel like yourself? Well, it turns out that vulnerability is a shortcut to deep connection.
From that day to this, I’ve called the first day of every event I’ve run, Vulnerability Day.
- Create ways for people to get vulnerable, before you begin (send them powerful and intimate questions to answer).
- Create ways for people to get vulnerable with each other (an evening of exercises and challenges, the evening before you begin, allows them to show up the next morning with a sense of ease and connection that will take them ten times deeper).
4. Wisdom > knowledge > information
A few weeks after an old train engineer retired, the most expensive train in the railyard broke down. It was essential to the company’s revenue and no one could get it to work again so the manager of the company called him back to help.
He walked up to the train and walked ever so slowly around it. He looked at the front of it. He looked at the side of it. He looked at the back of it. And looked at the other side.
Then he paused.
He took a tiny hammer out of his jacket pocket.
He tapped the train once.
And it immediately started.
All the engineers in the yard cheered. The manager thanked him profusely and asked him to invoice them for his services.
The next day the manager received a bill from the old engineer for $10,000. He was furious at the price and wrote back, asking the engineer to itemize the bill.
A day later, he received a new, itemized bill, as follows:
Knowing the train needed to be hit with a hammer: $1
The wisdom of where to hit the the train with a hammer: $9,999
The manager immediately sent the check.
Your job as a coach isn’t to give your clients what they want. It’s to give them what they need.
Knowledge is about accumulating facts, information and data. Your clients will often show up with a desire for more and more knowledge. They want a silver bullet to success.
But in life, there are no easy answers. There’s no one magic way of doing things. We pray for sunshine but too much sun can become a drought. We pray for rain but too much rain can become a mudslide.
Wisdom involves perspective, the ability to make sound judgments, the willingness to know what you don’t know and wisdom lies at the intersection between insight and intuition. Developing wisdom is a lifelong and sometimes arduous process—it requires patience and humility—and you will be transformed in the process. As Alfred, Lord Tennyson once wrote, “Knowledge comes, but wisdom lingers…”
- Take time to share knowledge but to also draw out the wisdom of your participants.
- Make your Intensives as experiential as possible. Offer tons of questions to provoke people’s thinking. And create ways for people to find their own answers, rather than copying yours.
5. The biggest acts of courage increase your confidence
We’re all afraid. We’re biologically wired to be afraid.
In fifteen years of coaching, I’ve seen that clients want one thing more than any other—more confidence.
But confidence is a result, not a requirement.
You don’t need confidence, first. It will come.
What you will need is courage.
So create ways for your participants to actually do the things they are afraid of doing.
Some of the challenges I’ve led at Intensives have included:
- The Pizza Challenge – where you have to walk into any store other than a pizza restaurant and order a pizza.
- The Red Paperclip Challenge – where you start with a red paper clip and have to ask a stranger to swap it for any item of more value. You continue to swap up, until the challenge is complete.
- The Speed-coaching Challenge – where everyone coaches 20 people, one after another, for just 3 minutes each.
- The Money Making Challenge – where you have two hours to make as much money as you can. One participant made a million dollars as a result of this challenge!
- Help people get comfortable feeling uncomfortable.
- Create challenges that scare your participants. Those challenges should scare you! And you need to walk your talk by doing them, either before the Intensive or alongside the participants.
6. Service is the best seat in the house
Netflix is famous for being a company with no rules. Unlimited vacation. No dress code. No approval needed for expenses. And promotions are sometimes given for criticizing the company.
That’s how we train the support team for our Intensives. We train them in the values that are important to us. And then we trust them to do what they need to do.
We create events run by leaders—because we create leaders.
We call our team of coaching leaders “The Source Team” because months before anyone even attends an Intensive, they are sourcing the experience the participants will have.
Through their leadership, they will draw out the transformation of our community. And through their love and connection, they will draw out the rawness and vulnerability that are the secrets of deep transformation.
In fact, we do such a good job at creating leaders, that it’s now a $5K investment to become a member of our Source Team. Our 4PC Source Team has included a woman who ran the family office for a billionaire, and a woman who has written copy for some of the world’s best brands.
- Don’t look for volunteers, or people who will support you on the cheap. Make your support team a part of the Intensive experience.
- Whether you charge for it or not, make being on your support team 10X the value of being a participant.
7. Teach from the inside out
The theme tune at my Intensives is always Sammy Davis Jr, singing I Gotta Be Me.
The true goal of transformation is to strip away the fears and doubts and beliefs that have been layered on us from the moment we were born, to reveal the person we have always been.
