Should the development of training programs feel like work?

jumanji

It was a Tuesday afternoon in December. We had been huddled around a conference room table for two hours. The end of our scheduled time to meet had arrived and I needed to leave the office to attend another meeting. I bid farewell to the other two people in the conference room.

When I came into the office the next day, my colleague told me that she stayed in that conference room for another hour and a half, generating ideas and building the framework to overhaul our new employee orientation program. “When I thought about it,” she reflected, “it struck me that I didn’t even feel like I was at work yesterday. It was so much fun!”

It was such a simple, and at the same time powerful, observation. Why can’t we feel like we’re “not even at work” more often?   Continue reading

L&D lessons from… a photobooth?

Photobooth

Last weekend I attended a fundraiser and near the entrance was a photobooth. And there was a long line to wait in order to get pictures.

It seems photobooths are en vogue these days – at wedding receptions, birthday parties, church gatherings, office holiday parties. Inside the photobooth, children and adults alike giggle, make funny faces, wear silly hats. The photobooth is an instant icebreaker for some, a must-do destination for others.

On the other hand, there’s training. I can’t say people line up for most training courses. There’s not much giggling or enjoyment that comes out of the training room.

Are there lessons that the photobooth can teach L&D professionals? Continue reading

Fun: There’s a Right Way and a Wrong Way

“In our culture, fun is equated with a waste of time.”

I had this conversation twice in the past week. One person was talking about the culture of his country. The other was talking about her work culture.

“Fun” is a Rorschach test of a word. People read all sorts of things into it based upon their previous experiences. The truth is, fun in the training room can indeed be a waste of time, but it doesn’t have to be.

Furthermore, how is a “serious” presentation not a waste of time if it’s boring and nobody remembers anything from it by the time lunch rolls around the very same day?

I’ve been facilitating workshops for 16 years and if there’s one thing I can say for certain: adults like to play. Whether you’re a youth development specialist (where play is a part of your every day job) or a more “dignified” professional such as a surgeon or attorney or some hotshot executive, I’ve never seen participants more engaged, I’ve never been in a room full of participants in which the energy levels have been higher, than when I’m facilitating an icebreaking or energizing or teambuilding activity.

I will concede that an isolated “fun” activity can actually be a waste of time. After all, people aren’t sacrificing time from their day jobs just to have fun in the training room. The fun needs to mean something. And that requires intentional design and an effective de-brief.

Beginning the day by having people work in small groups to see how quickly they can pass a tennis ball around to each team member is fun. De-briefing this activity by discussing the concept of innovation and being able to refer back to this activity throughout the remainder of the day makes this fun activity meaningful.

Beginning a meeting by blowing up two balloons is fun. Having the balloons sit on the boardroom table and referring back to them throughout the rest of the day makes that fun activity meaningful.

Beginning an eye anatomy course by having the participants take a Cosmo-style quiz called “Which Eyeball Part Are You?” seems nonsensical and fun. Using that activity to lower anxiety and build a foundation upon which the students can learn the nuances of ocular anatomy makes it a meaningful and worthwhile exercise.

Playing a game of “telephone” to start a meeting can be fun. De-briefing the activity to ask how it can serve as a metaphor for your team’s communication (or miscommunication) practices helps drive the point home.

When “fun” is intentional, serious learning can happen.

Can the same always be said of the more “dignified” and “professional” presentations we see on a daily basis?

Six More Training Icebreaker Questions That Begin With “Would You Rather…?”

Would you rather?

An effective icebreaker accomplishes three things:

  1. Attendees are introduced to one another
  2. The energy in the room picks up
  3. Attendees begin to think about the session’s topic (preferably in a fun, light-hearted way)

A quick game of “Would you rather…” can help break the ice at your next meeting or presentation by challenging participants to think about a pair of seemingly absurd choices, and then justify why they chose a particular option. It can shed some light on the mindset of each participant and can lead to a lot of laughter in the process.

Plus, who doesn’t like to have the sweet sound of laughter coming from their meeting room?

