What I Learned Leading My First Online Transformation Program

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Posted by Jill Whalen | Posted in Business, Things I've Learned | Posted on 03-03-2015

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[Jill’s Note: If you prefer to listen rather than read, please scroll to the bottom of this post for the audio version.]

What I LearnedLast week my first stab at leading a 7 week online transformation program came to an end. For me, it was nerve-wracking, exciting, scary, fun, interesting, a great learning experience, and a whole lot more, all wrapped into one!

How it was for the participants, I’m not entirely sure. So far I’ve had feedback from a few  who found it helpful (one of whom has already signed up for my next program). I also got constructive criticism from a couple of people, which was helpful and with which I wholeheartedly agree.

Initially I came up with the program idea on a bit of a whim. I had previously participated in 2 online programs that looked fairly straight forward and simple to facilitate, so I decided to give it a whirl. From the beginning I marketed it as a pilot program, and priced it via a “pay what you think it’s worth” model (with a minimum of $50).

Overall I’d give myself and the program about a 5 out of 10 rating for how it all played out, which is not too bad for my first time. While I would have preferred to give myself a much higher number, in terms of it being a learning experience, it was pure gold. I tend to learn from my mistakes, so I expect any future programs to keep getting better and better.

To help me diagnose the good, the bad and the ugly, and for those considering leading something similar, I thought it would be helpful to share what I learned.

My original assumptions were that:

  • Many people would pay more than the minimum and/or that $50 would be enough to provide them with some investment in the program.
  • Most people would actively participate, because in a program such as this it’s all about YOU. Therefore, it seemed to me that to truly get the most out of it, participation (asking questions, providing comments, feedback, etc.) was key.
  • Everyone would be interested in the same stuff, more or less.
  • Each week’s topic and conversation would be spontaneously based on the overall needs and curiosities of the group that week.

Well…you know what they say about assumptions…

All of them proved to be dead wrong!

Altogether, there were 18 participants who seemed to fit into 4 categories with some overlap:

  • Those who had been following me for a long time in the SEO world who moved with me into my new adventures via my WhatDidYouDoWithJill.com newsletter and blog. I consider them to be my “loyal tribe.” They are a great group to target for programs such as this because we’ve already established a certain level of trust through the years, and for them I’m always truly grateful!
  • Those who knew of me from the SEO world, but weren’t necessarily as into me as the loyal tribesfolks. Some of these folks were interested in whatever SEO and website advice I was providing within the program more than the personal transformation aspect.
  • Those who knew me from my new adventures online, mainly people familiar with me from the Facebook Groups I’m active in. Many of these folks were coaches in their own right, and very interested in website marketing advice.
  • Those from my Facebook Groups who were seeking to deepen their own spiritual and transformational understanding.

Given the somewhat diverse nature of the participants, I spent a lot of time over mulling over how to tie everything together to make everyone happy–which wasn’t very productive. But that wasn’t the only thing that tripped me up…

Here are some other mistakes I made, along with what I plan do about them for future programs:

Mistake Number 1: Expecting most people to be active participants. Even though I should have known better, it hadn’t occurred to me that there are usually only a handful of people who actively participate in most groups. I definitely dropped the ball here, because so much of what I planned was based on this incorrect assumption. When participation didn’t happen as expected, I never had a “Plan B” in the works.

What I plan to do about it: For future programs, I’ll have specific topics and an outline of what I’ll be talking about every week. This way I won’t have to rely on active participation in order to impart my knowledge. When people participate, I’ll still be flexible enough for that to be incorporated into the program, but I won’t expect it to be the main content.

Mistake #2: Sharing knowledge easily and clearly takes practice. I had a lot of practice sharing my marketing wisdom within the SEO industry for many years. However, I don’t have a lot of experience sharing my new knowledge. Having all the first hand knowledge in the world doesn’t mean you can automatically express it to others succinctly and coherently. I did okay in this area, but it wasn’t as easy as I hoped it might be.

What I plan to do about it: All I can do is just keep talking about this stuff to anyone interested in listening! I know I’ll get better and clearer over time, and in fact, I noticed a big improvement throughout the program. Also, having specific topics as previously mentioned will be helpful.