So, whatever I am teaching, I teach from the inside-out. Creating clients, leadership, building a business—from the inside-out.
I don’t ever want to teach someone to be like me. I struggle being me. You don’t want to put that on your to do list!
At the heart of what I do is to teach you to be more you than you’ve ever been.
The poet e.e. Cummings put it more beautifully than I ever could:
Against the grain
To be nobody but yourself
in a world
which is doing its best day and night to make you like
everybody else means to fight the hardest battle
which any human being can fight and never stop fighting.
That is what I’m really doing at my Intensives. I’m helping you be more you than you’ve ever been. And that’s deeply attractive to your clients.
- The job of a leader is to create more leaders, not more followers. Think of great questions, not great answers. Stretch your participants thinking. Have them leave with a head—or a journal—full of their own ideas, not yours.
8. The Monday Morning at 9am Test
I once had a potential client tell me that he’d had what he called three “billion dollar ideas” in his life. I asked him if he had sold the businesses or if he still ran them. “Oh no,” he replied, “I couldn’t get anyone to fund the projects. So they never happened.”
I don’t need to tell you that these were not billion dollar ideas. They were zero dollar ideas.
He never became a client.
Derek Sivers wrote: “Ideas are worth nothing unless executed. They are just a multiplier. Execution is worth millions.”
Most people don’t know how to make things happen in the world. They dream too big and get overwhelmed. They think too small and don’t take action. Or they commit to distractions—they do everything except what they really, really want.
Dr. Michael Eades explains that diets are easy in contemplation but difficult in execution. Most people never complete a diet that they start. However, intermittent fasting is the opposite. It’s difficult to contemplate and challenging to do—but once you commit, you’ll do it.
At my Intensives, I give the participants the 9am Monday Morning Test before they leave. I ask them to commit to the tiniest single step they can take that will move them in the direction of their dreams.
- Have your participants commit in writing to actions they’ll take over the 90 days that follow your Intensive. Ideas are interesting but it’s execution that counts.
- Invite your participants to make public commitments to the tiniest next step they will take. They can also do this privately with other participants.
9. Read the room
To run each Intensive, my team starts a new spreadsheet with 9 tabs and between 43 and 105 line items on each page. I know this because I just checked the template. But I’ve never actually used the spreadsheet myself…
In fact, it’s a running joke that the only time you’ll be able to fill in the column that describes what I will do during an Intensive, is once it’s over!
Now, that doesn’t mean I don’t plan an Intensive. We have an Intensive coming up this March and I have been reading and making notes and playing with ideas since last November.
However, once I walk into the room, the agenda is in front of me. It’s not on my notepad.
By all means plan your Intensive but get really present to the people in the room, once you begin.
I show up early to every Intensive. I walk around and sit next to people who are the early arrivals. I ask how they are doing and I ask why they are there. I ask about their dreams and their fears. And I repeat this as many times as I can, before each day starts. I ask similar questions of participants when I see them in the coffee shop, or in the line for the restroom!
When I run Intensives over Zoom, I have private chats with people. And I talk to a few people on camera, once the session is over and most people have left the call.
In a live event, I pay attention to the rustling of papers and people’s position in their chairs and how many people are standing at the back or swapping notes with friends. On Zoom calls, I pay attention to when people go off camera and how many, as well as people’s body language, and the quality and depth of the chat.
I pay attention to the quality of my own thinking. I listen to my body and my gut intuition.
I even get curious about what is not being said.
I am reading the room.
- Show up early to your Intensive. Meet people. Talk to them. Find out why they are there and what would make the Intensive an 11 out of 10 for them.
- Do the same on private Zoom chats, during dance breaks or before and after the main event.
- Shift what you’re doing or take a break when needed. People’s body language and the quality and depth of the chat, will tell you when.
10. Here’s what I require of you…
We have a commitment at all of our Intensives to serve people, not to please them. So, our Intensives have 3 rather unorthodox policies.
We have a No Refund Policy. You see I love people who play full out. I want people who are fully committed, not half-in and half-out.
We have a Vulnerability Policy. I love people who hide nothing—and hold nothing back. As Brené Brown puts it, “Vulnerability is our most accurate measure of courage.”
And we have a 200% Responsibility Policy. My team and I promise that we will show up 100%. We will create a powerful, impactful, life changing Intensive. But you need to show up 100%, too.
Here’s what we require of you… To take action—even when you’re afraid. To lean into your edge, to take risks, to mess up, to fail—again and again and again.
