What’s Missing from ATD ICE?

Searching (Blank Face)

ATD’s annual international conference and expo began yesterday, and I have a feeling it’s missing something (and I’m not necessarily talking about me… although really, what good is a conference without me?).

I’ve been to several ATD conferences and a SHRM Talent Development conference over the past few years and they all seem to be missing something.

The crowds I’ve encountered at the ATD conferences have primarily included instructional designers, training program managers, classroom instructors and some independent consultants. The SHRM conference was primarily HR professionals – business partners, generalists, department heads and consultants.

I imagine it’s similar at major conferences for professionals in coaching or organizational development. On the one hand, it’s to be expected. These conferences, after all, are for specialized segments of the greater human performance field. On the other hand, none of these initiatives can be successful if professionals from across the human performance spectrum don’t have opportunities to cross-pollinate.

Recently, as I got involved in my local ATD chapter, I was given an opportunity to work on an annual program called the Allied Professionals Event, which will take place on June 9th in Seattle. I’m looking forward to it because it is the one night of the year when people from across these specialized areas – learning & development, human resources, coaching and organizational development – can all come together, spend some time networking and discussing what’s on their minds, and then listen to some of the region’s rock star executives in both HR and business operations speak to the impact of human performance initiatives on the people within their organizations.

If you’re in the Seattle area, I’d like to invite you to attend (here is the registration information) and I’d love to hear what you’re working on. If you’re someplace else in this world, I’d love to hear from you – have you found similar opportunities to engage with your counterparts from other areas of the human performance spectrum?

While I know large national conferences are organized for specialized groups that make up their membership, are they completely serving their members’ best interests with such a narrow focus across all conference programming?

What do you think? Agree? Disagree? Let’s hear it in the Comment section.

Know someone who might be interested in this type of initiative, please pass this along!

My Next Job: Defense Against the Dark Arts Instructor (Eat Your Heart Out, Snape!)

Defense Against the Dark Arts InstructorThis fall I’ll begin working as an instructor in a new Workplace Learning & Professional Development certificate program at the University of Washington. I can’t quite recall the formal title of the position, but I kind of see it as a modern day, Seattle-based Defense Against the Dark Arts sort of position. The Dark Arts being poorly designed learning experiences (obviously).

This is how I envision my first day:

“Interactivius!” shouted one of my pupils as he pointed his wand at the PowerPoint slide that was being projected on the screen.

Suddenly the clip art on the slide was transformed into… well, into an animated gif file. “Keep working on the Interactive Charm, young master Neville,” I said, “animated gifs can be fun creatures, but more often than not, they’re nasty little beings that simply make poor slide design worse.”

“Who’s next?” A red haired boy stepped up and as he was about to try his spell he suddenly became distracted. A little rat hopped out of his pocket and ran out the door. The red haired boy ran after it as the class burst into laughter.

The next student to step up was a young man with round spectacles and a funny little scar on his forehead. “Enumerate!” he shouted, and a bolt of light shot from his wand and transformed the bullet points on the slide into numbers.

“Nice start, Mr. Potter,” I explained, “numbers definitely make it easier to identify which point you may be talking about, but there are more engaging ways to present.”

“Step aside, Potter!” a little blonde haired boy shouted, then pointed his wand at the screen and cried: “Transitious!” Suddenly, the slide swirled off the screen, advancing to the next slide which dissolved into the next slide which evaporated into a series of random bars, and finally a checkerboard pattern took the last slide off the screen and left the class facing a blank image that said: “End of Slideshow.” The students who weren’t nauseated or dizzy laughed uncomfortably.

“Mr. Malfoy,” I tried to be as tactful as possible since his father was rumored to have been a very ill-tempered and powerful man, “let’s try to ease off on those slide transitions next time.”

“Hocus Poll-cus,” said a soft-spoken young woman in the class. The bullet points and text were suddenly replaced with a brief series of PollEverywhere questions.

“Brilliant, Miss Granger!” I exclaimed. “Where did you learn that particular enchantment?”

“It was quite an easy one to learn, actually,” she said. “It’s one of 100 different charms I learned from The Big Book of Technologies that can Transform Any Learning Experience! By polling the audience instead of talking at them, you can get them involved in generating content for the lesson!”

