Three Things I Learned Teaching a Breakout at CHART

March 11, 2020 | 1006 Views

Three Things I Learned Teaching a Breakout at CHART

Kelly McCutcheon

Group Director of Training & Development | Whataburger

Kelly McCutcheon


Last week, during the CHART 99 conference in Napa Valley, CA, I led a breakout group that left me feeling like a rock star. I started the class with a totally different set of feelings.

Here’s what I learned in the middle:


Ok, so I didn’t really crowd surf, but metaphorically, it felt like it. Eight months ago, I had a spark of an idea that wouldn’t let me go. Our field (now more than ever) is being weighed down by stress and negativity. I have been studying positivity psychology for years, but I was always the student. Did I have anything to teach my peers?

It turns out, I did. We all do.

For people to hold you up, you have to leap. Your audience will meet you where you’re at, so give it everything you’ve got.

I asked the attendees to get vulnerable and share. They held me up. I asked them to follow me on a journey through the parts of the brain to figure out why people behave the way they do. They held me up. I asked them to show acts of gratitude throughout the conference and beyond. They held me up.

Fear, doubt, worry - there are so many reasons we hold ourselves back. Even if your passion is on the minds of many, your perspective is unique. Take the leap – your audience will hold you up.


Think of the best concert you’ve ever been to. How did it feel to hear your favorite song? The band may have played it a thousand times before, but it’s that song that sells out the show.

Leading up to teaching day I was N E R V O U S. I had taught classes before, but never opened up in the way I was about to. During the breakout, I showed a video of my 5-year-old self awkwardly but unabashedly singing and dancing. I told an embarrassing story about crying in an audition. At a roundtable discussion, I shared how moving every three years was hard on my family growing up. These experiences helped shape the person I am today. Sharing them was a way to connect what I know with why I care.

I used to think you should teach what you know. But it’s more than that. I realized that by including personal stories, I was able to connect with the audience on a deeper level.

Your talent is what you know, your passion is who you are. Your greatest hit is where your talent and your passion align. That experience is unique to you and people want to hear that story.


Radio edits are great, but there’s something magical about a live performance. Even (and especially) the moments when they forget the words or let the crowd sing.

You rehearse and rehearse and rehearse but when it’s go time, let go of your perfectly typed agenda and choose to be present with your audience. I didn’t say every word the way I practiced it, but something much more magical happened. People felt what I meant.  And that feeling had much more impact on their hearts and minds than any of my words.

Through teaching, we learn so much. CHART makes opportunities like this possible. I am forever grateful for the experience and will take these lessons to my next “concert.” Rock on.

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