Which Would You Prefer: Noise Pollution or Performance Support?


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As I was waiting for my luggage to appear at the baggage claim in Delhi last week, a colleague pointed this sign out to me:

Silent Airport

In a place where honking drivers navigate their way through the crowded streets seemingly by echolocation and sensory overload in sights, sounds, tastes and smells is everywhere, the airport did indeed seem oddly quiet.

If you can’t make out the fine print at the bottom of the screen, it says: “To know the status of your flight, please check the flight information display at various locations.”

It was brilliant. Someone at the airport must have decided that the “training” they were offering – a constant stream of announcements over the PA system – was ineffective. They also must have determined that passengers were probably smart enough that, if pointed in the right direction with good signage, they’d be able to find what they needed.

It just seemed like a fantastic example of performance support in real-life.

In an article entitled Performance Support: Three Tips for Getting Started, the eLearning Guild’s David Kelly defines performance support as “providing workers with the support needed to complete a task as it is being completed, in the context of work.”

Sometimes removing people from their jobs to attend a training session or having them log on to an elearning course is essential. Sometimes.

More often, people just need something in the moment. The following are all examples of performance support:

  1. A quick instructional video. The production quality does not need to be high, you just need to make the point and give potential learners what they need. Here’s a quick example of an instructional video I continue to use when I want to upload an elearning module to Google Drive for people to review: https://www.screenr.com/embed/HjmH
  2. A picture or two. This is an image I recently found on the projector in our office conference room. Apparently our office manager grew tired of being paged and asked to set up the projector, and she came up with this simple solution: Training without a Trainer
  3. A job aid. I work with busy subject matter experts all the time. In lieu of pulling them away from their duties in order for me to train them on the finer points of instructional design and adult learning, I offer them a simple lesson plan format in a Word document. 02042013 - Lesson Plan
  4. Clippy, the now-retired little paper clip animation that would magically appear in older versions of Word when it thought you were trying to create a resume or perhaps you were trying to develop some sort of form. While Clippy is indeed an example of performance support, there’s a reason he was retired. He was a little too aggressive in his desire to help out. In many instances, it felt like Clippy was trying to push performance support on you. Performance support is most effective when users know where to find it, and choose when to access it. Clippy

The next time you’re asked to help with a performance issue, ask yourself if you need to pollute the air with needless noise (like a training program), or if people would be better served simply with a little performance support.

What kinds of examples of performance support are you using or have you seen in use? Let’s hear about it in the comments section!


Gone Fishin’



Ok, maybe I haven’t gone fishing. But as you read this, I’m somewhere in the air over the Atlantic or Europe or Afghanistan en route to Delhi and I haven’t had time to generate a lot of my own original content.

Today, I’ll point you in the direction of some of my favorite video resources that have inspired me over the past several years.

Phil Waknell: The Secrets of a Great Talk

I love this one for two reasons:

1) He makes the point that your audience isn’t going to master your content in 15 minutes, so don’t try to get them to master it.

2) He uses props to engage his audience with a hands-on activity, even though he’s speaking to an auditorium full of people.

David JP Phillips: How to Avoid Death by PowerPoint

This one comes from TEDxStockholm and David offers 5 tips on how to simplify your slides. I appreciate this one because he de-constructs a poorly designed, overcrowded slide and re-works it over the course of 20 minutes.

Jane McGonigal: The Game that can Give You 10 Extra Years of Life

Jane McGonigal has several excellent TED Talks, but I wanted to highlight this one simply because of the title. Watch to see how she keeps an audience on pins and needles for 20 minutes by making them a promise (a longer life!), giving them a mathematical formula for how this promise can come true, and then she slowly unfolds her story arc. Give it a view… unless you want to die sooner.

Leadership Lessons from a Dancing Guy

I learned about this video from a colleague. It’s a short, 3-minute illustration of leadership in action and how a movement can get started and it uses a very unlikely source: a shirtless, dancing guy at a concert.

How about you? Are there any videos that you’ve found particularly thought-provoking or creativity-inspiring? Let’s hear about them in the comments section.


It’s not gonna win the Oscar for Best Animated Short, but…


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…for training professionals, PowToon is worth checking out. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s an online tool (free and premium versions are available) to create short, animated videos.

I wrote about it last October, but at that time I hadn’t quite figured out how to use it. Over the weekend I watched a short how-to video on YouTube and decided it shouldn’t be that hard to figure out. The timeline element is a bit of a pain, but once you figure out that quirky feature, it’s actually pretty easy to work with.

