The One Word Resolution (2015 Edition)

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For the past several years, I’ve foregone a traditional New Year’s Resolution for my professional development goals and instead have resolved to commit to one powerful word that can guide my focus for the upcoming year.

In 2013 it was “momentum“. In 2014 it was all about “possibility“.

As I look to 2015, my one word resolution shall be “execution”.

Not as in “Hey, let’s all go on down to the gallows and see this week’s execution,” but rather as in “Ok, I’ve surveyed what’s possible. It’s time to turn the dream of a world in which every presentation will be engaging and lead to change into a reality. Let’s move from talking and dreaming to the execution of this idea.”

Want to join me? Is there one word you can commit to over the next year to serve as your guide? Let’s hear about it in the comment section!

Whether you’re a regular subscriber or simply happened to stumble across this blog because you typed the wrong thing into Google and somehow you ended up on this page, I’d like to thank you for taking some time to read these posts. After 98 posts this year, it’s time for me to take a little break for the holidays.

I hope to see you back here on January 5th, when the wit and wisdom of the Train Like A Champion blog returns with all new posts on Mondays and Thursdays. For now, I’d like to say: Have a very Merry Christmas and a happy New Year!

The Hidden Key to L and D Success

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Over the past several years, I’ve found that there is a hidden key to my success as a learning and development professional.

It’s not mastery of adult learning techniques (that’s a big, not-so-hidden key to success). It’s not mastery of the latest version of Adobe Captivate or incorporating the latest brain research into your instructional design or gamifying your next project – each of these are important design tools, but not necessarily hidden keys.

The hidden key that I’ve found is simply this: never eat lunch at your desk.

Lunch

It opens doors.

Door #1: Perspective. It’s easy for L&D professionals to fall into what I call “training snobbery”, losing sight of the fact that not everyone in the organization cares about adult learning principles and good slide design. One of the things I enjoy most about eating lunch with my (non L&D) colleagues is learning what they’re working on, what’s keeping them busy every day and maybe even where learning gaps exist. These conversations also help me better understand why they don’t (can’t) spend more time on their presentations.

Door #2: Relationships. It’s one thing to work with a group on a training project. Yes, I get to know the various project team members, but what I really care about are outcomes and delivering the project on time. It’s very easy to get frustrated with project team members who miss deadlines and to label them irresponsible slackers. When I have a chance to “break bread” with my colleagues and talk about life and family and what happened last weekend, I find our working relationship benefits. It’s a lot easier to be patient and find more productive ways to work through conflict.

Door #3: Physical Separation from Work. Even if I have no desire to be around anyone else at lunchtime, I find that taking a walk to a park and scarfing down my food provides a much-needed mental break from my projects. I often return to my desk after lunch with renewed energy and maybe even a bright idea or two that I wouldn’t have had if I was staring at my screen while trying not to drip the innards of my peanut butter and jelly sandwich on my keyboard.

Do you have any hidden keys to success as a L&D professional? Let’s hear about them in the comments section.

Using eLearning to Promote Classroom Sessions

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“What’s in it for me” is a common mantra for learners, especially because they probably have more pressing things to take care of. Your upcoming training session is competing for their time and attention.

In order to grab potential attendees’ attention for an upcoming face-to-face workshop, I recently used Articulate Storyline to create a brief online quiz (click this link if you have 3 minutes and want to take it for a test drive).

eLearning Promo

Putting together a short, fun online activity can do several things for you:

  1. Creates intrigue as learners get a small taste of what’s to come.
  2. Creates a greater sense of urgency for your content, especially if learners take a quiz like this and realize their New Employee Orientation program (or whatever your content might be) is simply “average” or “needs some work”.
  3. Gets your learners invested in your content before you session even begins (“how exactly can I go from “average” to “world class”?).

Even if you develop in-house training sessions that people are required to attend, creating a sense of intrigue and urgency can help your colleagues get excited to set aside some time for your next workshop.

Have you found other creative ways to engage your audience and promote your training sessions? Let’s hear about them in the comment section.

Know someone who might be need a little inspiration to promote their training sessions? Pass this post along to them!


Interested re-imagining and revising your New Employee Orientation so that it can truly be world class, inspiring your new employees as they begin their journey with your organization?

Join phase(two)learning’s Michelle Baker and me in Indianapolis on March 9-10 for a New Employee Orientation re-design workshop that will be one part networking event, one part learning lab.

