10 Minutes (7 if you run)

There are some things we just have to do, whether we like it or not. Compliance training comes to mind immediately.

Sometimes walking falls into this category for me, too, which is why this sign stood out for me during a recent sightseeing excursion in Japan.

Almost There Edited

Hilarious, right? Entertaining? Encouraging? I appreciated the humor behind this sign so much that I took a picture of it and decided to blog about it.

Oh wait, that’s an edited version. It’s not entertaining or funny or encouraging. It’s plain. And not memorable. And typical of visual aids we normally create. Especially for mundane tasks.

Here’s the actual sign that was posted:

Almost There

It has humor. It has encouragement. For overachievers, there’s a challenge to be found.

Next time you’re putting together a slide deck or handouts or flipcharts – even if you think the topic is routine or boring – why not get a little more creative? Why not respect your audience enough to throw something a little unexpected their way? Why not go the extra mile?

It’ll probably only take an extra 10 minutes or so. Seven minutes if you run a little.

3 Training Lessons from a Japanese Shower

If you’ve ever stayed in a hotel, you’ve probably grappled with the learning curve that comes with figuring out how to use the shower. I travel a fair amount and every hotel chain and every shower experience is different.

Sometimes the shower system is similar to the one I have at home, so I can quickly figure it out with one turn of the knob. More often than not, I need to turn two different knobs in order to find the right balance between hot and cold water. Then I need to push a button or find another level to re-direct the water from the bath faucet to the shower head.

On a recent trip to Tokyo, I came across this shower set up.

Japanese shower

It was so easy: just set the water to the temperature I needed and turn the knob imprinted with the image of a shower head.

No room for confusion. No wasted time or effort. Very clear.

Here are a few ways that presentations and training sessions should be more like this Japanese shower:

1)      No words, powerful imagery. I didn’t need a series of bullet points to explain how to use this shower. It was clear at a glance. Can we say the same thing about the slides or other visual aids we use in our presentations?

2)      Clear metrics. I didn’t have to guess how far I needed to turn the temperature lever in order to get the perfect temperature; this lever was clearly marked. When it comes to indicators of success for our training programs, have we removed all the guesswork for our participants? Or are they left to fend for themselves when it comes to learning outcomes and how they can use our brilliant information?

3)      Choice (with fair warning). It’s nice to have the option of a shower or bath, but I absolutely hate getting into a hotel shower in the morning, twisting a knob expecting water to flow out of the bath faucet only to be jolted awake by freezing cold spray jetting out of the shower head. This Japanese hotel shower offered the choice of shower vs. bath and clearly marked which knob or lever to use for each. When we give choices to our audience during a presentation (“Who would like to volunteer…” for example), have we given fair warning for what they’re getting themselves into? Or are we doing the equivalent of daring them to turn an unmarked lever that might just spray them with ice cold water, an experience which could sour their outlook on the rest of their day?

Are there any other lessons you think trainers and presenters should take away from this image? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section.

Instructional Design Lessons from the Tokyo Airport

In a frantic effort to spend a few last yen before boarding my flight from Tokyo to Seattle, this display outside of an airport toy store caught my eye.

Airport - Bear

I stopped to take a closer look. I wondered what would happen if I talked with it. My wife, throwing caution to the wind, stooped down and said: “konnichiwa!”

The bear immediately repeated: “KONNICHIWA!” and started moving around. Passersby laughed. A few other people came by and tried talking with the bear, too. It was surprising. And fun.

A few minutes later I came across this display.

Airport - Ball

I picked it up and threw it in the air. The ball changed shape in the air, then re-formed into ball shape as it descended. Several other children saw what happened and came over and began to play with these toys. I had to wrestle the toys away from the children and chase them away from the display for a moment so I could get a photo for this blog.

Fun and Surprising

Can you imagine walking past a shop in the airport and seeing something more like this?

Airport - PPT

It’s not fun. It’s not surprising. It’s quite a turn off, actually. Have you guessed where I’m going with this by now?

Yes, I’m comparing toy store marketing displays with presentation skills. As presenters, why can’t we create learning experiences that are fun and surprising and pique our audience’s interest and entice them to want to try out a new skill or a new tool?