After a few hours this weekend I was able to put together this little sample video, using only the free features and the time I had available while my children napped (or were supposed to be napping, anyway). Using some of the paid features and a little more time, this can be quite a powerful tool.

Why might you want to use PowToon?

1. Create a Super Bowl-like Ad. I’ve written before about using eLearning to generate some buzz prior to your next session. PowToon might be a quicker and perhaps even more fun way to get your learners excited about your next workshop or eLearning module.

2. Seriously, Create a Buzz-generating Video to Show Off Your Product. Next week, a colleague will be using a video created in PowToon as a way to build anticipation and generate some enthusiasm for a new IT system that he will be training users on in the coming months. It’s a quick look at the features of the IT system and describes some of the benefits it holds over the current IT system people are using.

3. Tutorials. Yes, you can create screencasts much more quickly by recording your mouse flying around your computer screen, clicking on tabs or buttons. Sometimes that’s sufficient. Sometimes you want something a little more engaging. PowToon can help with creating a more engaging tutorial.

If you’re using PowToon, how have you found it useful? Inspired by this post? How might you want to put PowToon to use? Let’s hear your thoughts in the comments section.

Too much interaction, not enough lecture? Impossible! Or is it?



A little introduction to the topic. Here are a few discussion prompts. Break into small groups with table facilitators to guide the conversation. Large group de-brief. No bullet-pointed PowerPoint slides. Heck, no slides at all! This is a textbook example of well-designed training built upon a strong foundation of adult learning, right?

Not so fast.

Earlier this week I had an opportunity to attend a 60-minute session on the topic of measuring training impact. Training that has a measurable impact – it’s the holy grail of the learning and development profession, right? Sign me up. In fact, sign my colleagues up too! I dragged a colleague to this workshop as well. We need to learn as much as we can on this topic because we certainly haven’t found a consistent way to crack this nut.

During the session, a facilitator framed the topic then turned us loose in small groups to discuss the topic. In my own small group, I felt I was able to offer brilliant insights into the challenges we face when trying to isolate training as a reason for improved business results. I took a look around the room and everyone was engaged. The room was abuzz.

Toward the end, each small group reported their insights. Time expired, a little end-of-session networking took place, and then we all headed our own separate ways. It was fun.

Later, I reached out to my colleague who attended and asked about her take-aways. She said: “I don’t know that I took away any new/better way to measure training. How about you?”

The truth was, I didn’t have any concrete take-aways either. I was kind of hoping my colleague was going to mention something that I somehow missed.

Last week, during a #chat2lrn Twitter chat, Patti Shank took a lot of flak (including from me) when she wrote this:

When I reflected on the training experience I had this week, Patti’s words suddenly resonated for me. This training was ultra-engaging. And yet my colleague and I left without being able to do something new or differently or better.

Perhaps there should have been a more vigorous de-brief. Perhaps there should have been more instructor-led content, maybe even <gasp> lecture – either before or after the small group discussions.

I may not have new ways to measure the impact of my training initiatives, but I did carry three concrete take-aways from this experience:

  1. Sometimes, lecture isn’t completely evil.
  2. Sometimes, too many discussion-based activities can be counter-productive.
  3. Reflection is an essential habit following a learning experience. Even when concrete take-aways from the topic at hand prove to be elusive, learning can still happen.

And you? What kinds of things have you learned unexpectedly even though the actual topic at hand of a training session didn’t quite deliver for you? Leave your thoughts in the comments section.



Using Your Downtime to Increase Skills and Knowledge


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Today is President’s Day in the U.S. and many of us do not need to work. At least officially. I find that using downtime to read an article I otherwise wouldn’t have the time to read or play around with a new skill that I’ve been wanting to try using Articulate Storyline can be surprisingly invigorating.

I’ve also found Twitter to be a great source of articles or videos I otherwise wouldn’t have been exposed to as well a place in which people from my network are forever sharing new tips or tricks or work-arounds.

If you’re looking for some new sources of inspiration or just some places to begin finding new information during your downtime, here is a list of ten people you may want to begin following on Twitter:

1. David Anderson: If you’re looking for new inspiration for an eLearning project, David facilitates Articulate’s Weekly eLearning Challenge. Check it out. Heck, if you’re inspired, go ahead and submit your own eLearning experiment to share with Articulate’s online community.