Contact me at brian@endurancelearning.com or click here for more information.

 

Humbled by these SMEs

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Facilitators

What would you do if you were in a technical training being led by SMEs and suddenly, out the window, you spy a monkey being led around on a leash? Would you…

  1. Ignore the monkey and stay 100% focused on the technical content being shared
  2. Stare out the window wishing you could trade places with the monkey

I’ve attended many technical training sessions, and personally, I would often choose “2”, wishing I could be doing anything else, anyplace else in the world… even if that meant I was a monkey being led around on a leash.

A funny thing happened last week when I was in Delhi for a 2-day training workshop. A guy walked by the window with a monkey on a leash. Nobody paid any attention to what was going on outside. The class remained 100% engrossed in the technical training at hand. I was impressed with the way these SMEs facilitated the session, and humbled by the effort they put into this workshop, from the design to the wrap up.

Building a New Kind of Learning Experience

Going into the planning phase, these SMEs gave me all the time that I asked for as I requested meetings to plan this session out.

We knew that we’d need to overcome a significant language barrier in order to deliver the content. We only speak English. Many of our participants preferred Hindi or other local languages. I suggested we avoid lecture as much as possible (even though lecture can constitute significant chunks of this training program when delivered in the US) and instead use small group discussions and activities. This design would allow the audience to see and experience the content, processing it in the language with which they were most comfortable.

There were no protests from the SMEs when I showed them a first draft of this program that had reduced the number of slides we’d use from 86 (based on the US version) to 0. To my great surprise, these SMEs could have cared less about PowerPoint.

Forgoing All Others

Prep

I’ve struggle in the past with getting SMEs to take preparation and presentation rehearsal seriously. I’m often told by SMEs that they’re too busy to rehearse a presentation and that they know the material well enough to deliver it with fluency.

As we began to make travel arrangements, this set of SMEs readily agreed to leave the comfort of their homes and the loving embrace of their family members (not to mention the loads of work that began to pile up on their desks) in order to arrive in Delhi a day early and walk through the entire set of lesson plans for the 2-day training session. They wanted to ensure the learners would be given the best experience necessary.

Flexibility

We began the session a little late on the first day, which meant we were behind on the agenda immediately. Instead of insisting that every last word in the lesson plan was essential and continuing to run more and more behind on the schedule, the SMEs identified areas that could be condensed or cut or assigned as homework in order to get back on schedule by the end of the day.

The Ideal SMEs?

In the end, it was clear that the SMEs I worked with on this training program were most passionate about the learners’ experience and the outcomes of this training.

While many SMEs that I work with put their content first (or sometimes their egos come first, then their content), these SMEs put the learners first. As I reflect on this experience, I’m hoping to figure out a way to bottle their attitude and bring it to future projects with other SMEs.

Their attitude and effort did not go unrewarded. Apparently I have a reputation for being intense and very serious, especially when it comes to training. In appreciation of their effort and attitude, I was willing to briefly put my intense, serious nature on hold one evening and give them a glimpse of a different side of my personality. It was only an instant, and don’t expect me to do it again. I allowed them to capture that one instant on film.

Tongue

Ok, enough of that. This is called the Train Like A Champion blog for a reason. It’s time to get back to work on our next project and kick some more training ass!

Can eLearning Change Hearts and Minds?

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Last week I wrote about how a well-designed classroom training experience can change long-held beliefs and practices. I began to wonder if an eLearning experience could change hearts and minds in a similar way. I was skeptical.

I discussed this idea with eLearning instructional designer extraordinaire Kirby Crider.

Kirby

What do you think? Can eLearning ever provide a powerful, life-changing experience that some people may find in the training room? We’d love to see the conversation continued in the comments section below.

Brian: I’ve seen some amazing eLearning design from folks like Michael Allen and the Articulate community. They’re fun. They’re engaging. But I’m skeptical that eLearning is a tool to change hearts and minds for something like diversity training or change management. You’ve spent more time designing eLearning than I have. What do you think?

Kirby: Plenty of classroom sessions don’t change hearts and minds, and the same goes for eLearning. I do think it’s possible to break out of the standard way of doing things in the self-directed eLearning world, just like how you’ve shown on this blog that it’s possible to break out of the reading-off-a-PowerPoint-slide way of doing things.

Brian: A lot of what I write about is based upon what I’ve seen working in practice. I just haven’t seen an eLearning module in practice that I’d consider powerful or life-changing.