Mistake #3: Focusing the program on both personal and business transformation was tricky. I wanted to focus mostly on the personal side as that’s where my current interest lies. However, I added in the business part as a differentiator from the zillions of other programs available. While I have tons of first-hand knowledge in both areas, speaking about business (and specifically websites) is still second nature to me. Therefore, I always had it in the back of my head that if I wasn’t having much luck sharing my personal transformation knowledge, I could easily drop back into “Old Jill” mode and give people marketing advice. I had a lot of stressful thinking about this, and was never quite able to tie them together as well as I would have liked.

What I plan to do about it: Again, this should remedy itself by having specific topics for each week of the program. Everyone will know what we’re focusing on each week, be it business or personal. And I won’t need to wonder which participants are there for business advice and which for personal.

Mistake #4: Not spending enough time on the program in between calls. Because I wasn’t being paid much for the program, I admit that I wasn’t as invested in it as I could have been. I’ve aways made sure that people get more than their money’s worth out of everything I offer. But because the participants weren’t investing very much money, I didn’t feel that drive to strive that I normally do. Plus, the lack of active participation made it seem like hardly anyone was listening, which was discouraging.

What I plan to do about it: Honestly, I feel pretty silly about this. If I’m going to offer something to people, I should always strive to do my best and not just “good enough.” That said, I plan to charge a more reasonable fee for future programs. This is partially to keep the participants motivated, but also to keep myself motivated. While I’m not running the program for the money in and of itself, there’s something about knowing people are paying with their hard earned dollars that makes me not want to disappoint them.

Overall, my experience leading this transformation program was very good. I’m thankful and grateful that at least some in the group also had a good experience. Much of what I was sharing often spark insights later on, so it will be interesting to see if this happens for any in this group!

–Jill

P.S. Based on what I learned, I’ve created a new online program which begins April 1, 2015. It’s called Optimize THIS! and you can learn more about it and register for it here. You can save $50 if you register before by March 15.

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CONTACT JILL WHALEN to learn how she may help you be the best you can be.


Jill helps people solve their problems! She personally mentors individuals, coaches, small business owners, leaders, groups and organizations to help them uncover their natural well-being and happiness so that they can operate from a clearer state of mind. This in turn has the ability to take their lives and businesses to a higher level.


Jill is also a mentor within the "Primal Happiness Thrive Community" and a faculty member of "Three Principles Supermind." Her blog, What Did You Do With Jill? is a personal account of what she's learned throughout her personal transformational journey.


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Most of our careers have been described as success through trial and error. If we hadn`t gone through our time of learning these newbies and professionals of today wouldn`t be reading our material and following our advice and achieving the results we discovered over time.
Jill when we who began in the early 90`s, or in my case before, are nolonger our accomplishments to the internet world to be only listed as milestone of a time long ago.
I am always greatful to run across an old friend and competitor of sorts rather the name is John, Jim, or Jill. We began doing something way before many and met, helped, and guided others to places we originally only thought of.
Thank you for your friendship now and your competitive spirit over the years. We both learned alot and many forums later… We both are still here lending our years of experience and our insight into the future of computer sciences and technologies.

I’m not sure that I know you, Robert, but thank you! Being as I’ve been retired from SEO for quite some time now (thus running this program) I wouldn’t say that I’m “still here” exactly. Happy to be out, in fact!

Jill I know that you formally retired out of “the job” based on something I believe either Stoney or Rand wrote, or maybe it was even something you wrote sometime back. But you still have a “professional passion” for someone who completed 18 years plus. You don`t sleep, breathe, read, and walk the talk for that long without it.
In any manor we go back to the time of John Audette and before Ammon Johns. There are other names ofcourse I could mention in familiar as the SEO community grew and has grown, inpart thanks to the bulletin boards, to weblogs, to HighRankings as well as the multitude of other forums and the ever growing number of social networks.
BUT anyhow as someone who has consulted with many over the years you attempt to give them your very best, dig deeper than others, find resources, learn all that you can, and gain the client(s) trust and confidence in your areas of expertise.