“I couldn’t have said it better myself. Now that we’re warmed up,” I continued the lesson, “this will be the first and last time we play with PowerPoint in here. For even though there are a gazillion PowerPoint presentations given each day, it’s actually a very dangerous creature that’s been misused, overused and certainly abused for quite some time. It wasn’t born dangerous, but He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named transformed PowerPoint into a dangerous, perhaps even deadly (if you can die from boredom) creature long ago.”

“He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named? You mean, Lecture?” There was a collective, panicked gasp among the students.

“No Mr. Malfoy, Lecture is not the root of all evil, contrary to what many may tell you. There is a time and place for the kindly old soul of presentation delivery methods. No, He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named is…”

Just then, the bell rang.

“Nice job today. We’ll get into it more deeply on Monday,” I said. “Class dismissed.”

Think you know who He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named is? Let’s hear your divination(s) in the Comment section.

Know someone who might like this story? Pass it along or Tweet it out.

Want to be sure you don’t miss Monday’s revelation of He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named? Hit the Follow button on the right side of the screen.

10 Minutes (7 if you run)

There are some things we just have to do, whether we like it or not. Compliance training comes to mind immediately.

Sometimes walking falls into this category for me, too, which is why this sign stood out for me during a recent sightseeing excursion in Japan.

Almost There Edited

Hilarious, right? Entertaining? Encouraging? I appreciated the humor behind this sign so much that I took a picture of it and decided to blog about it.

Oh wait, that’s an edited version. It’s not entertaining or funny or encouraging. It’s plain. And not memorable. And typical of visual aids we normally create. Especially for mundane tasks.

Here’s the actual sign that was posted:

Almost There

It has humor. It has encouragement. For overachievers, there’s a challenge to be found.

Next time you’re putting together a slide deck or handouts or flipcharts – even if you think the topic is routine or boring – why not get a little more creative? Why not respect your audience enough to throw something a little unexpected their way? Why not go the extra mile?

It’ll probably only take an extra 10 minutes or so. Seven minutes if you run a little.

Solve the Crime of the Century (A Training Murder Mystery)

I’ve been reading many upbeat accounts of presentations and experiences during the recent ASTD ICE. But what happens when an industry conference is a terrible experience?

There are a number of learning and development blogs that have recently focused on how to maximize your experience at a conference. The Elearning Guild’s blog, TWIST, has begun a series called “What’s in your conference bag” which highlights ways that various learning professionals prepare for attending a conference. Michelle Baker’s Phase(Two)Learning blog recently ran a contrarian post on ways to have a bad time at a conference. And the Learning Rebels have run a series of posts offering perspectives and take-aways from the recent ASTD ICE. If you or someone you know is getting ready to attend a conference, I highly recommend reading these articles (or passing them along) – tons of tips, ideas and strategies to make the most of your investment in professional development.

As learning professionals, we get pretty psyched about the opportunity to attend training events and conferences. What about the other 99.7% of working professionals? The attorneys who are required to attend workshops to earn CLEs and the medical professionals who go to conferences to earn CMEs? What about the array of other professionals who need to attend training to maintain professional certifications and the employees required to attend industry conferences for whatever other reasons?

While I read a lot of enthusiasm from my colleagues in the training field, I spend the weekends listening to non-training professionals and friends complain about the recent, mind-numbingly boring conferences, symposiums, workshops, compliance training and professional development sessions.

How do training professionals make an impact on the presentation skills of those who do not have words like “training” or “talent development” or “learning” in their title?

Nobody wakes up in the morning and says: “I hope my audience walks away complaining about how boring I was today!” My hypothesis is that many presenters lack the basic awareness of what an amazing learning experience can be, and more importantly they lack competence in how they can transform a room into a vessel of learning, engagement and behavior change.

In an effort to begin to raise that awareness, I recently created a short elearning program – it’s a sort of murder mystery called “Death by Boredom”.

