Two Words of Advice for Anyone who Designs Software Training

Computer Training

Over the past few years, I’ve been asked to help design a variety of training programs during the implementation of new software products and computer systems.

It boggles the mind how complicated software vendors have tried to make their user adoption training. Here are two words of advice for anyone who works for a company that is tasked with training clients on their software: Continue reading

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.

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9 Trends in Presentation Skills (And Most of Them Aren’t Good!)

A week ago, Litmos’ Brent Schlenker used Google Trends to ask: “Why is instructional design trending downward… since 2004?

Instructional Design

According to the Centre for Learning & Performance Technologies’ Top 100 Tools for Learning, Google Search was ranked as the #5 tool used around the world for learning in 2014. It seems like Google search trends should offer some insights as to what’s important to people when it comes to subjects they want to know more about.

I’m always curious to know what’s on the mind of “part-time trainers” – people who may not have “training” in their title or much background in learning and development but who are asked to deliver presentations. This weekend I spent some time sifting through Google trends on terms focused on what I think would lead to more effective presentations.

Most of the trends are pointing downward, which was a bit of a letdown for me. I figured, why not begin with the term “effective presentations“? Here’s what I found:

Effective Presentations

I figured that perhaps people had heard that adult learning principles would be important for their presentations and would want to learn more…

Adult Learning

Hmmm, maybe people were growing a little less formal and a little more hip in their search terms, so I tried “killer presentations“:…

Killer Presentations

Ok, maybe not (apparently I’m the only person who used that term late last year!).

None of these trends seemed very positive, so I held my breath and sat at the edge of my seat, worrying that people may be searching for the wrong things such as the de-bunked idea of learning styles

Learning Styles

Whew! It was encouraging, at the very least, that people were searching less and less for “learning styles”.

Perhaps, based on Google trends, people were savvier than I gave them credit for and were looking for ways to improve their results. So I searched “training evaluation“…

Training Evaluation

None of these trends seemed to be pointing in the right direction. Based on my experience working with SMEs, they’ll often begin mapping out their presentation using PowerPoint. Maybe there’s been an increase in searches for better PowerPoint design

PPT Design

Not really. Prezi has been trendy over the past few years, maybe that’s what people are interested in, so I searched trends for “how to use prezi“, and this was one of the only growth trends I found…

How to use PreziDespite the upward trend with Prezi searches, this exercise led me to grow quite cynical about just what mattered to folks who were searching for ways to improve their presentation skills. Then it dawned on me, perhaps people were intentionally creating worse and worse presentations! Maybe they were searching for ways to make their presentations terrible. I checked the trend for the phrase: “how to bore people” and this is what I found…

How to Bore People

Ok, maybe people weren’t waking up, looking in the mirror, and wondering how they could bore people with their next presentation. So, that’s good.

One last trend I decided to search for was whether more people were simply looking for help to organize their thoughts, so I tried “training plan template“…

Training Plan Template

That was a fun trend to see, especially because it’s one of the more popular search terms that will land folks on this blog (this post from 2013 on lesson plan templates remains one of the most popular posts on this blog).

I’m curious about your thoughts. If Google Search is such a powerful performance support tool to help people do their jobs better, what terms did I miss in my Google Trends analysis that you think people should care about when they begin mapping out a presentation?

 

 

 

Presentation Lessons from A Small Town 4th of July Celebration

I spent the Fourth of July on Bainbridge Island, which is a short ferry ride away from Seattle. They do a great job of putting together an event that an entire community can enjoy: a 5k run, kids activities, booths with food and crafts and political parties giving out bumper stickers and funnel cakes (not sure these fall into the “food” category, but they are sooooo good), and of course a parade.

Looking around this year, I noticed some things that really seemed to get people engaged in the activities. Not just attending, but truly engaged! And when I see people who are riveted by what they’re seeing, I begin searching for transferable lessons that can be applied to the presentation world.

Here are three transferable lessons from the 4th of July to which every presenter should take note:

1. From a Punch & Judy Puppet Show: The children’s entertainment this year (a puppet show) was surprisingly entertaining. And the entire crowd – kids and parents alike – was into it. Perhaps they were captivated by the terrible, fake English accent of the puppeteer, but I think it had more to do with the fact that every couple of minutes, the puppets would ask the audience a question. And the audience shouted the answer back, waiting on the edge of their lawn blankets for the next time they’d be asked to participate. Transferrable Lesson: People of every age love to have an opportunity to participate.

 

2. From the Dunking Booth: Judging by the size of the line – both of participants and spectators – one of the most popular activities was the dunking booth. People paid a couple bucks to throw three baseballs at a target in hopes of dunking somebody in water. And people happily parted with their money in order to try to dunk someone in water. Sometimes when they missed the target on all three of their throws, they’d plunk down a few more bucks to have another opportunity to “win” (hit the target and dunk someone). Transferrable Lesson: People love to play. Find an opportunity for them to play with your content.