The words “Here’s what I require of you…” will turn an ‘event’ into an Intensive.
Transformation is often messy and uncomfortable. And I’m not interested in working with people who aren’t willing to get messy.
I’m a transformational leader which means I am willing to get messy, too. If you want me to be perfect, I’m not the right teacher for you.
- Get clear on your non-negotiables before you begin and let people know them. It will feel scary. But it’s counterintuitive. The harder you make it for people to say yes to you, the more of your right people will show up.
11. Create a “nothing is impossible” community
Genius is far less lonely than the movies would have you think. Amy Poehler is an actress, comedian and writer who once earned $200,000 per episode, on the show Parks and Recreation. She co-founded the improv-comedy troupe Upright Citizens Brigade and she’s been on Saturday Night Live since 2001. She once said,
“Find a group of people who challenge and inspire you; spend a lot of time with them, and it will change your life.”
Create your Intensive as an empowering environment. A talent hotbed, where the best people in your field can surround themselves with others who are the top of their game—or who want to be.
It took me almost 3 decades to discover why I was so lonely as a kid. I felt different as a youngster. I just didn’t know that it was ok to be different.
And I’ve spent the past 20 years building communities of top performers who feel different.
In every Intensive and program I run, I let people know that if they are only looking to me to provide value, they will miss out on 30-50% of the value.
There’s huge value in the community. These are the people who will challenge you, and champion you. They will hold you accountable, and they will hold your feet to the fire.
Peter Diamandis says: “Impossible is a state of mind. So where is your ‘nothing is impossible’ community?”
- Create challenges and exercises and opportunities for your participants to get to know one another and to be vulnerable with one another.
- Create ways for your participants to stay connected during and after the Intensive. Technology can help. I’ve experimented with everything from Facebook groups to WhatsApp groups to Slack. And I love that we have even developed our own Rich Litvin Intensive (RLI) app, that people use at our Intensives!
11+ Always expect the unexpected!
I could have made millions of dollars repeating a single Prosperous Coach event, year after year. But it would have bored the hell out of me!
Long ago, I made a commitment to never run the same event twice.
What I didn’t realize, when I made that commitment, was that I was building my muscle for handling the unexpected. And life is often unexpected.
In the middle of one Intensive, there was a power cut. After an hour of sending the participants to work in small groups outside, we noticed that if the doors to the hotel ballroom were left open, there was just enough light for the audience to see me. So, we called everyone back and I began to teach again.
What I hadn’t accounted for was that the light coming in the doors was enough to let the audience see me but I couldn’t see them. It was like teaching in the dark.
I also hadn’t accounted for the importance of air conditioning on a summer’s day in California. By the end of that session, with no AC, I was soaked in sweat. Fortunately, no one could see, as it was so dark!
A few years later, I was on stage in the 100 year old theater of a European city, on the hottest day of the year. The ancient air conditioning couldn’t cope and once again, I was soaked in sweat as I taught. It wasn’t fun but I’d been there before, so I was ready.
Always expect the unexpected.
I once ran an event in West Africa, where my luggage never arrived, and I had to present in the misfitting clothes I’d bought from a local market, the day before.
Always expect the unexpected.
I once spoke at a breakout session at someone else’s event. An hour before, they told me that I’d have no microphone and the session next door would be run by Lisa Nicols, who isn’t known for being quiet on stage!
Always expect the unexpected.
We once picked an innovative, new, co-working space as the venue for an Intensive. It was right on the beach. We hadn’t counted on the fact that there was only a single toilet available!
Always expect the unexpected.
In March of 2020, the world went into lockdown. It was a challenging moment to realize that our April event couldn’t happen in person. But we’d been training for the unexpected for years…
Within days we’d recreated our Intensive as an online experience. Only a single person asked for a refund and I had a ton of people reach out to me in gratitude because they could finally attend one of my Intensives without having to fly around the world.
We were thrilled to hear from people at last year’s Intensive—who had been to over 9 previous ones—tell us it was their best one ever. Well, we’d been preparing for the unexpected for over a decade…
- Assume that technology will go wrong. It almost always will! Rehearse in advance. But be ready to go old school, at a moment’s notice. Add use redundant backups if you are recording your Intensive.
- Use Inversion Thinking to create backup plans. What will you do if you want 10 people but you only sign 4? If a Source Team member is sick? If a client gets upset when you challenge them as part of your coaching? Or if the hotel gives you a different room?
Let me know:
- What’s one thing you’ll do differently at your next Intensive?
- What’s one unusual thing you do now, that makes your Intensives really impactful?
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