Previously I shared ten potential “Would you rather…” icebreaker questions. Here are six more:

Would you rather…

  1. …be scheduled to deliver a 90 minute presentation at 1:00pm (immediately after lunch) OR at 5:30pm (when everyone wants to go home)?
  2. …be able to shoot actual lasers out of your laser pointer OR have to dodge actual bullets every time a bullet point appears on a PowerPoint slide?
  3. …have a face that is a functioning clock OR have hair made entirely out of neon pink post-it notes?
  4. …be chased around the room by a giant, radioactive LCD projector as you try to set up for your presentation OR actually be married to Mr. Sketch?
  5. …only be able to respond to people and situations with the first thought that pops into your head OR only be able to speak in the form of a question during your presentation?
  6. …realize (much too late) that your suitcase was switched with Lady Gaga’s and all you have to wear for your keynote speech is a suit made out of raw meat OR wake up to discover the only way you can get from point A to point B is by moonwalking?

Do you have additional “Would you rather…?” type icebreaker questions? Let’s see ‘em in the comments section.

Using “The Dating Game” to Identify Amazing Conference Presentations

On Monday I wondered whether match.com could help me find a presentation I could fall in love with. Since then, I’ve fallen in love with several presentations at SHRM’s Talent Management Conference. Here’s how I’d choose the best. (Spoiler Alert: if you want to cut to the chase, just scroll to the bottom to see the summary/recap)

Dating Game (SHRM)

The SHRM Talent Management Conference Dating Game

Me: Presentation #1, when I’m at a conference, I generally have high hopes for the quality of a presentation, but I also have low expectations. What would you do to fulfill my hopes and exceed my expectations?

Presentation #1: Well, I’d begin by describing my presentation as “interactive” in the conference program. Since we’re in Vegas, I’d double down by telling you how interactive the presentation will be as we get started. And I’d make sure you felt welcome to ask questions at any time. I’d tell stories based on my experiences and I’d ask the audience questions from time to time.

Me: Hmmmm, I guess that’s a conventional way to look at interactivity. Presentation #2, we are in Vegas and there’s a lot going on. What would make you stand out?

Presentation #2: As soon as you walk through the door, I’d not only welcome you, but I’d make sure we connect personally. I’d bring up our common Pacific Northwest roots. Even though the audience will be standing room only, I want you to feel like I’m talking to you. I’ll give you two specific pieces of homework I’d like you to do as soon as you get back home. And I’ll show a video clip of an iPhone getting blended up. Oh, you’ll remember me all right.

Me: An iPhone getting blended up?! I’m intrigued. Presentation #3, my time is valuable to me and I’m needy. I need to be engaged. How would you propose to engage me?

Presentation #3: Before I tell you, I’d like you to stand up, turn to someone near you, give them a high five, and tell them “you rock!”

Me: Ok. That’s true, I do rock.  Now what?

Presentation #3: I’m going to engage you by getting you involved.  Maybe you’ll stand and give high five’s.  Maybe you’ll be asked to write some answers to my questions.  Maybe you’ll be instructed to talk with some people around you.  Maybe you’ll be asked to share some thoughts with the entire crowd.  Maybe I’ll build upon your other experiences at the conference by telling you how the information from the keynote speaker you just heard affirms and complements my own content.  Maybe I’ll end with a call to action.  Maybe I’ll provide some specific steps you can take.

Me: Sounds amazing.  One last question for all of you. I’ll start with Presentation #3.  Looks matter to me.  What do you look like?

Presentation #3: I come dressed in slides.  Custom made slides.  I try to economize on words, and occasionally I’ll use bullet points.  But I have the most fun when I can be whimsical – when I use a picture instead of a thousand words.

Me: You sound cute.  How about you, Presentation #2?

Presentation #2: I dress pretty skimpily… in a good way.  If I wanted you to read a lot, I’d just give you a book.  So I don’t wear many words.  But if you’re into sticky images, I can show you a giant piece of construction equipment that crushes a truck.  I can show you a triangular model to help connect your values, passions and delivery methods.  I don’t wear much, but I bet you’ll take notes on what you see and hear!

Me: Wow, steamy!  Presentation #1, the bar seems to have been set high.  What do you look like?

Presentation #1: I like consistency, so my slides align with the conference template.  I respect visual learners, and I make sure to include main topics and bulleted lists.  And clip art.  But keep in mind, it’s what’s inside that counts.  And I’m a charismatic speaker.

