Video and transcript from Shannon Stott’s talk at Austin’s 2nd Annual Facilitator Summit, Control the Room

Please join us for the Control the Room 2021, which will be held Feb. 2-4, 2020. You can find out more and buy tickets here.

This is part of the 2020 Control The Room speaker video series.

In February we hosted the second annual facilitator summit, Control The Room, at Austin’s Capital Factory. We launched the summit last year in partnership with MURAL to create a space for facilitators to gather, break down the silos, and learn from one another.

The three-day summit is a rare opportunity to bring together an otherwise unlikely group of highly experienced and skilled professionals across various industries and crafts—from strategy consultants and negotiators to Scrum Masters and design thinkers.

Anyone interested in deepening their knowledge on how to successfully facilitate meaningful meetings and connect with other practitioners is welcome. Together, we dive into diverse methodologies, expand upon perspectives, and learn new insights and strategies that enrich our expertise.

This year we had the pleasure of welcoming 24 speakers, all innovation professionals, who shared their insights and strategies of successful facilitation.

One of those speakers was Shannon Stott.

Shannon Stott is the owner of Shannon Unlimited. She uses the elements of comedic improv, including storytelling and quick thinking, to help people become more dynamic speakers, deepen their engagement with clients and audiences, and strengthen team productivity.

Her presentation, “Stick to Your Shit,” focused on how individual success translates to group success. Shannon led the group through exercises to figure out how to realize body signals that either promote and hinder confidence.

She explained how personal hesitations translate negatively when facilitating: the audience does not trust a facilitator that hesitates, and the inability for a facilitator to identify uncertainty in a group prohibits them from successfully facilitating. To avoid this, one must be able to locate their hesitations and any that exist within a group they are leading.

Watch Shannon Stott’s talk “Stick to Your Shit”:

Read the Transcript

Shannon Stott:

All right, you all. I realized last night and in being here, I don’t like groups of people. I don’t like them. I don’t really want to encourage them. I don’t think we should gather. I think it’s a bad idea. It’s too bad that we’re all here doing the opposite thing that I want to see. But what I do love is individuals. I love individuals. I love you and you and you and you, and especially you with the camera. I love them, and I want to see you succeed. And when you succeed as an individual, you succeed as a group.

And when you can see success in your group, then the group succeeds. And then you can go off and love your group and they can love you. And you can leave me out of it. But I know that I sent you out well-armed to understand yourself and to understand others. What we’re going to do today is figure out in this group setting how to realize when I… Yesterday, I heard the word gremlins. Our body sends us signals, letting us know that we’re confident, right? Like this is a signal that I am confident. I feel very confident right now.

But there are other signals, and I heard someone call them gremlins, that come up in your mind when you’re just about to say something. You’re like, “Oh, I have a question or I have an idea. I have a thought. Nevermind. No. That person’s going to say it better than I can.” When we do these group games that we’re about to do, yes, please be involved, have your mind open to the group and what the group is experiencing, but keep that in the back of your head and keep yourself, your lovely self, in the forefront of your head.

Okay? Really understand what it is, what signals your body is sending you to see what it is that is promoting, yes, making you feel confident, and then keeping you from doing things that you wanted to do. So first, we are doing this. You’re going to stay at your group in your tables, and we’re going to do a pitch. Rhe pitch goes one word at a time. It could be a pitch for anything. Somebody is going to say, “There is a Coke that explodes,” and then you’re all going to go cha-ching, whatever, because it’s a winning pitch. All right?

But it’s one word at a time. And you have to put your hand into the center, say your one word. Once the group feels like it’s done, it’s a winning pitch, everybody goes, cha-ching! Let’s practice right now. Cha-ching! Excellent. All right. You’re going to go right now. Begin this game. Excellent. You’re doing great. Once you get your last cha-ching, you can sit down or stop playing your game. Yes, you’re doing good. You’re doing good. I’m going cha-ching you. We’re going to go five, four, three, two, one. Excellent.

