Bad Warning Labels

signs-1750783_1920

I was looking at a warning label recently that said “Do not iron while wearing shirt”. Warnings like this make me think either someone has indeed attempted to iron their shirt while wearing it, or the team making this warning label was concerned that someone may forget a very basic rule of operating an iron.  Admittedly, I rarely iron.  Maybe when you iron frequently, you become complacent about setting up the proper equipment, and save time by ironing after you put on your shirt. Continue reading

“Mr. Lecturer, tear down this wall!”

Berlin Wall

When Communism ended in 1989 with the fall of the Berlin Wall (yes, I know that the Soviet Union didn’t break up until 1991 and technically China still considers itself “Communist”, but really, everything seemed to end when the Wall fell), it seemed like the last great struggle left in the world was going to be the battle against bad, boring, wasteful learning experiences.

Of course, the Berlin Wall didn’t just come tumbling down one fall day in 1989. People may have wanted it to just go away, but it was a long process that included a series of events – some big, some small, and some so subtle they barely registered.

In our struggle against bad, boring, wasteful learning experiences, we’d do well to keep this in mind. Continue reading

PollEverywhere is great for audience interaction, but…

Last Tuesday I was invited to give a keynote speech and I resolved to make sure it would be memorable. Not memorable as in outrageous or as in a wardrobe malfunction, but rather memorable as in information people would want to remember so that they could apply it as soon as they returned home.

 

My talk was on presentation skills and the “stickiness factor”, and to make sure it would be relevant I spent considerable time talking with and emailing back and forth with the event organizer to learn about the audience.

She encouraged me to use PollEverywhere with her audience and I jumped at the chance. While engaging the audience by polling them and asking them to respond via SMS messaging is a great concept, there are a few things to keep in mind before taking this technology in front of a live audience.  Continue reading

I’m Starting To Think Conference Organizers Are Committing Malpractice If They Don’t Use This…

It was the first general session of the conference. 1pm. Just after lunch. The session was well-designed and engaging. The facilitator was dynamic and seemed to have the attention of all 250 attendees in the large ballroom. He started asking people in the crowd to shout out answers and he captured them on flipchart. This is what it looked like:

PollEverywhere Exhibit A

I was sitting in the second row when I snapped this picture. One problem was that I could barely read what was being captured. The other problem was that when the facilitator threw a question out to 250 people in the audience, only one or two brave souls dared to answer.

I’ve grown more convinced that conference organizers should be encouraging and offering PollEverywhere to any facilitator who wants to engage the audience. How can PollEverywhere transform the audience’s experience? Here are three ways:

1. The audience is going to use their cell phones during a session anyway, why not have them use their cell phones to engage with your presentation (as opposed to checking email or posting a snarky tweet with the hashtag #imsooooooooooooobored)?

2. It’s safer than shouting out an answer in front of everyone. PollEverywhere allows presenters to poll their audience with a set of multiple choice questions. It also allows presenters to ask open-ended questions.

3. The audience gets their thoughts displayed “in lights.” Every audience member has an opportunity to take part in creating content during the session if they’re given an opportunity to answer a question and have their answer displayed on a projection screen.

Know someone who has a conference presentation coming up? Pass this along!

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

Interaction

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.

 

 

5 Ways Presenters Can Share The Love With Their Audiences

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?

Why I Still Teach Learning Styles

Wow, do people get fired up about learning styles or what? In 2009, a now famous study de-bunked the “science” behind the idea that different learners would benefit by having access to materials customized to their specific learning styles.

Recently, Will Thalheimer upped the ante for his “Learning Styles Challenge” to $5,000 for anyone who can scientifically prove the value of learning style theory.

I respect science. If scientific studies have been conducted that say we don’t need to customize our training courses to offer only verbal information to auditory learners, only written information for visual learners and only movement-based information for kinesthetic learners, then let’s not create all those individualized materials.

But I’ve never, ever heard of anyone spending any extra time customizing three sets of materials for their learners, depending on their learning style.

I have, however, heard of presenters who lecture and talk at their audience for their entire presentation.

I have sat through training sessions in which trainers tell us the theory behind their topic, without allowing anyone to de-brief the ideas that were shared.

I have sat through many a sermon and homily on Sunday morning when, in the absence of any visual cues or movement, I simply zone out and begin thinking about what I’m going to have for lunch.

Incorporating design elements that include auditory, visual and kinesthetic activities into a presentation or training module is simply good teaching. It’s simply a way to engage learners, to get them involved, to make them feel a part of the presentation and to capture their imagination. Therefore, it’s something I continue to teach in my train-the-trainer sessions.