The next time you have to train someone on Salesforce or some other software, why not invite them to play with the program and discover how intuitive it can be before you throw PowerPoint slides at them?

The next time you present on… well, anything… why not allow the audience to play with the content or tool or policy or procedure or product or concept or little toy bear or shape-shifting ball? Let the audience decide for themselves what the benefit is before you tell them what they should think.

What was the lesson I took from a string of toy stores in Narita Airport? Presentations need more intrigue and fun and surprises.

Lessons in Presentation Skills from Hiroshima

Atomic Bomb Dome

Last week I had an opportunity to spend a day in Hiroshima, where I had an opportunity to visit the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. As I reflected on how the museum curators put together such a moving and powerful experience, it made me wonder what transferable lessons there could be for anyone who wants to make a presentation designed to move their audience to action.

It began with the brain

Entering the museum, we had an opportunity to learn about the history of Hiroshima. It was interesting. And awful. But I already knew much of this history (at least the World War II stuff). If the museum had stopped here, I don’t know that I would have been as moved or reflective when I walked back onto the street.

But it didn’t stop here. Physically, we had to walk through a long cat walk in order to enter the “main building.”

It tapped into the heart

Once we arrived in the main building, we entered a completely different atmosphere. I’m not sure I’d ever been in a museum that was as crowded yet as quiet as this. Stories of survivors. Tattered and burned clothes of children who did not survive. Exhibits and images that showed the effects of radiation on the body.

This was no longer some awful yet abstract moment in the history of the world. It was real. It was powerful. It made me think of one of my father’s favorite sayings: “there but for the grace of God go I.” Even as visitors, we could imagine what it was like to be in Hiroshima on August 6, 1945.

A call to action

Before we left the museum, there was an opportunity to sign a petition for a worldwide convention on nuclear weapons. I observed many people signing their names.

An opportunity to reflect

Outside of the Peace Museum is a large park with greenery, an eternal flame, several monuments and the Atomic Bomb Dome (pictured above, it was one of the only structures remaining once The Bomb exploded). After going through such a powerful experience, I was grateful for the time and space I had to reflect on what I had just seen and learned.

A lesson in presentation skills

Anyone who has read Switch by Chip and Dan Heath will recognize the first three elements from above: addressing the rational side of things, speaking to the heart and “shaping the path” (the call to action). These are the Heath brothers’ three essential elements of change management. The Peace Museum in Hiroshima was exhibit A of how these three elements can combine to create a powerful and moving experience.

Having time and space to reflect and being able to process the experience by talking with my wife enabled me to more fully absorb what I had seen and learned. She talked about things she saw that I must have missed. She talked about things going through her mind that I hadn’t thought about.

The thing I find most boring about a lot of museums is the same thing I find most boring about so many presentations and training sessions and new hire orientation modules: they only speak to the rational side of a topic. By tapping into the emotional side as well as the rational side and having time and space to reflect, the Peace Museum was an experience that will stick with me for a long, long time. If only we could say the same about all the presentations and training sessions and new hire orientation modules we have to sit through.

The next time you get in front of an audience, what will you do in order to tap into both the rational and emotional side of your audience? Will you allow them time and space to reflect on and process what you’ve presented?

5 Haikus about Learning and Development

I’ve been in Japan for the past two weeks – a combination of an industry conference and some R&R. I like it here. And to give you a taste of my experience, I’ve decided to give each of you a gift. The gift of a blog post in traditional Japanese Haiku.

Instructional Design

What do they need most?

How will you know they “get it”?

Let them show and tell

Classroom-based Training

Please use Mr. Sketch

Booooooo for the sage on the stage

Yay for engagement

Blended Learning

Flipping the classroom

Learning content on your own

Then show your mad skillz



Simulating real life stuff

As fun as a game!

Learner Experience

They are the reason

We all get a nice paycheck

Always respect them

How about it? Feeling inspired? If you have a learning and development-based Haiku, I’d love to read it in the comments section below. Writing Haikus also make a great ice breaking activity. For more on this idea, click here.

One final Haiku (sorry, I can’t stop today!):

Know Haiku lovers?

Pass this link along… and hit

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