2. Clark Quinn: Clark focuses on technology, learning and brain science. He’s the author of a book called Revolutionize Learning & Development: Performance and Innovation Strategy in the Information Age and you’ll also find him participating in various Tweet Chats.

3. Lauren Hug and HugSpeak: Looking to up your game when it comes to how you’re using social media and applying your own communication strategy? These are the things Lauren tweets about. She shares helpful tips and interesting articles. She’s also the author of The Manager’s Guide to Presentations.

4. JD Dillon: JD is the author of the Just Curious… blog and just seems to have his hands on the pulse of learning and development – in terms of technology, classroom and personal knowledge management.

5. Will Thalheimer: Will is a first class myth buster when it comes to what works and what doesn’t in learning and development. I’m not talking about fads, I’m talking about research and science. Will has a passion for sifting through peer reviewed research in order to explain in plain English why things like learning styles have little impact and how learning objectives should actually be framed. He just launched a new website called debunker.club. His learning audit website is also super helpful with things to keep in mind while designing learning experiences.

6. Jim Kelly: Need I say more? I’m not all about learning and development, after all. Plus, he’s the only quarterback to lead a team to four straight Super Bowls. What’s not to like about this guy?

7. Jane Hart: In addition to passing along interesting articles throughout the week, I especially appreciate Jane’s “Not to be missed” compilation of articles at the end of the month.

Jane’s Centre for Learning & Performance Technologies also publishes the annual list of Top 100 Tools for Learning.

8. Matthew Guyan: eLearning is at the center of Matthew’s posts, so you’ll find samples of his eLearning work (via eLearning Challenges in the Articulate online community) as well as a smattering of information he’ll pass along from other authors. Plus, he’s in Australia, so if you’re in the U.S. and hit with a bout of insomnia, you can read his tweets all night long!

9. Jane McGonigal: Definitely the smartest person on gamification I’ve followed. She’ll post research about game design from time to time, she’ll post about her successes and struggles in writing her next book, and she’ll remind you who’s still in the mix during major tennis tournaments. Jane also has several TED talks to her credit and is the author of Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World.

10. TED Talks: Perhaps there are times when you’re not in the mood to read another article. I find TED Talks valuable not just because of the fascinating mix of topics I can learn about, but also the way in which the speakers deliver crisp, engaging presentations. Finding a newly released TED talk in my Twitter feed is a handy reminder that I don’t always need to read an article to be exposed to a new or interesting concept.

And if you think this blog is pretty good, you should also give me a follow on Twitter.

Think someone else might find this list of resources handy? Why not send it along? Or hit the Twitter button below and Tweet it along to your followers!



5 Ways Presenters Can Share The Love With Their Audiences


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In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, I thought it might be fun to think about five ways that presenters can “share the love” with their audiences. I created a brief visual journey to walk you through several specific ways to add a little zest to your next presentation.


What’s missing? Do you have other ways to share the love with your learners or your audience? I’d love to hear them in the comments section!

Know someone else who might appreciate these strategies? Why not share the love with them and pass this post along?

Are CMEs Needlessly Driving Up The Cost of Healthcare??


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Wasting Money

It doesn’t matter if you’re a doctor or a patient, Democrat or Republican, rich or poor, I don’t believe anyone wants to see more waste in the healthcare system.

What’s one way to reduce waste in the healthcare system? Better learning design.

Different states have different requirements for doctors, but the general principle at play will be similar across the country. We’ll use Washington state as an example simply because that’s where I live.

Every two years, doctors in Washington state are required to accrue at least 80 continuing medical education (CME) credits in order to renew their licenses, an average of 40 credits per year.

In theory, continuing professional development opportunities ensure our doctors stay on the cutting edge of medicine and science. But in practice, the return on investment for CMEs can be dubious. In most sessions, you’ll find a very smart person in the front of the room talking about something, and you’ll find 500 other very smart, busy people in the room catching up on their email.

In the book Make It Stick, Douglas Larsen from the Washington University Medical School observes this about medical conferences and seminars:

“The speaker puts the PowerPoint slideshow up and starts going through it. Usually there’s lunch, and the docs eat, listen and leave.

“In my mind, considering how much forgetting occurs, it’s very discouraging that we’re putting so many resources into an activity that, the way it is currently done, learning research tells us is so ineffective…

“They have these big conferences, they have all the faculty come through and give their talks. And in the end, what we actually accomplish is really kind of minimal.”