Death by Boredom Title Page

Death by Boredom - Line Up

Click here to check it out. Have fun with it. And if you know someone who has an upcoming presentation, feel free to pass this along to them. See if they can identify any presentation elements they’d like to bring into their own presentations… and any elements they’d like to do away with.

Clubbin’ with HR

Clubbin with HR

Imagine you’re standing in the rope line, waiting for a while but still excited about the prospects of getting in to a club so exclusive that few of your friends and classmates have ever been able to get in. Then the moment arrives. The bouncer points his finger at you. “Come with me,” he says, plucking you out of the line, escorting you past a bunch of other people and into the club.

The music is thumping. A few heads turn to look at you. One or two even say “hello”. Most ignore you. Should you go to the bar and order a drink? Hit the dance floor? Find a table? Decisions, decisions.

At the bar you try your smoothest move to get the bar tender’s attention, but he ignores you. The patrons around you laugh. “You’re not doing it right,” says another club goer, then walks away.

Maybe the dance floor will be a better place to start.

You quickly realize that the type of dancing – while it seems to be working for the folks on the dance floor – is like no dance you’ve ever seen. You give it a whirl, but your moves turn out more like Elaine’s spazz dance from Seinfeld. Being out of sync with everyone else means you’re stepping on toes and knocking people’s drinks out of their hands all night.

It’s not fun. But you come back the next night. And every night for months.

Eventually you start to get the hang of it, though it would have been nice if someone had taught you the secret to ordering drinks on that first night. It would have been much less embarrassing and much more fun for everyone if someone had practiced a few of this club’s proprietary dance steps with you from the beginning.

This scenario plays out every day in companies across the country and around the world. Your organization is a bit like an exclusive club. You carefully craft your recruitment and hiring process. You spend countless hours interviewing and meeting to decide which candidate to pull out of the “rope line” and invite into your club.

And then what?

The big questions that too many organizations don’t answer adequately are:

  • How do we effectively orient new employees to the organization during the first days and weeks?
  • How do we effectively integrate new employees into their roles and the organization’s culture over their first weeks and months?

Seriously, click the link below and download this book

Michelle Baker of Phase(Two)Learning helps HR professionals and hiring managers answer these questions with a new ebook entitled: Onboarding Tools for Hiring Managers: Tips, Tools & Rules to Set Your New Employees Up for Success. If you’re a hiring manager or responsible for the onboarding of new staff, I strongly recommend taking a look at this short book for two reasons:

  1. It helps answer the above questions in a short, succinct and easy-to-digest format, and
  2. It provides space for you to reflect on key points and to identify where your orientation and onboarding processes may have holes.

Onboarding Tools for Hiring Managers: Tips, Tools & Rules to Set Your New Employees Up for Success is part book, part workbook and (for the time being) completely free. So there’s nothing to lose.

If you want to squeeze every last bit of value out of your employees, then you need to begin on Day 1 with high quality, engaging and meaningful orientation and onboarding processes.

Have you found an orientation or onboarding strategy that’s particularly meaningful? I’d love to hear about it in the comments section below.

Know someone responsible for orientation or onboarding? Pass this link along!

This training could save you from a $1.875 million lawsuit!

Would you like to be on the losing end of a lawsuit that cost your employer $1.875 million because you were too buddy-buddy with your hourly, non-exempt staff?

Personally, I would not like to be the cause for a multi-million dollar court award against my employer. And I would hang on every last word a trainer says in order to prevent being put in a position to lose a court decision like that.

Last week I had an opportunity to attend a manager training which was led by an employment attorney. By the end of the three-hour training, she had clicked through 152 slides and somehow she covered FIVE HUNDRED AND THIRTY SEVEN BULLET POINTS during this session. She was efficient with the pace by which she blitzed through her material. Mind-numbingly boring… but efficient.

Yet for some reason she didn’t attempt to open our eyes to the real-world, real-money consequences of our actions as managers until she was two hours (and 148 slides) into her presentation.