Kirby: Describe for me what makes those in-person experiences so powerful for you. You recently wrote about a white privilege checklist activity that made a big impact on you. Why did it resonate so much?

Brian: The checklist itself was interesting, but it wasn’t enough on its own to change anything for me. The ensuing conversations with a diverse group of other participants crystalized this concept of privilege. It was eye opening for me to be able to see and feel the passionate, incredulous reaction of an African American colleague when I confessed to never having through about my privilege. How do you replicate that intensity online?

Kirby: Of course there will be certain things that can’t be replicated online, but have you ever watched a TED talk that profoundly changed the way you behave? I have. Imagine if you combined the storytelling, the surprise and the utter relevance of a killer TED talk with reflection questions that promote asynchronous discussion via an integrated message board with other users!

Brian: Interesting. Video can be more engaging than looking at clip art or even photos of real people on the computer screen. I definitely find webinars more engaging when the presenter uses a video feed. But it’s so easy to misinterpret tone in an online discussion. Any suggestions for how to mitigate misinterpretation of tone for anyone interested in designing a social component into their eLearning design?

Kirby: There’s a body of research that suggests conversational language and first person language (“you” or “I” instead of “one”) increases retention, and things need to be memorable in order to change hearts and minds. Art Kohn has a nice article about selecting language on the Learning Solutions magazine site. Honestly, we need to stop taking our scripts so seriously in the asynchronous world. When I design an eLearning module, I like to take chances with an activity like this: “Alright, by now you’re probably tired of listening to my voice and clicking on the next button. I’d like to challenge you. Take what you’ve just learned, and go find a colleague. See if you can explain it to them!”

Brian: Bringing the online world into the real world, I like it! Any final thoughts about how to reach a learner’s heart and mind?

Kirby: My father-in-law teaches an online class. In order to build a sense of common ground, he has his students ship dirt from their yards to each other and then asks each person to make a sound effect out of the dirt they receive. We have so many tools at our disposal – Twitter, wikis, discussion boards, plain old email, Padlet, even the US postal service – I’d like to challenge all eLearning designers to use them. You change hearts and minds when you can build community and create spaces for discussion and growth.

What do you think? Is eLearning a tool that can change the hearts and minds of learners? Add your thoughts to this conversation in the comments section.

How Many of these 86 Slides are Necessary?

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A month and a half ago I was given two slide decks that totaled 86 slides of technical material. I was asked to develop a 2-day training workshop based on those slides.

This coming Thursday and Friday, two subject matter experts will facilitate the 2-day technical skills training workshop that I developed. How many slides will they click through?

Zero.

Once I had an opportunity to sit down and talk with several subject matter experts to better understand what trainees should be able to do new or differently or better as a result of this training, I realized that PowerPoint slides would be the least effective visual aids possible. The slides have been replaced by a series of individual, small group and large group activities, live demonstrations and discussions.

To be fair, there was one slide that was still hanging on in the almost-final version of the training program. It just seemed like too much work to fire up an LCD projector for a single slide. That slide was replaced with an activity in which the facilitator would illustrate her points using a flipchart. According to several recent studies, illustrating your points with a whiteboard or a flipchart is a more effective teaching strategy than even the most visually appealing slide, anyway.

I’m not saying that PowerPoint should never be used. I am saying that it doesn’t have to be the default visual aid for every aspect of every presentation.

 

Why Nicholas Kristof Isn’t Changing Hearts and Minds About Racial Disparities in the US

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In a recent series of articles, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof offered statistic upon statistic about the racial disparities that continue to this day in the United States.

Depressingly, when asked if he felt he was changing any minds, he responded: “I wish I could say that yes, it’s having an effect. I honestly don’t know. In general, I think that we in journalism tend to change people’s minds quite rarely on issues they have thought of.”

If you examine how corporate learning and professional development are measured, you could replace the word “journalism” in Kristof’s response with the word “training” and have an equally true (and depressing) statement. It’s why delivery methods such as lecture may raise awareness, but very rarely lead to a change in mindset or lead to new skills being transferred to the job.

I’ve sat through a variety of classes and workshops on “diversity training” and I’ve heard all the statistics. Still, it was easy for me to think of rational excuses for the disparity among outcomes between white people and people of color in America in this day and age… until I attended a workshop created by Casey Family Programs. I was asked to complete a 20-question “white privilege checklist”… and then I was asked to compare my results with others in the room – white people and people of color. The ensuing discussion was life changing for me. I’ve facilitated that workshop many times since, and it’s been life changing for many of the participants. It wouldn’t have been possible if someone had simply shared a bunch of statistics with us, regardless of how striking the disparities were on paper (or on PowerPoint).

