My favorite professional development experience, ever, was…

Antioch - Listening with Humor

Good professional development moments make us smile. Or make us smack our heads and say “ah-ha!” The best ones inspire us to do something new or differently or better.

When we’re delivering training, the best moments might come when we see the light come on in someone’s brain, when someone smacks their own head and says “ah-ha!” Or maybe the best moment comes two weeks later when you walk by someone who was in your training session and you see them using the skills you trained them on.

Back in January, I shared a handful of my favorite training experiences.

Today, I’m traveling in and around the DC-area in order to deliver several presentations, so I’d like to ask a favor and get some help with today’s blog post.

It’s time to make this blog a truly social experience.

If you have two minutes (maybe you’re reading this on your bus ride in to work, or perhaps you’re reading this during some boring meeting that got stuck on your calendar), go to the comment section and do one or both of the following:

  1. Write about your favorite training experience.
  2. Respond to someone else’s comment (assuming anyone writes a comment) if it resonates with you.

You can write it in 10 words. You can write it in 10 sentences. Be as pithy or wordy as you’d like.

If you know someone else who you think has a good moment to share, pass this post along via email or Twitter or LinkedIn. The more comments, the merrier!

I promise to be back on Thursday with more insights and ideas and maybe even a tip or two for you to use. For today, however, why not learn from one another?


18 thoughts on “My favorite professional development experience, ever, was…

  1. I recently watched my first instructor led training course in action in a pilot (in October… I guess it’s not that recent??) and my favorite form of feedback was hearing that they really felt like they could talk about anything and not be judged. Knowing that they had a comfortable space to talk was great, especially since it is otherwise a pretty high pressure environment.

    Now the course has launched, and I have one of the participants of the launched course sitting next to me right now helping in the creation of another, similar course in the same series talking about how he especially liked certain aspects of the course that the SMEs feel unsure about. Feels good!

    • Rachel! I was just in DC earlier this week… sorry I didn’t get a chance to hear this in person!!

      That’s such a great experience – not only did people appreciate the content, but also the environment you helped to design and to create… AND you have an opportunity to build something similar with a graduate of the course.

      Thanks for sharing!

  2. I used to lead experiential learning activities related to hunger and poverty for school groups, and my favorite moments were when the students recognized the sameness they had with other kids from around the world rather than differences. It was also awesome to hear kids recognize their own power to make a difference in the world during the debrief sessions – And then to receive letters a year or more later about something cool they had done to help others.

    My own personal favorite training experience is when I was in a TOT class that I had led/observed several times, and there was a video segment on creativity that was shown during the course that I never quite got. There were musicians, painters, and a rock climber all talking about how creativity factored into what they were doing and how it allowed them to be successful. I just didn’t get it because I wasn’t a musician, a painter, or a rock climber – I couldn’t relate. Well for whatever reason on this particular day when the rock climber said “you can’t get to the top of El Capitan with two feet on the ground” – BOOM it hit me. It was about commitment. I was at a weird juncture in my life where I wasn’t where I wanted to be and not willing to fully commit to something else – I had one foot on the ground. Since that day, commitment is key for me. I go all in with two feet with most endeavors now and if I can’t commit with both feet, I don’t commit at all – which in itself is a commitment. It has impacted how I navigate through life.

    • Wow Holly! I always preach that an effective presentation may not change THE world (overnight, anyways), but it will change SOMEONE’S world. Sounds like that TOT changed your world.

      As for the experiential learning activity, it makes such a difference when a facilitator designs a program for people to be able to connect – whether for school groups or at a business conference. Thanks for sharing!!!

  3. One of my first PD workshops was Bob Pike’s ‘Creative Training Techniques’. During the workshop participants created feedback sheets, as directed, for each participant. It was done gallery-walk style. When I read what my colleagues wrote, I was overcome with emotion. They knew me a day and a half … amazing and wrote such meaningful things. Kept that sheet on my bedroom door for ages.
    A second experience give me insight into how to better interact with family. Another ah-ha moment as the light bulb flashed that I was handling conversations all wrong! The workshop also gave me tools to turn my behavior around. I use them to this day and that was 14 years ago.

    • Thanks for the reminder about the feedback sheets! I am a BPG trainer and that is one of the activities that have fallen by the way side! But I will resuscitate it now! Everyone needs to know they are valued!

  4. After 30+ years in this field, there are so many A-HA moments. But is is rarely when I think I have done a fabulous job. Rather, it is when a participant shares a new idea that I had never fought of and everyone agrees. It validates them and it validates my mantra that “the brain that is doing the talking is the brain that is doing the learning”!

  5. I love it when participants take an idea and run with it. For the closing exercise of a Presentations Excellence class, a student delivered his final presentation on how to cut down a tree safely. After a somewhat straight-forward presentation, he used interpretive dance for his closing. He involved two other students: one to play the Didgeridoo (that was another presentation), and another to “rap” the narration of the “dance.” Totally unexpected, self-deprecating, and hilarious! My laughing is the main thing you hear on the video.

  6. I’m in a carpool so here’s what my carpooler, a teacher, said: “I went to a training that had us make a spreadsheet of our students, and spend 15 minutes starring the student with whom I’ve voluntarily made a personal connection. The ones that weren’t starred–turned into my focus for the next few weeks to get to know through informal conversations.” I can see this as being helpful in making sure I know my audience before going into developing a training.

    My own favorite professional development experience was over lunch when the motivational speaker talked about novelty in our lives and stepping out of our professional development comfort zone. I appreciated the challenges that were set forth on how to incorporate novelty every day and connecting it to what the resulting impact may have on my personal and professional life.

    • Wow Amanda, you shared a bonus experience in addition to your own. Having been in the classroom prior to a corporate training setting, the comment from your fellow carpooler really resonates.

      I love that your own experience came over lunch.

  7. So many good training moments, but one of my all time favorites was during a group activity.This class had been trained months before by a supervisor, but just weren’t grasping the concepts. It was highly technical and not an area I had ever trained nor knew much about. I had prepared a group activity with case studies that were difficult but humorous. One specific group was laughing yet progressing well and as I circled the room to listen in more one student had taken to the dry erase board and was calmly explaining the methods to find the solutions. She had the biggest grin (and wasn’t one to smile easily). Proud and thrilled the concepts were coming together, I approached her and asked if she was interested in training as a career. She was intrigued and became my TA almost overnight. Now a fabulous instructional designer who I go to for ideas and help, she has been my favorite training experience. Finding someone who never thought about a career like this and helping her develop and grow. She’s a successful instructor and instructional designer who has a passion like I do.

    Those Ah-ha moments are what I love about training, but finding someone who loves the job like you do and excels at it is amazing.

  8. I have always been an unconventional (insert L&D role here), so I wasn’t sure how my style would fare with employees at my new ‘death by Power Point’ company. Six months in, corporate university is under construction. During my meetings, participants were shocked at the notion of actually breaking into groups and that someone OTHER than the instructor could write on a flip chart. The moment of glory (and when I knew my style would set the tone going forward) was when the CFO participated in an activity which required him to do role play while wearing a sock puppet. He said “This is different… this is FUN!” Now, three years later, different is what employees expect!

    • Making changes to an entrenched culture of how things have traditionally been done is tough (and can be scary)… Finding a champion at the C-level is definitely a success story… As is the fact that 3 years later you’ve moved the needle on expectations! Thanks for sharing!

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