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 takeaways. 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 takeaways 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 with me. This training was ultra-engaging. And yet my colleague and I left without being able to do something new or differently or better.

Try our list of instructor-led training activities that are both engaging and effective.

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 takeaways 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 takeaways 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.

 

6 Reasons Your Presentation is no TED Talk

What is a TED Talk?

TED Talks are all the rage these days. They’re amazing 5- or 10- or 20-minute presentations delivered by thought leaders from around the globe in an effort to give “ideas worth sharing” a platform to ignite the world on fire.

Recently I published a list of Amazon’s top 40 books on presentation skills and 10% of the books were how-to guides on turning your next presentation into a TED Talk.

TED Talks have given renewed vigor to the argument that we can “just tell” an audience what they need to know. Why not lecture? After all, TED Talks are generally given before large audiences in auditoriums where interaction isn’t possible.

In fact, here are three TED Talks you could use to inspire the design of your next presentation.

What Can You Do to Be More Like a TED Talk?

Here are six reasons why your next presentation will not be TED-caliber and what you can do about it.

What is a TED Talk?

1. Amateur slide design

The minute you flash a slide like this, your aspirations of giving a TED-style presentation have gone down the drain. Even if your goal isn’t TED-caliber, poor slide design can ruin your message. Click here for some ideas on how to spruce up that design.

2. You think everything about your topic is important

When everything you have to say is “important” then nothing is a priority. TED speakers understand that they’re not going to create an audience of experts in 20 minutes. They are ruthless in their prioritization of what gets air time during their presentation. Click here for some ideas on how to be ruthless in prioritizing the content for your next presentation.

3. You think your content is boring

I’ve been surprised by how many times I’ve worked with a subject matter expert who has told me: “look, my area of expertise is boring, there’s no way to make it exciting, people just need to know this information and go forth and do what I say.” If you think your topic or area of expertise is boring, why in the world would anyone else pay attention, let alone be ignited to want to do something with your information?

4. You don’t want to be in front of the audience

That public speaking causes people great anxiety is no secret. Of course, if someone asks you to speak, then there’s something about you and your message that nobody else can offer to your audience. Embrace it! Relish it! Find a way to get others as passionate as you are about your topic. If you’re just going to go through the motions of a presentation, it’ll be an icky experience for you and your audience.

5. You make no effort to connect with your audience

Perhaps the single biggest problem I see when I review presentation plans is that people tend to launch straight in to their content, assuming their audience knows about it, cares about it and/or is interested in it. Click here to watch Jane McGonigal tease her audience’s interest by promising them longer lives if they simply follow the steps in her presentation. Click here for some additional ideas on how to connect with your audience.

6. You “just do it”

Nike’s message isn’t necessarily for presenters. TED speakers do not simply throw a presentation together on the airplane en route to their conference, then get up and put on a magical display of amazing slide design, smooth delivery and inspiring message. They spend countless hours designing what they want to say and how they want to say it. Then they rehearse. Then they tweek their presentation and rehearse it again until it comes out exactly how they want. Rehearsal helps hone your message, perfect your delivery and perhaps most importantly, lower your level of anxiety.

Whether you call it “lecture” or “didactic delivery” or a “presentation”, TED Talks have demonstrated that speakers can be incredibly engaging by “just talking.” However, if you find that one or more of the items in the above list are true for you, then you may not have a TED-caliber presentation on your hand. Effective lecture (or didactic delivery or presentation) requires a lot of work.

If you truly want to capture your audience’s imagination and inspire them to do something new or differently or better, it may actually be easier for you to bring some adult learning principles and interactivity into your next presentation.

Do You Give Your Audience Too Much Of A Good Thing?

On Saturday, we stopped for ice cream on the way home from a family hike. This is what they brought my son:

Too Much Of A Good Thing

I’m sure the person in the kitchen thought she was doing her customer a favor. Who doesn’t want a LOT of ice cream, topped by even more whipped cream, when they order a treat? I’m sure she was thinking: I want to make sure my customer is getting his money’s worth!

Do you ever feel the need to do this with your audience? You only have 15 or 30 minutes and your topic is really important, so you’re going to be sure your audience gets its money’s worth. You’re going to load your presentation full of facts and figures – all stuff that you obviously feel is both essential and interesting – to make sure your audience leaves full and satisfied.

What’s that, someone suggests? Cut down on some of your content and identify the one or two most important points? Ha! That’s insanity. It’s ALL important.

The problem with this line of thought is that if it’s all important, then nothing is truly a priority. Look at that ice cream cone in the picture. My son stopped after a couple of minutes because it was too overwhelming to him. He certainly tried, but after a while it didn’t even taste good to him. In fact, it took three family members to put that ice cream cone down.

When it comes to presentation design, it’s essential to separate the “must have” information from the “nice to have” information. As Shannon Tipton has written in her excellent Learning Rebels blog, “people don’t need to know how to build a watch in order to tell time.”

The next time you’re getting ready for a presentation, make sure you identify the #1 essential thing that people need to know when they walk out the door. Putting too much content into your next presentation because you find the topic interesting can be intimidating and overwhelming to your audience. And they may decide that your presentation isn’t worth the calories.

 

 

The Only Thing Missing from Your Next Presentation

Last weekend, my son had a birthday party. He invited a bunch of friends from his pre-school. One child’s mother apologized for not being able to bring a gift. She had just replaced the engine on her car. The fact she brought her son was the perfect gift for us, after all he is one of our son’s best friends.

When she arrived, she insisted on emptying out her wallet and giving our son everything she had left. Two dollars.

What would have happened if I had told her “no, don’t do that”? Kind of a dick move, right?

