20 Reasons to Embrace Role Play

 

“Ok everyone, we’re going to shift gears now and move into an activity. It’s a role play…”

Before you can finish your sentence, 80% of the room groans, 12% roll their eyes, 5% just sit in silent judgment of you and 3% suddenly need to step out of the room to take an “important” call.

In my experience, people almost universally despise role-play activities. This is an important point to acknowledge as you design your next training segment, but it doesn’t mean we should toss this instructional strategy out.

Here are 20 reasons for L&D professionals to embrace role play:

  1. The training room is a “lab without consequences” and role play allows people to try out new things before they need to actually do those things in a work setting. “What kinds of things?” you ask…
  2. Coaching.
  3. Giving feedback.
  4. Receiving feedback.
  5. Interviewing.
  6. Customer service.
  7. Sales.
  8. Courageous conversations around difficult topics. The list could go on this way, but let’s look at some other reasons, too.
  9. Sometimes things sound so much better in your head than they do when they come out of your mouth. Role play allows you to better align the intent in your head to the delivery that comes out of your mouth.
  10. As my 3rd-grade daughter says: “practice makes progress.”
  11. Sometimes it’s just a lot easier to have learners try your new content or way of doing things on for size (through role play) as opposed to continuing to talk in conceptual terms.
  12. If people don’t like “role play“, then this type of activity allows you to use cool words like “simulation” or “interactive case study” instead.
  13. It gets your learners involved, allowing them no other choice than to stay present and engage with your content.
  14. Which means that if it’s an activity scheduled immediately after lunch, there will be no temptation to doze off!
  15. For presenters who don’t like to be the center of attention, role play takes the attention completely off you… for a little while, anyway.
  16. Role play allows designers to unleash their creativity in the scenarios they outline for their learners to navigate.
  17. By adding their own spin, learners may take your content and concepts to a level you didn’t even know existed, which makes role play a learning opportunity for presenters as well.
  18. If your learners didn’t know each other before a role-playing activity, they sure will know each other afterward!
  19. The buzz and energy and conversations that permeate the room as learners are role-playing can be infectious and carry over throughout the remainder of your presentation (seriously, compare the energy in the room between a lecture and a role play… which seems like an environment that is more alive?).
  20. The de-brief of a role-play is fairly easy to set up (“What was easy about that? What proved to be most challenging?”) yet can lead to so many ah-ha moments, and isn’t that what training is all about?

Looking for something beyond role play? Here are 18 instructor-led training activities you could use to engage your learners in a variety of training situations.

What did I miss? Any other reasons to embrace role play? Let’s hear your thoughts in the comment section!

Know someone who’s reluctant to insert role-playing activities into their presentations? Why not pass this along?

Instructional Design Inspiration from an Indian Restaurant

The waiter stopped by my table and dropped off a menu as I waited for a colleague to join me. As I flipped through the pages, I noticed that each section of the menu (appetizers, vegetarian options, non-veg options, desserts) was broken up by a page of random food history.

It struck me that there might be a lesson in here for training professionals and instructional designers. A lesson that could reduce the amount of time they spend delivering superfluous content. Continue reading

Facebook’s Anti-bias Training is Interesting, Amusing… and Quite Dangerous

Facebook (Thumbs Down)

You can tell me that bias exists in the workplace, that my co-workers have biases, that I myself have biases, and that we as a company… nay… we as a nation must do more to combat workplace biases in order to create the inclusive, representative organizations that we need, and I’ll believe you.

Just don’t tell me this stuff for an hour. Even this training-loving, left-leaning, rule-following do-gooder will tune out after 10 minutes.  Continue reading

8 Lessons from My Fitbit that are Transferable to L&D Initiatives

 

I received a Fitbit last Christmas and I love it for two reasons:

1) With heightened awareness of how sedentary my life had become, wearing the Fitbit has helped me realize I need to move more.

2) Thinking about everything that goes into the Fitbit has spawned a bunch of thoughts about behavior change, which is what learning and development is all about.

Following are 8 lessons that transfer quite well into the world of learning and development. Continue reading

What’s Your Go-to Move?

Go-to Move

We all have a “go-to move”. Danny Zuko had the old yawn-then-put-your-arm-around-Sandy’s-shoulders. Jimmy Superfly Snuka leapt from the top rope to head butt his opponents. A guy who lived across the hall from me in my freshman dorm had this irritating, unstoppable shot from just below the goal in Sega’s NHLPA Hockey ’93.

In the learning and development world, it’s that instructional strategy that seems to make its way into just about every one of our workshops or presentations.

Recently my go-to move has been an activity called “How I See It”. I first learned this activity as part of Casey Family Program’s training on racial and ethnic identity development called Knowing Who You Are (side note: this is the best diversity-related training I’ve ever attended). Here’s the activity in a nutshell: Continue reading

3 Questions to Ask Before Planning Your Next Training

Planning

“Begin with the end in mind” is a pretty common rule of thumb when mapping out training programs. It sounds like wise advice… but what does it really mean?!

What’s the end? The end for whom? Are we talking about the end of the training program? Are we talking about when mastery of the content has occurred? Are we talking about the end of days?

Over the weekend, I spent some time with the curriculum planning team for a new certificate program in Workplace Learning and Professional Development at the University of Washington, and we began our planning session with these three questions: Continue reading

10 Training Interview Questions

Whether you’re looking for your next position in facilitating workshops or you’re looking to put a new degree in instructional design to use in the “real world”, here are 10 questions you should be ready for in your next interview. In addition to being prepared to answer these training interview questions, it might also be helpful to know why a hiring manager is asking such questions in the first place. In parentheses, I’ve added the “question(s) behind the question“.