Me: It’s time to make my decision.  I think all three of you are smart and talented and I really appreciate you bringing your gifts of knowledge and experience to the conference.  It’s a lot of work preparing for something like this and it’s always a risk to be in front of people.  This is a tough decision.

Presentation #1, I learned some things from you, but when it comes to design and delivery, you might want to take a few more risks and try some new things – both in terms of visual aids (your “looks”) and your “interactivity”.  We won’t be seeing each other again.

It really comes down to Presentation #2 and Presentation #3.  The truth is, you’re both amazing.  My decision, the presentation that I truly fell in love with is… Presentation #2 (whose true identity is Todd Hudson’s “Unforgettable Onboarding”).  And since this is my game and my rules, I also choose to fall in love with Presentation #3 (Jason Lauritsen’s “The Future of Talent Management”).

A quick recap of what made me fall in love with each presentation:

Todd Hudson

Jason Lauritsen

Welcome attendees individually upon entering the room Fun introductory slide as the audience walked in the room
Charismatic delivery of targeted and meaningful content Charisma and humor in the delivery of relevant and actionable content
Simple slides, few words, powerful images Attention-grabbing activity as soon as the session began
Use of video to illustrate key points about values, passion and stickiness Mixed hard data with anecdotes and stories (including a memorable Readers Digest story)
Delivered presentation among the audience, not at the podium Issued three questions for audience to think through and discuss in small groups, then came back to these questions throughout the presentation
Issued a call to action Issued a call to action and provided specific tips and strategies of how to do these as soon as audience returns home
Kept most attendees in the room until the very end with a small raffle

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Would Match.com Help Me Find The Ideal Presentation this Week?

This week I’m in Las Vegas for SHRM’s Talent Management conference. This afternoon, I saw a sign for a wedding chapel in my hotel.  It made me wonder: will I find a soul mate of a presentation at this conference?

Match.com seems like as good of a place as any to try to find this soul mate.  Here’s what my profile would look like if I were to enlist Match.com to help me find The One:

Flipchartguy

BW Training Rocks Photo

Seattle, Washington, United States

Seeking: Just one amazing presentation (though two might be nice!)

Within: SHRM’s Talent Management Conference

ABOUT HIM & WHO HE’S LOOKING FOR

I’m told I have a one-track mind.  All I can think about is how to make learning a great experience for the learners.  Whether I’m at work, at home or on vacation.  I’m hoping you’ll be ok with this little quirk.  As for you, the question shouldn’t be *who* I’m looking for… more *what*?  I’m really looking to be swept off my feet and smitten with a well designed and delivered presentation.  If you’re good, I might even want to take you back home with me, as a kind of longer term thing.

Interests: Flipcharting, designing learning experiences, throwing a participant’s question back to an audience of learners to see if anyone in the room has an answer

Exercise habits: Pacing back and forth in front of an audience

Favorite Things: Opening a new pack of Mr. Sketch markers

Last Read: The Gamification of Learning and Instruction

ABOUT…

Background/Values

 

Him

His Date

Education MA Organizational Psychology No Preference
Learning Style Visual No Preference
Delivery Style Attempt to be inclusive as often as possible Show me the ring (because I want to be engaged by you)
Honesty I try Honesty is a must!  What   you advertise in your session description should be what you deliver in your   session.
Risk Taking Nothing ventured, nothing gained Fearless

Presentation Style

Him

His Date

Lecture No Way Deal-breaker
Visual Aids Prefer flipchart; PPT if I have to Standard templates, lots of text and bullet points are all deal-breakers
Preparation Almost always Impeccable (yes, I have higher standards for you; perhaps you’ll inspire me to prepare better)
Delivery Use a lesson plan as a guide Preferably smooth (reading verbatim from notes or from slides is a deal-breaker)

On Wednesday, I’ll share whether I’ve been able to find this elusive soul mate.  In the mean time, what kinds of things do you look for in a conference session?  I’d love to hear from you in the comment section.

The Train Like A Champion Blog is published Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.  If you think someone else might find this interesting, please pass it along.  If you don’t want to miss a single, brilliant post, be sure to click “Follow” at the top of the page!