I’ve led presentation skills and instructional design workshops with SMEs and experienced trainers alike. The attitude coming into the session is often very similar: I’ve been doing this for years… what can you possibly teach me?

That attitude would prevail if I were to simply talk about the importance of a lesson plan and learning objectives and engaging your audience. When the participants, however, are challenged to work in groups and develop a 10-minute presentation, and deliver that presentation in front of a group using the ideas and skills they’ve learned in the workshop, they can feel the difference between their old way of doing things and the new way they’ve just been taught. “What can you possibly teach me?” turns into “Why haven’t I been doing it this way all along?”

Lecture and didactic delivery might be a useful style to raise awareness. Finding opportunities to involve your audience, giving them opportunities to explore your content and discuss your ideas, can be life changing.

5 Ways to Incorporate More Play into your Next Presentation

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“You can learn more about someone in an hour of play than you can in a year of working with them.” Every time I hear Kevin Carroll say those words, I have renewed energy to get creative and incorporate more “play” into my own presentation design.

When I think about incorporating play into presentation design, I’m not thinking about waste-my-learners’-time-with-some-silly-game-that-doesn’t-have-anything-to-do-with-anything type of play. I’m thinking about the-audience-learns-while-at-the-same-time-thinking-this-is-fun-and-oh-wait-I’m-learning-something-too type of play.

If you’re looking for new ways to engage your audience, maybe incorporating some more play can be helpful for your next presentation design. Here are five examples of how I’ve seen play effectively incorporated into presentation design:

  1. In an icebreaker. Icebreakers are often associated with play. And if they’re done well, there’s a learning component, too. Last year at a big meeting, I watched as my company’s CEO led an activity in which 80 people in a room were broken into small groups, and each group was given a tennis ball. The groups were tasked with seeing how fast every member of the small group could pass the ball from one person to the next. Attendees included prominent surgeons and business leaders. The room was abuzz. People like to play no matter how old they are or how important their job may seem. Our CEO concluded the activity by connecting various strategies and solutions from this icebreaking activity to the overall meeting theme of innovation.
  2. In a room of 2,000 people. In a recent article on the importance of “priming” your learners to make it more likely they’ll later retain your content, Art Kohn offers the example of having someone say the word “silk” ten times, then asking the question: what do cows drink? (The answer, by the way, is not milk.) I’ve seen a similar strategy – having the audience say or do something from their seats – used in a keynote address to 2,000 people. It was a quick activity. Everyone participated. Everyone laughed when they realized cows drink water, not milk. And the speaker had everyone’s attention.
  3. In a roomful of people not accustomed to participating. Sometimes I’m asked to design a presentation to be given to an audience that’s not used to being called on to participate and it would be well beyond their comfort zone to get up and move around. Instead of defaulting to lecture, this is a situation in which I like to use some PowerPoint tricks to get people engaged. I’ll set up a Family Feud style board and I’ll ask the audience for responses. Instead of the typical PowerPoint animation that forces the presentation into a pre-determined order, the Family Feud-style slide allows the presenter (and the audience) to decide dynamically what information will appear on the screen next.
  4. Poll them… and keep score. In a Bob Pike Group training session I attended earlier in the year, facilitator extraordinaire Scott Enebo not only used PollEverywhere to get the entire room participating, he gave points for correct responses on his polls/quizzes. It added an element of (friendly) competition and kept things interesting throughout the 2-day workshop.
  5. In sucking them into case studies. In the movie Tron, Jeff Bridge’s character gets sucked into and becomes part of a video game. In Ruth Kravitz’s training room, learners get sucked into the world of child welfare, becoming part of her case study activities. Different from role play, learners are given small bits of information and need to use their previous knowledge on the topic and the information they’ve been given in order to determine what additional information they need and to make recommendations on the next steps of a given foster care case. If anybody in her training class is checking their smart phone, it’s not because they’re reading their email or watching cat videos on YouTube… it’s because they’re frantically searching for additional information that could help them on their case study.

How are you incorporating play into your presentation design?