Should the medical community abandon the idea of required CMEs because, in general, the educational experiences are ineffective? No.

Should the medical community take more responsibility in ensuring these learning experiences produce results? Absolutely.

Will more effective medical education put a stop to the 15% annual rise on healthcare premiums? Probably not.

Will more effective medical education help reduce errors, improve skills and perhaps save a life (maybe even yours or mine)? Probably.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about how $75 billion (yes, with a “b”) is wasted annually around the world on training efforts across sectors. So why am I picking on the medical profession today? Because this is one sector where the cost of a poor learning experience can literally make the difference between life and death. And because practitioners in this field are generally more ego-driven than results-driven when it comes to their willingness to change their instructional methods.

So what’s the cure to this plague of poor educational design – in the medical profession or any other arena? One simple antidote is just better design, and a basic tool such as a presentation plan can help in this area.

Design without a cursory understanding of how people learn is only a Band-Aid solution. Two easy-to-read sources of the latest in brain research and effective learning experiences would be the works of Will Thalheimer and Art Kohn.

Brain science. Effective learning design. When it comes to reducing waste in the healthcare system, this might be just what the doctor ordered.

3 Lessons from International Ice Cream for Breakfast Day


Ice Cream

In general, Saturdays are good days to sleep in. There’s one exception to this rule, and it comes on the first Saturday in February: International Ice Cream for Breakfast Day.

This Saturday, February 7, 2015, is International Ice Cream for Breakfast Day. I will be up early. And I will probably eat breakfast two or three times. (Is it still breakfast if it’s 2pm?)

Since this is billed as a “Learning & Development Blog”, let’s examine what talent development professionals can learn from Ice Cream for Breakfast Day:

1. Preparation is essential. On Ice Cream for Breakfast Day, you don’t want to get caught with a freezer barren of ice cream. Popsicles or half a bag of frozen peas just won’t do. If you haven’t stocked up on your favorite pint of Ben and Jerry’s, make sure you finish reading this blog post, and then go out and buy yourself a pint.

Lesson: It’s too easy to just say: make sure you’re prepared for your next presentation. We all know this is important. But it’s easier said than done. Have a presentation coming up? Block off time on your Outlook calendar so that you can map out your presentation, put together effective visual aids, and rehearse once or twice. This isn’t simply a nice-to-have step. Preparation helps reduce your own anxiety level and will make the day-of presentation experience better for your audience.

2. Offer people what they want. Ice cream for breakfast. Need I say more?

Lesson: People can wake up and look in the mirror and say to themselves: “I want ice cream.” People will never, ever wake up and look in the mirror and say: “I want to sit in my seat and listen, all day long.”

A few years ago I was talking with a colleague about a presentation. He looked at me in frustration and said: “I’m gonna talk about quality. It’s boring. Period.”

After thinking through exactly what he wanted to accomplish, we found a way to map out a presentation that would engage the audience, get them involved, and truly experience quality.

People don’t want to sit and listen. They want to do. They want to answer poll questions. They want to share their experiences. They don’t want you to always be the first to answer fellow participants’ questions; they want a chance to offer their own ideas.

3. Keep a regular schedule. I know International Ice Cream for Breakfast comes every year on the first Saturday in February. I can depend on it. It’s regularly scheduled.

Lesson: Professional development is a process, not an event. If you have a multi-day training, be sure to start at the same time every day. If you hold webinars, try scheduling them on the same day every week or every month. If you supervise employees, meet with them 1:1 on a regular schedule. If you blog, publish your posts on a regular schedule (say Mondays and Thursdays for example). People like predictability. They like dependability. They don’t like to have to remember when their next professional development opportunity should be.

Have some other thoughts about lessons we can take from International Ice Cream for Breakfast Day? Let’s hear them in the comments section.

What do “Virtual Classroom” and “Racism” have in common?


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In the training environment, the words that we use matter. If we don’t clearly define the terms that are central to our topic and which we will be tossing around throughout our presentations, we’ll leave a lot of room for individual interpretation and confusion.

I was struck by this point last Friday when I was participating in a Tweet Chat on the topic of “virtual classrooms.”

