A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post about a guy, a spotlight, and a broom and how that guy (Emmett Kelly) held the attention of an entire crowd with only a broom and a spotlight.

My point was that we often turn events and meetings into three-ring circuses with many things competing for our attention. Something simpler and more focused often works much better.

Last week I was working with a client. I taught them the basics of my Batteries Not Included Map™. That went well.

But then it was time for me show them how to apply what they had learned. I drew their attention to a challenge they said they had wanted to work on. I asked them to use the map to indicate the flow of energy from the beginning to the end of that project. And use my approach to identify when energy — whether resistance or support—grew or waned. And identify the common (or unforced) errors that got in the way. And come up with a way to avoid that problem in the future.

Out of my excitement and desire to help them get the most out of this session, I gave all those instructions at once. It was like Emmett Kelly trying to do his silent routine while aerialists, wild animal tamers, a brass band, and high-wire artists competed for our attention.

I gave people too many things to look at. And a lot of people got very confused. I had taken a simple tool (let’s call it a spotlight) and slopped on so many additional ideas and suggestions that was difficult for them to stay focused.

If I had paid attention to what I had written about the guy and the broom, I might have asked them to draw on the map. If that worked, then I could have asked them to use my model of resistance and support to look at what they just drew. If that worked, then I could have done something else, and so forth. Each step would have been relatively simple and easy to apply. And I could have spotted confusion or lack of interest pretty easily.

I’ll bet you’ve got stories. I’d love to hear them. And I would love to hear how you have successfully avoided turning meetings into three-ring circuses.