3. From the 4th of July Parade: Kids love a parade because they have an opportunity to perform a death-defying scramble onto the parade route, narrowly missing disaster from an oncoming fire truck for a chance to grab a jolly rancher that was thrown by the town’s Citizen of the Year. Adults, well, they may not love the parades so much. Looking around, most adults we chatting with one another, or scooping up their children before their scramble for candy screws up the marching band’s rendition of Louie Louie. Until the Shakespearean actors came marching down the parade route. And one actor shouted: “TO BE OR NOT TO BE…” and then he paused and gestured for the crowd to join him. And everyone yelled in response: “THAT IS THE QUESTION!” I don’t remember how many bands or emergency vehicles or community organizations I saw. But I remember the Shakespearean group. Transferrable Lesson: Give the audience an opportunity to participate. It keeps them awake. And they’ll remember it.

25 Ideas for Engagement in your Next Presentation

In the whole history of the world, there has never been a presenter who has been able to see whether his or her audience knows something, understands something or recognizes something. A piece of friendly advice as you begin mapping out the goal(s) for your next presentation: don’t go into your next presentation wanting your audience to know or understand or recognize something. You’ll never be able to see if you’ve accomplished your goal. It will be very unfulfilling for you.

Of course, you will be able to observe if your audience can describe something. Or create something. Or demonstrate something. Or compare and contrast various somethings. And when you give your audience an opportunity to describe or create or demonstrate or compare and contrast, they not only have to pay attention to what you’re saying, but they have to use what you’re saying to them. Which is an essential component to your audience being able to remember what you’ve said because, as the saying goes, if they don’t use what you’ve said or taught them, they’ll lose it.

Following are 25 suggestions on how to engage your audience. It’s influenced by Bloom’s Taxonomy, but I’ll save you all the technical teacher jargon and I’ll cut right to the ideas and activities that I hope you’ll find useful. I’ve broken this list into two categories: ideas to engage groups in shorter presentations (30 minutes or less) and ideas for longer presentations (an hour or more). I offer this breakdown because I’ve seen many facilitators (and I count myself among them) who routinely try to jam too many things into shorter presentations.

For shorter presentations, allow time for your attendees to:

List

Describe

Discuss

Write

Brainstorm

Ask questions about

Summarize

Restate

Draw

Opine about

Compare/contrast

Explain how the information you shared will impact their job

For longer presentations, challenge your attendees to:

Create

Design

Build

Develop

Evaluate

Provide peer feedback

Role play

Coach

Write a case study

Solve a problem (preferably a real-life problem)

Demonstrate

Play (who doesn’t like a good training board game or card game that aligns with the topic?)

Debate

What’s missing from these lists? Is there something you tend to do in order to engage your audience and ensure they “get it”? Add your thoughts to the comments section below.

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8 Ways to Involve Your Audience

Why would you not involve the audience in your presentation? Regardless of whether you’re presenting to a few colleagues in a small conference room or whether you’re presenting to thousands of people in a large ballroom, here are eight ways you can engage and involve your audience:

Ask Them A Question

Questions pique the audience’s curiosity. Sometimes questions help the audience to forge a personal connection to your content. Sometimes it’s more fun to ask a question that the audience will only be able to answer if they pay close attention to what you have to share with them throughout your presentation.

Make Them A Promise

Within the first 30 seconds of her TED Talk, Jane McGonigal promises to increase her audience’s life span through the content of her presentation. What kind of promise can you make about your content, hot shot?

Unravel A Mystery

Did you ever see the movie Memento? It’s about a guy who has lost his short-term memory. As you watch the movie, you’re just sitting in your seat in the theater, but you’re trying just as hard as the main character to figure out what’s going on. Some of the best presentations I’ve seen employ this same storytelling technique – beginning by sharing a major challenge or problem, then revealing the solution, piece by piece.

Small Group Discussion

The larger the audience, the easier it is for individual audience members to mentally check out (through emails, texting, checking Facebook or simply daydreaming). Break people up into a small group for a short discussion and it’s a lot more difficult to “check out” (plus, it’s kind of rude to check your Facebook account on your smart phone as two or three other people are trying to have a discussion with you).

Messy Start

This is one of my favorite ways to start a presentation. It involves the audience from the very beginning of the presentation. Curious to know more about this strategy? Unravel this mysterious presentation technique by reading a prior blog post entitled: Training Tip: The Messy Start.

Role Play

I can’t think of a better way to reinforce soft skills such as coaching or mentoring or customer service than through role plays. I also can’t think of a better way to illicit groans from the audience when you tell them you’re going to ask them to role play. So think of a better name for this activity. Call it a “simulation” or something.

Large Group Activity

I was so impressed when Jane McGonigal (yes, the lady from the TED Talk above) got two thousand people up during a keynote speech I attended in order to engage us all in a game of massively multi-player two-handed thumb wrestling. I’ve been successful in getting a ballroom full of about 300 people to work in groups and do some flipcharting. If you have the guts, getting a large group up to experience what you’re presenting on can be fun and engaging for a room full of people.

Peer Feedback

During my train the trainer sessions, I can assess whether my participants understand the concepts I’ve taught when they can correctly use a feedback form to identify what their peers are doing well during practice facilitation segments.

There you have it, eight ways to involve your audience for in-person presentations. If you ever present via webinar, you may be interested in these prior blog posts:

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