When participants were asked what came to mind when they thought of “virtual classrooms,” there were many comments about web conferencing software and multi-tasking and trying to keep people engaged. This led one participant to observe:

At that moment it dawned on me – discussions aren’t constructive if everybody is using their own, personal definition of a term. It’s possible that people were using the terms “virtual classroom” and “webinar” as synonyms. If that’s the case, some of the discussion participants were clearly annoyed.

In the absence of a standard, agreed-to definition preceding this discussion, people shouldn’t be annoyed or surprised that various participants use the term in different ways. Training will always miss the mark unless the facilitator first ensures everyone is on the same page.

The best example I’ve seen of this principle in use was during a cultural competence training that revolved around the concept of “racism.” It’s a loaded word that means many things to many people. Conversations about race can quickly become destructive and feelings can easily be hurt if a facilitator doesn’t do his or her job well.

In Casey Family Programs’ Knowing Who You Are course, a definition of “racism” is given to all participants toward the beginning of the session. Whether or not the participants personally agree with the definition, they are asked to use that particular definition of “racism” inside the classroom so that everyone can be talking about the same thing.

Unless the point of your presentation is to have a debate over the meaning of a word or concept, take a minute or two at the beginning to establish a definition that everyone can agree to. Otherwise, participants and facilitator alike may end up perpetually frustrated as people use the same word to mean many different things.

4 Ways to Better Measure Corporate Training Results


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I think results come out in lots of different ways, and some of them you measure, and some of them you feel.

In the January issue of TD magazine, SAP CEO Bill McDermott makes the point that training results aren’t always numbers-driven. I’ve seen this first-hand.

An India-based colleague has spent the last several years holding monthly training sessions focused on our company values and discussing “soft” topics such as teamwork and collaboration. When I dropped by one of these training sessions last month, one of her trainees commented: “In other organizations people try to pull other people down. Our organization is unique in that everybody tries to help each other and boost each other’s performance.”

Sometimes you can feel the results of a training program. But as I mentioned in Monday’s post, companies around the world spend over $75 billion (with a b!) annually and have no idea whether or not their training efforts have produced any results. This isn’t good.

If you happen to be interested in the ability to show other people (your boss, for example) that your training efforts don’t just feel good, but have made a measurable difference, here are four ways to do that:

1. Make sure you ask what should be different as a result of the training. This one may sound like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised at how many times training is planned and executed without specifically identifying what should be done new or differently or better as a result.

2. Pay some attention to Kirkpatrick’s Four Levels of Evaluation… About 60 years ago, Donald Kirkpatrick espoused four “levels” of evaluation to assist training practitioners begin to quantify their results. First come post-training evaluation scores (“smile sheets”), then learning (most of the time through pre/post testing), then skill transfer on the job (maybe a self-reported survey, or a survey from a trainee’s supervisor) and finally impact (did sales increase? did on-the-job safety accidents decrease?). Levels 1 and 2 are most common, but trainers and organizations can certainly strengthen their Level 3 and 4 efforts.

3. …and then go beyond Kirkpatrick. According to a research paper entitled The Science of Training and Development in Organizations, Kirkpatrick’s Four Levels is a model that can be helpful, but there is data to suggest it is not the be-all-and-end-all that training professionals have pinned their evaluation hopes on. The authors of this paper offer the following example as a specific way to customize the measurement of a training program’s success or failure:

“If, as an example, the training is related to product features of cell phones for call center representatives, the intended outcome and hence the actual measure should look different depending on whether the goal of the training is to have trainees list features by phone or have a ‘mental model’ that allows them to generate recommendations for phones given customers’ statements of what they need in a new phone. It is likely that a generic evaluation (e.g., a multiple-choice test) will not show change due to training, whereas a more precise evaluation measure, tailored to the training content, might.”

4. Continue to boost retention while collecting knowledge and performance data. Cognitive scientist Art Kohn offers a model he calls 2/2/2. This is a strategy to boost learner retention of content following a training program. Two days after a training program, send a few questions about the content to the learners (this can give data on how much they still remember days after having left your training program). Two weeks later, send a few short answer questions (again, this helps keep your content fresh in their minds and it gives you a data point on how much they’ve been able to retain). Finally, two months after the training program, ask a few questions about how your content has been applied on the job (which offers data on the training’s impact).

If companies as spending billions of dollars on training, never to know whether or not those efforts were effective, there’s a problem. Spending a few hours thinking through your evaluation strategy prior to deploying your next training program can make your efforts literally worth your time.



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