Case Study: The Power of Rehearsal

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Last week I had an opportunity to facilitate a session at the LINGOs annual member meeting. After the presentation, my co-facilitator, Shannon Cavallari from PATH, shared her observations about what helped her most in the days leading up to our presentation. Following are her reflections, written immediately after our presentation:

It’s a wonderful feeling; this mixture of excitement, nervousness, and RELIEF because I had prepared. I had a plan A and a plan B should it not unfold in the way I hoped it would.

I’m a learning and development professional, but my skill set lies more on the learning technologies side. Basically, I do put together elearning programs and projects. Rarely do I get invited to stand in front of a group with the intent to inspire, teach or change behavior.

The Preparation

With my Lesson Plan template in hand, Brian and I started mapping out the presentation.

Objectives identified? CHECK.

Activities designed? CHECK.

Engagement with the participants? CHECK.

Opportunities for questions and lessons learned? CHECK.

The Lesson Plan allowed me to think through and assign specific blocks of time to each of these steps, from the start of the presentation to the finish.

Then we did a dry-run and more light-bulbs went off. This step – the dressed rehearsal – is such a crucial step in preparing for a presentation and yet most of us skip it or don’t give it the attention it deserves. In my dry-run, I practiced what I would say AND I practiced where I would stand, and it revealed questions I would need to ask my co-facilitator along way. The Lesson Plan allowed me to capture these questions and my thoughts on the “choreography” for each section of my presentation. I felt more at ease; I felt prepared.

I reviewed my lesson plan the evening before and the morning of our presentation. “I got this,” I thought. Then, of course, came the need for Plan B.

The Presentation

The audio failed on our computer and we were unable to use a video we wanted; we had planned for this to be integral to our initial 8-minute introduction to the session. But that was ok, because we had rehearsed with a Plan B in the event we might experience such a technical difficulty. I learned how essential it is to assume things can and will go wrong and think through ways to mitigate such unfortunate circumstances.

Through some anecdotal feedback at the end of our session, our participants claimed that they got what they came for. We delivered on the objectives we identified and they were happy and engaged.

Regardless if being a trainer is your full-time gig or if you’re a subject matter expert sharing your vast knowledge, I can say with certainty that it pays to practice. Not only did such preparation create a better experience for our learners, but it also put my own mind at ease. I was a better presenter because of the process.

What do you do to prepare for a presentation? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below.

Why Can’t We Still Present Like We’re 8 Years Old?

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A few weeks ago, my daughter was “Star of the Week”, which meant she had an opportunity to make a presentation in front of her class.

This is the third year in a row she’s had to put together a Star of the Week presentation. It happens every year. Yet it hasn’t gotten old for her.

Star of the Week

She was excited and proud of the presentation she had put together. In my (un-biased) professional opinion, she rocked that presentation.

Here are the facts:

  • She kept to her time limit.
  • She used powerful images (family photos) and never thought about PowerPoint or bullet-pointed lists.
  • Somehow she held the attention of 20 other 8-year-olds for the entirety of her presentation. Maybe it was her enthusiasm. Maybe it was the stories she told. Maybe it was because her classmates weren’t allowed to bring their smart phones to school. Just look at the photographic evidence above – she has her audience wrapped around her little finger!

What happens between the time we’re 8 years old and the day we get up in front of some type of professional audience – whether in a team meeting, at new employee orientation or at a conference?

Where does the enthusiasm to get in front of an audience go? Where does the impulse to immediately open up PowerPoint come from? Where does our ability to keep our audience on the edge of their seats for the entirety of the presentation go?

I’d been asked to deliver several presentations this week. Amidst all of my other job duties, I found myself going into “automatic pilot” mode as I developed this week’s presentations… until I reflected on the lesson my daughter taught me in her Star of the Week presentation.

I may have given a variation of these presentations multiple times in the past, but it’ll be this week’s audience first time seeing these presentations. I owe them all the 8-year-old enthusiasm and excitement I can offer.

How do you stay motivated to keep your presentations fresh? I’d love to hear it in the comment section below.


Is the Joy of Presenting Missing from your New Employee Orientation?

New Employee Orientation programs can often be delivered on “automatic pilot”, which is a serious buzz kill for new employees who are excited to start a new job.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

Join phase(two)learning’s Michelle Baker and me in a 2-day public workshop where you’ll be able to re-visit, revise and refine your New Employee Orientation program.

Sounds interesting? Click here to go to the registration page.

Want more information? Send me an email at bpwashburn@gmail.com for more details.

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