Everything Wrong with Corporate Training

This 3-hour session represents everything that’s wrong with corporate training:

  • 17 managers invest a combined 51 work hours of their time in attending this session.
  • The outside expert (in this case an employment attorney) is given a pre-packaged, non-customized slide deck to run through.
  • She adds a few stories from the trenches to illustrate her points (537 bullet points to be exact) and she encourages people to ask questions so that the training can be “interactive”.
  • And people walk away entertained by the stories, thinking the presenter was good and nobody will ever know whether any of the 17 managers in attendance can do things better or differently as a result of the 51 combined hours they invested in this session.

The managers were never asked to demonstrate proficiency in a single skill that could avoid a $1.875 million lawsuit. The managers weren’t given an opportunity to test their skills at identifying what unintentional discrimination in the workplace might look like. The managers were never challenged to describe what “appropriate documentation” might include.

Fixing Corporate Training Isn’t Really That Hard

Following the training, I was speaking with another manager who had attended the session and he said how surprised he was that the speaker didn’t even ask us whether we did certain things during recruitment, interview or regular supervision activities that might get us into legal trouble.

Just ask a question

One of the simplest ways for a presenter to customize a session, even if it’s on the fly and in the moment, is to ask questions of the audience. Give us a pop quiz. Or just ask to see a show of hands and start a sentence with: “How many of you…”

Discuss a brief case study

I’m sure that employment attorneys have seen many, many cases that involve “grey areas” – actions in which one side could claim discrimination and the other side could claim that they were treating each employee fairly and equitably. Another simple way to engage the group and check to see if they’re “getting it” is to show a few case studies and ask the managers what they would do in certain situations.

Show a video

Similar to the case study idea, simply showing the group a video or two and asking what the managers identify as appropriate or inappropriate management strategies is yet another way to see if the group is “getting it.”

Mock Trial

Finally, if you really want to scare the heck out of the managers (and the executive staff), or perhaps better said, if you really want everyone in the organization to take this topic seriously, it would be fun to present the managers with some information and then ask them to demonstrate how they’d handle the scenario. Once they complete their demonstration, the attorney/facilitator could either say:

  • Congratulations, you handled that well! Or,
  • Bummer. Your organization now owes that employee $1.875 million

Have any ideas that are different from what’s described above in order to fix corporate training? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Know someone in a position to fix corporate training? Pass this blog post along!

Interested in reading more of my observations, musings and thoughts on learning and development? Hit the FOLLOW button at the top of the screen.

5 things pink eye and training have in common

Last week I spent an afternoon at home with my 3-year-old. He couldn’t go to school because he had come down with pink eye. As we found ways to keep ourselves busy, I couldn’t help but to think that pink eye and training have a lot in common. Here are five ways:

1) Nobody wants to be diagnosed with it

For many people, being told you have pink eye might even be preferable to being told it’s time for annual compliance training (or time to fulfill CME or CLE or other professional education credits).

2) It won’t get better unless you do something about it

Pink eye requires quarantining the patient and applying medicine. Presentation skills require continual attention and care and development and rehearsing and trying new things in order to get better.

3) Bad habits just make it worse

Rubbing and scratching an infected eye only leads to a longer recovery time. Not washing hands regularly can even help spread the infection to others. Along similar lines, bad habits such as developing presenter-centered (as opposed to learner-centered) training, the propensity to just “wing it” (as opposed to preparing and rehearsing) and hastily thrown together slide decks will lead to boring presentations. It’s been my experience that organizations that tolerate boring presentations allow poor presentation skills to infect entire workforces.

4) A little lava makes everything better

When my son and I went to the local park and ran around, we of course spent time imagining the wood chips at the bottom of the slide was a lava field (don’t touch the ground or your feet will burn up!). Having some time to get out of the house and play just seemed to raise his spirits. Similarly, presenters that can incorporate a sense of play into their training sessions seem to more effectively engage their audiences.

5) Follow-up is essential

In order for pink eye to go away, you can’t just use the eye drops one time. They need consistent, regular application (every six hours!). Training is the same way. It can’t simply be a one-time thing. It requires consistent and regular reinforcement.

Interested in other parallels between parenting and training? You may enjoy these other posts:

Know someone else who might appreciate the parallels between family life and learning and development? Please pass this link along!

Interested in a steady stream of tips, techniques, strategies and insights on the topic of learning and development. Click the FOLLOW button at the top of this page.