I want you to remember how that felt for you. I want you to remember how that felt for you, specifically putting your hand in the game. Right? How did it feel putting your hand in the game? I will talk about it a little later. What I need right now is seven brave souls, seven brave participants to come up here. That’s one. That’s two. That’s three. That’s four, five, six, and seven. Let’s go. What you’re going to do, this is going to look very strange, you’re going to get in the line facing that way. You’re going to face this way, everybody.

Yep, that’s good. That’s good. That’s good. That’s good. Oh man, you guys are amazing. So amazing. What I want you to do is tell me a story. You’re going to start, Scott. Okay? You’re just going to start telling a story. You’re going to talk, talk, talk, talk, talk until the next person tags you out. You’re going to go to the back of the line, and you’re going to talk. You’re going to tag the same, the same. It’s the same story. The story stays the same. But what I need from you is the title of a story, huh? Anybody? Anybody? Purple elephants. Good.

Just in that moment, I need you to remember how you felt when I asked I need something from you and then you didn’t give it to me. Just remember how you felt. All right, here we go. Purple elephants. And begin.


The purple elephants are how I know that I’m not crazy. Whenever I see the purple elephants in the back of the room, it’s what gives me the confidence to keep going and know that I’m not crazy. I’m actually here, I’m present, and as part of the room, because the purple elephants are the ones who would tell me if I was crazy.


And ever since I’ve met purple elephants, I’ve always known that we’re friends, because they’re big and fluffy and colorful. And sometimes they kind of fly. When I dream about them, they have like wings and they are flying around. And I think, how could they be trying to undermine my success? Would you tap me right now?

And maybe the way that they’re trying to undermine my success is by standing in the back of the room not saying anything. Kind of like she was standing behind me, not tapping me on the damn shoulder. But actually I know they really are there for my well-being. They’re like my secret allies nobody else knows are there. Like my brother’s best friend as a kid whose name was scotch tape. Nobody knew he was there either.

Yeah, I’m glad she’s really bringing up the positive aspect of purple elephants, because I’ve got a really good story. You see, most people are born brought by a stork. I was born delivered to my mother by a flying purple elephant. Whenever we say there’s a purple elephant in the room at my house, there really is an elephant in the living room at my house.

Shannon Stott:

Give them a round of applause. Yay! You almost got there. You almost got there. You guys can sit down. I love that you were up here. Thank you. But my point was in front of me. I need you to think back at that moment where you were sticking your hand into the center of the table. Yes? And I need you to partner that with this look. Who saw this on stage? Who saw that? Raise your hand if you saw that. Right, right, right now. I’m not picking on you, but this is what we’re here to talk about.

Remember that and remember how you were doing the same thing when you were listening to the one word, you’re listening at your table to one word, and you’re standing there with your hand like this. And you’re like, “No, they’ve got it. No, that’s just fine. I won’t stick my… Now, now I’ll say hippopotamus.” Right? Right? There is a signal that your body is sending you to tell you, you’ve got this. And when you ignore that signal, you tell your team and your group that you are untrustworthy and that your message is not clear, right?

That we can disregard that message that you’re saying. This idea. All right. Remember that in your body. This is what I want you to do right now. We are going to get seven more people up here, and it’s going to be different. It’s a different thing. Yep. One, two, three, four, five. I need five. Do I hear six? Six more people. Just one more people make six. Six, and then I need one more person. That’s right. You’re my person. Excellent. You’re not going to stand in the line. You don’t have to talk. You don’t need this.

I’ll take that for me. It’s very pretty though. What you’re going to do is jumble up. Just jumble, jumble, jumble, jumble. Find a space on the stage. Find a space on the stage. Find a space on the stage and stop. Great. What you’re going to do is you’re going to move this banana, move this banana without moving your feet from here to that table. All right? From here to that… Everybody needs to touch it. Now, this is the thing, what you’re looking at on the stage, what you’re looking at on the stage is a machine.

