Building Trust at Workshops

Trust is a foundation principle of every great relationship.
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But it’s a complex psychological condition comprised of many emotions and it takes time to fully develop. No single presentation can carry the full weight of trust-building, but you can start the journey toward trust by remembering a few simple rules.

Be Likeable

Treat your audience like welcomed guests in your home. This starts with a warm greeting, a friendly smile, and a comfortable place to sit and relax. Use name tags and make sure they have something to eat and drink. Check the temperature, lighting, and noise levels in the room. Spread out the seats and always use tables in either classroom, conference style or half-rounds. These details seem small but they send powerful messages about your professionalism and your concern for them.

Engage your audience in the talk. Stimulate their learning experience with games, quick workbook exercises and live interaction. Lecture style delivery is appropriate at times, but when an audience has fun, they like you more. 

Use Humor

Humor is vital to a successful presentation but it’s very tricky. Without it you’re boring. Use too much or the wrong style and you may cross an invisible line from which there is no return. Stay away from canned jokes and traditional “speaker stories.” Instead tie your humor to the topic or the situation. Tell stories from your life experience. Keep them short and be certain they enhance your point.

Top speakers spend up to 75% of their time and energy perfecting humorous elements to their programs and developing their unique style of delivery and content. With experience you will discover the moments in your presentation that lend themselves to sarcasm, wit, caricature, hyperbole, irony, understatement or parody. Of course, spontaneous humor is the Mt. Everest summit in speaker-land.  But professional speakers actually practice hard enough to look spontaneous with the same potent result.

Don’t push too hard. Nothing’s as uncomfortable for an audience as an unfunny speaker trying hard to be hysterical. If you’re really dry or your topic is dull, you can borrow humor in the form of New Yorker Magazine cartoons.  Go to and license several pieces to sprinkle into your talk.  I’ve used this for decades with amazing results.

Be the Expert but Stay Genuine

Audiences want to believe you know your stuff and the presentation should highlight your skill and expertise. But slick sales presentations undermine trust. People today value honesty, directness and understated professionalism over noisy bluster, bravado and a theatrical delivery style. 

It’s OK to admit that you don’t know everything or that you can’t solve every problem. In fact, it’s actually good to talk about the things you CAN’T do. This is called the “Listerine Approach.” The mouthwash TV ad showed people swishing Listerine and making these horrible, contorted faces. The voiceover said…“Listerine tastes terrible…but it works!” Marketers discovered that audiences are twice as likely to believe a positive statement if it follows a negative self-confession.

Nearly every financial strategy has pros and cons. Trustworthy speakers deal with the cons first and never gloss over the potential risks of an idea. By highlighting risks over rewards you convey a message of extreme professionalism, confidence, and intelligence that serious investors respect and appreciate.

Don’t Pitch Products – Give Real Value

Your audience has invested their most precious commodity – time. They demand value, not a product sales pitch.  This is not the place to drill into specific investment ideas. That comes in the follow-up appointments after appropriate needs analysis. Stick to broad topics and keep your talk inspirational, educational, and empowering. Give people real wisdom, intelligence and insight. Make them smarter and better prepared in a meaningful way and they will bond to you.

And keep your talk organized with an agenda that follows a semi-structured path.  Avoid haphazard or “stream-of-consciousness” presentations that meander from one story to the next.

As you build your workshop presentation, critique each PowerPoint slide or discussion point with one simple question: How will this help my audience? If you can’t answer that, cut it out.

In Conclusion

Presentations and workshops can be fantastic trust-building events. They’re fun to do and can accelerate the bonding process tremendously if done well.  But you must know what you’re doing in front of that room if you want to succeed with today’s more intelligent and guarded audiences.


Frank Maselli is a professional speaker, best-selling author and 30-year veteran of the financial services industry. Maselli has presented to the largest and most successful organizations in the industry, training thousands of advisers and managers each year in advanced marketing, sales leadership and modern practice management techniques. His two books, “Seminars: The Emotional Dynamic” and “Referrals: The Professional Way” are changing the way top advisers market and grow their business. He is a member of the National Speakers Association, Mensa and IMCA and is the founder of The Financial Lifeguard Academy.  For more information about Frank Maselli and The Maselli Group please visit or call (800) 231-5272.


NOTE: This feature is to provide general information only, does not constitute legal advice, and cannot be used or substituted for legal or tax advice.