Question #1: Why do you want this position?

Questions behind the question:

  1. Do you even like training and development or are you just looking to escape their current job?
  2. Do you know what we do here?
  3. What kind of passion do you have for learning and teaching others?

Continue reading

What do you do after you learn something?

At some point over the last week, I’m willing to bet there was a time – even if only a fleeting instant – in which you said: “huh, that’s interesting, I didn’t know that.”

Maybe you read something in the last week. Or listened to a podcast. Or attended a workshop. Or spoke with a colleague.

What did you do with that new piece of information?

Did you pass it along to someone else? Did you tweet it out to the universe? Did you try to do something new or differently or better at work? Did you say to yourself: “I learned something new, my day is complete” (and then promptly forget about it)? Did you file it away, thinking: I should do something with this later (and then perhaps forget about it)?

When I have downtime, I read a lot of articles and blog posts and links I’ll find on Twitter or LinkedIn. I try to stay up to date on the latest trends in learning and development by attending a webinar or two each month. I’ll engage in Twitter chats a few times a month. Looking back on all this “learning”, I realized that I don’t often do much afterwards.

With this in mind, I declared in late December that my 1-word resolution for 2015 would be “execute” – spend less time in the act of learning and more time acting on what I’ve learned.

Earlier this week, when I read an article by Jane Hart entitled The Modern L&D Dept requires other skills than instructional design, I grew excited immediately. I’d been looking for a new way to frame the learning and development strategy on my team and this image from her post struck a cord with me:

Screen-Shot-2015-03-09-at-16_50_00-1024x776

I spent some time with a colleague thinking through how we might apply this to what we’re trying to do (here’s an image of today’s flipcharting session):

Learning Strategy

It’s nice to stay on top of industry trends. It’s fun to share ideas on a theoretical level with colleagues at the water cooler or in a Twitter chat. But the magic happens when there’s an opportunity to apply this self-directed learning on the job.

Monday, I’ll share a second example of a way that I’ve been able to implement something I learned into my work. If you’re looking for a fresh way to conduct post-evaluation training and derive meaningful feedback from such Level 1 “smile sheet” evaluations, be sure to tune in.

In the mean time, tell me: what’s one thing you’ve learned so far this year… and how have you put it into action on the job? I’d love to hear it in the comments section.

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?

 

 

 

Humbled by these SMEs

Facilitators

What would you do if you were in a technical training being led by SMEs and suddenly, out the window, you spy a monkey being led around on a leash? Would you…

  1. Ignore the monkey and stay 100% focused on the technical content being shared
  2. Stare out the window wishing you could trade places with the monkey

I’ve attended many technical training sessions, and personally, I would often choose “2”, wishing I could be doing anything else, anyplace else in the world… even if that meant I was a monkey being led around on a leash.

A funny thing happened last week when I was in Delhi for a 2-day training workshop. A guy walked by the window with a monkey on a leash. Nobody paid any attention to what was going on outside. The class remained 100% engrossed in the technical training at hand. I was impressed with the way these SMEs facilitated the session, and humbled by the effort they put into this workshop, from the design to the wrap up.

Building a New Kind of Learning Experience

Going into the planning phase, these SMEs gave me all the time that I asked for as I requested meetings to plan this session out.

We knew that we’d need to overcome a significant language barrier in order to deliver the content. We only speak English. Many of our participants preferred Hindi or other local languages. I suggested we avoid lecture as much as possible (even though lecture can constitute significant chunks of this training program when delivered in the US) and instead use small group discussions and activities. This design would allow the audience to see and experience the content, processing it in the language with which they were most comfortable.

There were no protests from the SMEs when I showed them a first draft of this program that had reduced the number of slides we’d use from 86 (based on the US version) to 0. To my great surprise, these SMEs could have cared less about PowerPoint.

Forgoing All Others

Prep

I’ve struggle in the past with getting SMEs to take preparation and presentation rehearsal seriously. I’m often told by SMEs that they’re too busy to rehearse a presentation and that they know the material well enough to deliver it with fluency.

As we began to make travel arrangements, this set of SMEs readily agreed to leave the comfort of their homes and the loving embrace of their family members (not to mention the loads of work that began to pile up on their desks) in order to arrive in Delhi a day early and walk through the entire set of lesson plans for the 2-day training session. They wanted to ensure the learners would be given the best experience necessary.

Flexibility

We began the session a little late on the first day, which meant we were behind on the agenda immediately. Instead of insisting that every last word in the lesson plan was essential and continuing to run more and more behind on the schedule, the SMEs identified areas that could be condensed or cut or assigned as homework in order to get back on schedule by the end of the day.

The Ideal SMEs?

In the end, it was clear that the SMEs I worked with on this training program were most passionate about the learners’ experience and the outcomes of this training.

While many SMEs that I work with put their content first (or sometimes their egos come first, then their content), these SMEs put the learners first. As I reflect on this experience, I’m hoping to figure out a way to bottle their attitude and bring it to future projects with other SMEs.

Their attitude and effort did not go unrewarded. Apparently I have a reputation for being intense and very serious, especially when it comes to training. In appreciation of their effort and attitude, I was willing to briefly put my intense, serious nature on hold one evening and give them a glimpse of a different side of my personality. It was only an instant, and don’t expect me to do it again. I allowed them to capture that one instant on film.

Tongue

Ok, enough of that. This is called the Train Like A Champion blog for a reason. It’s time to get back to work on our next project and kick some more training ass!