You’re not just going to move it with your hands. Boring. Nobody wants to watch that, right? What we want to see is you make noise and act a machine. If it were me playing, but I’m not going to play because that’s not my job today, I might do something like this and pass my banana. That’s what I’m going to start saying now, pass your banana, right? You’re going to pick a movement and a sound. You’re going to pick a movement and on and on and on. You ready? Give them a round of applause to our machine. Excellent. And let’s count them down, three, two, one.

Excellent. I need this banana back. All right, so jumble up on stage. Jumble up. Jumble, jumble, jumble, jumble, jumble, jumble, jumble, jumble, jumble, jumble, jumble, jumble, and stop. Great. You’re going to do the exact same thing except now you are going to be silent. Okay? You’re going to think a little bit about you’re just going to be silent. You don’t need to move. You don’t need to make any noise. You’re just going to pass the banana. Just pass the banana. There you go. Think hard about who you’re going to pass it to.

That’s right. How are you going to get the banana? It’s really exciting, you guys. You guys having a good time watching this? Good. Good. I’ll take it. I’ll take it. Yes. Give them a round of applause. Now you’re done. You’re done with that. You’re done. You’re the machine. You’re finished. The banana represents the message, right? The banana represents the message. Which one was more dynamic? Which machine was more dynamic?


The first one.

Shannon Stott:

The first one. Why?


There was movement.

Shannon Stott:




Shannon Stott:




Shannon Stott:

Right. And when we see people doing things that their body is telling them, I can do this, when we work as a machine, this idea, it’s not necessarily the sound and the movement, it’s the confidence in making the sound and the movement. It’s the confidence to say, “It’s okay. I’m still here with you. We’re all doing this together. And I can pass this banana. I can pass my message with you.” Right? When we take that away from ourselves, by being quiet, not speaking up, this motion, or hesitating, right? We lose our message. We lose our banana.

Our banana gets eaten by banana, by banana. All right. This last thing that I want you to do is this. You are going to play rock, paper, scissors. It’s easy. Oh my gosh. Look at this, five minutes of time. I can just walk around. It’s really nice. You’re going to play rock, paper, scissors. When you play rock, paper, scissors, it’s you and a partner. It goes rock, paper, scissors, shoot. Yes? Rock, paper, scissors, shoot. Don’t play any other weird rules. All right? You’re going to go rock, paper, scissors, shoot. And then when you lose, you’re going to immediately cheer for that person.

Thank you, Solomon. You’re going to immediately cheer for your partner. That partner, the winner is going to go and find another winner, and they’re going to play rock, paper, scissors. Do you understand? Until this whole room only has two people playing rock, paper, scissors. One side, one person has a team of people cheering them on, and the other side has a team of people cheering them on. Have I made myself clear? Everyone knows how to play rock, paper, scissors? Let’s do this. All right. Find a partner and do it.

Thank you. Thank you. That’s right. All right. Are we good? Did we feel the energy? Here’s what I want you to take away from that. When you are playing rock, paper, scissors, you are not hesitating. Okay? There is a moment where your body tells you nothing. It doesn’t say anything. Your body knows that you need to get a rock, paper, or scissors. And I implore you, ask your body to rock, paper, scissor you during your workshops, facilitating moments, what have you.

When you can get your body to tell you this, this or this, these are the three decisions or the three things that we need to do, then your message is clear. You know that you have to throw a rock, a paper, a scissor. You have to say yes. You have to say no. Whatever decision you have to make, you can make it. And that is what I’m asking you. One, to make the decision for yourself.

Two, to notice in other people in your group when they are hesitant in either to volunteer for something, ask a question, ask or have an idea, notice it in those people so that you can be a better facilitator, so you can bring out the quiet person, the person who’s in the back of the room, the person who is not playing rock, paper, scissors. They are disengaged for whatever reason. When you can notice in yourself when you are hesitating and overcome that, then your audience will trust you, your message will be clear, and you will have a better time.

And I won’t have to do this anymore. Thank you so much for having me. Congratulations to the winner, Douglas. Thank you.