I walk into too many presentations – whether in training sessions or simply in staff meetings – and I’ll see a bunch of smart people who are willing to contribute their thoughts or talents or expertise. And I see too many presenters who – intentionally or unintentionally – say: “No, don’t do that.”

Are you offering an opportunity for your audience to share their thoughts, their experiences, their talents, their gifts with everyone else? I’m not just talking about leaving five minutes at the end to ask if anyone has any questions or comments. I’m not talking about bribing participants with chocolate or prizes to contribute their thoughts. I’m talking about intentional design that invites participation and quality contributions.

A number of years ago, I was kicking off a training and we were establishing ground rules and one person offered the following ground rule: “The only thing that’s missing from this training is what I don’t bring.” His point being: if you have a thought or a question or an answer to someone else’s question and you don’t share it with the group, then we’re all missing out.

Without intentionally designing opportunities for participation and engagement from your audience, you may as well tell them: “No, don’t do that.”

Need some ideas on how to engage your audience? Try these posts:

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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.

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!

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4 Ways Learning Was Made More Exciting and Engaging This Week

Over the next two weeks, my team will deliver approximately 59 presentations. Instead of just churning out boring presentation after boring presentation, my colleagues have come up with some creative ways to keep their learners engaged. Here are four highlights that have emerged from our preparations.

Pop Quiz!

One colleague has been asked to give a series of lectures. Yes, lectures. Those are the cards we’ve been dealt: a series of lectures. His sessions will be in a lecture hall. The agenda says: “Lectures”. So he has to lecture. But it doesn’t mean he has to drone on and bore the audience.

While he won’t have an opportunity to break the audience into small groups or to have them engage in discussion, he has decided to conduct a pop quiz. As he begins his presentation, he’ll be asking the audience to jot down their answers to a series of questions. As his presentation unfolds, they’ll have to remain tuned into his lecture in order to find out if they were right or wrong.

Not Just Fun and Games

Most of our upcoming meetings are not dedicated lectures. When it comes including game elements into the instructional design, there are two presentations that fall into this category.

Mission Possible

02202014 - Mission Possible

One colleague will be attempting to re-energize the audience when it comes to using our Learning Management System (LMS). In an effort to encourage meeting participants to discover the library of resources available through the LMS, this colleague has created a short elearning program challenging participants to collect pieces of a road map. In small groups, participants will work their way through this mission, sampling LMS-based courses in the process.

An Alternative to the Same Old “Action Plan” Activity

02202014_-_Game_Board

02202014_-_Game_Piece

Action planning is an essential element for trainers attempting to make sure that the learning goes beyond the training room and makes its way back to the office. Instead of giving participants 5 or 10 minutes at the end of the workshop to fill out an action plan form, I’ve designed a board game that forces participants to think about how my content can be used in their own situations in order to advance toward the finish line. Who wouldn’t want to play a game in which they can compete against other participants (and themselves), they have to work together to complete a quest and, while they’re at it, they jot down reflections on how the content can be applied back home?

The Crystal Ball

Each year, our organization spends some time announcing our plans and new initiatives for the upcoming twelve months, to our meeting attendees. This year, two colleagues reached deep into the right hemispheres of their brains and came up with an idea that meets the excitement and intrigue and mystery of how to announce new initiatives and projects: they will ask a co-worker to dress up as a fortune teller and ask meeting attendees to draw “tarrot cards” to reveal each new initiative. Props. Costumes. Silliness. Informative. And attention-grabbing.

If any of these have elements that seem like they would make your own presentations more interesting, please steal them.

If you know someone who might be able to derive some inspiration from these ideas, pass this link along.

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The Truth About Multi-tasking (spoiler alert: it’s a myth)

“Look, I’m an adult. I’m responsible. I can do two things at once. When I check my email, I’m not being disrespectful toward you. I’m capable of listening to you while I respond to emails I’m receiving on my phone. We’re all grown-ups in this room, I don’t think we need rules about our behavior like we’re in kindergarten.”

A colleague shared these thoughts with our organization while I was leading the opening session of an all-staff meeting several years ago. We were establishing ground rules for the remainder of the day as well as for future all-staff meetings. Several heads nodded.

“Shall I remove ‘No cell phones’ from the list of agreed-upon group norms?” I asked the group.

Several nodded. Most stared at me to see if I had a counter point. I didn’t. All I could do was cross “No cell phones” off the group agreements chart.

I thought of this interaction recently when I read John Medina’s Brain Rules. According to the research cited in his book, the idea of literally multi-tasking – trying to do two things (such as reading email and listening to someone talk) at the same time – is a myth. Someone who is interrupted takes 50% longer to complete a task and makes up to 50% more mistakes. This is why talking and/or texting and driving is such a dangerous proposition. It’s also why the idea that someone can compose an email and absorb your presentation is a losing proposition.

It’s not a matter of “being an adult.” It’s not a matter of “being able to do two things at once.” It’s science.

What’s a Presenter to Do?

You can certainly try to “legislate” behavior through ground rules and setting expectations that everyone agrees to at the beginning of a session. You’ll probably find more success (and everyone will be happier) when you don’t offer the audience an incentive to check their email in the first place.

The more lecture and talking at the group, the most incentive people have to pull out their iPhones to see what’s happening back in their office (or tweet about how they’re bored to tears from your presentation).

The more opportunities the audience has for engagement – individual reflections to a question posed by the presenter, small group discussions, brainstorming, simulations, demonstrations – the less desire to multi-task. In fact, putting people into small groups to discuss or problem solve or create something – a setting in which everyone’s participation is important – makes it darn right rude of them to pull out their smart phone to check their email.

And You?

What do you do to prevent “multi-tasking” from happening during your presentation?

Looking for some ideas to engage your audience, try these posts:

Know someone who still believes in multi-tasking? Pass this along.

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