Case Study: The Power of Training Preparation

Last week I had an opportunity to facilitate a session at the LINGOs annual member meeting. After the presentation, my co-facilitator, Shannon Cavallari from PATH, shared her observations about what helped her most in the days leading up to our presentation. Following are her reflections, written immediately after our presentation:

It’s a wonderful feeling; this mixture of excitement, nervousness, and RELIEF because I had prepared. I had a plan A and a plan B should it not unfold in the way I hoped it would.

I’m a learning and development professional, but my skill set lies more on the learning technologies side. Basically, I do put together eLearning programs and projects. Rarely do I get invited to stand in front of a group with the intent to inspire, teach or change behavior.

Training Preparation

With my Lesson Plan template in hand, Brian and I started mapping out the presentation.

Objectives identified? CHECK.

Activities designed? CHECK.

Engagement with the participants? CHECK.

Opportunities for questions and lessons learned? CHECK.

The Lesson Plan allowed me to think through and assign specific blocks of time to each of these steps, from the start of the presentation to the finish.

Then we did a dry-run and more light-bulbs went off. This step – the dressed rehearsal – is such a crucial step in preparing for a presentation and yet most of us skip it or don’t give it the attention it deserves. In my dry-run, I practiced what I would say AND I practiced where I would stand, and it revealed questions I would need to ask my co-facilitator along the way. The Lesson Plan allowed me to capture these questions and my thoughts on the “choreography” for each section of my presentation. I felt more at ease; I felt prepared.

I reviewed my lesson plan the evening before and the morning of our presentation. “I got this,” I thought. Then, of course, came the need for Plan B.

Results of Doing Training Preparation

The audio failed on our computer and we were unable to use a video we wanted; we had planned for this to be integral to our initial 8-minute introduction to the session. But that was ok because we had rehearsed with a Plan B in the event we might experience such a technical difficulty. I learned how essential it is to assume things can and will go wrong and think through ways to mitigate such unfortunate circumstances.

Through some anecdotal feedback at the end of our session, our participants claimed that they got what they came for. We delivered on the objectives we identified and they were happy and engaged.

Regardless of being a trainer is your full-time gig or if you’re a subject matter expert sharing your vast knowledge, I can say with certainty that it pays to practice. Not only did such preparation create a better experience for our learners, but it also put my own mind at ease. I was a better presenter because of the process.

What do you do to prepare for a presentation? Has your training preparation evolved with experience? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below.

You Down With O.P.P.? (Clean Version)

Yeah, you know me!

“O” is for “other”. “P” is for “people’s” work and preparation. The last “P”, well, that’s not that simple. It’s sorta like another way to call a map a script. There’s four little letters that I’m missing here. You get it on occasion, if the other party is a missin’. It seems I gotta start to explainin’…

Actually, that’s about as far as I dare take my little riff off of Naughty by Nature’s O.P.P.

“O.P.P.” in this context stands for Other People’s Plans, more specifically their presentation plans.

Over the past five weeks, I’ve been involved in planning and helping to deliver over 50 presentations. And other people’s presentation plans played a huge role in the success of these meetings.


The Show Must Go On

As a conference in Saudi Arabia was about to begin, I received word that heavy fog in Dubai would prevent several of my colleagues from arriving on time. I would need to facilitate their sessions for them.

Unfortunately for me, I was not an expert in their subject matter. Had I only been given their slides to work from, I would have completely embarrassed myself (and our organization) trying to present unfamiliar material in front of a room of knowledgeable participants. Fortunately, my fogged-in colleagues had completed detailed lesson plans and I was able to present with confidence and without missing a beat.

Click here to download a pdf copy of the blank template that they used.

What Would You Do?

Take a look at the following slide deck from a presentation I gave in December. Would you be able to fill in for me if I was stuck in traffic and I needed someone else to step up and present?


Would it make a difference if you had that slide deck and the following presentation plan (click here to download a pdf copy)?

Page 1 of 3 (Lesson Plan)  Page 2 of 3 (Lesson Plan)  Page_3_of_3_(Lesson_Plan)

Benefits of a Presentation Plan

Yes, investing some time and energy in creating a presentation plan before opening up PowerPoint and putting some slides together will make the planning process longer. But here are five reasons why using this format will be good for your next presentation:

  1. Emergencies happen. If someone needs to fill in at the last minute, it’s helpful for the substitute presenter to know exactly what to say, how to say it, and how long to say it for.
  2. Total Recall. It will serve as a good reminder if you have to give the same presentation a year from now and need some help recalling key points.
  3. Focus. It provides a systematic way to gather your thoughts on the specific objectives that need to be accomplished during your presentation.
  4. Keep it tight. It helps keep your presentation on track by defining exactly how much time you should spend talking about any specific point.
  5. Who needs PPT?! Once your presentation is mapped out, you may realize that you don’t even need to put a slide deck together because there’s a better way to present your information!

Know someone you could use some help in organizing their thoughts around their next presentation? Pass this link along.

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3 Ways (and 1 Tool) to Engage Your Staff in Your Next Team Meeting

Last week a colleague asked for help organizing her thoughts for an upcoming team meeting. She had prepared a set of PowerPoint slides and was preparing to distribute a hard copy of some job duties that she wanted to review with her team… for the third time.

As we honed in on the specific problem she wanted to address, I asked how comfortable she’d be in changing her presentation tactic. Instead of talking at her team (for the third time), what if she laid out the problem and then asked for their input in solving it?

She gave it a whirl. Afterward, she said her team was engaged for the entire meeting and they offered more suggestions and solutions than she could shake a stick at.

Shortly after this experience I came across this image, lifted from a highly entertaining article on the importance of presentations as a performance vs. a conversation.

HugSpeak - Some speeches

It got me wondering: why do we, as managers, so often feel that we need to come up with all the answers for our teams?

Following are three suggestions (and a tool) to engage meeting attendees more effectively:

When appropriate, send information in advance and insist attendees come prepared.

I recognize that there are times when news needs to be broken to everyone at the same time, in person. In my experience, that’s generally the exception, not the rule. If there’s something new to be shared with the team – a new development or a new policy, for example – then send it out in advance. And request that everyone come to the meeting prepared to discuss how the new development or policy will impact them.

Make them do the work.

In the example I shared (above), my colleague decided to abandon her lecture-style review of an existing policy. She admitted it would have put her team to sleep. Instead, she chose to challenge the team to list as many responsibilities as they could think of that they needed to fulfill in accordance with this policy. It kept her team awake, on their toes, and it allowed her to see what they remembered and where possible gaps existed between the policy and their day-to-day practices.

Let them come up with solutions.

Too many managers (myself included) feel that they need to come up with solutions to every problem – big or small. In the example I shared, my colleague abandoned her plan to tell her team how the problem was going to be solved. Instead she solicited solutions from her team. My colleague no longer had to stress over whether a solution she came up with would meet the needs of her staff, and because her staff came up with the solutions, they had a stake in owning and carrying out these solutions.

A word of caution: engaging people takes time, effort and preparation

Taking a risk by creating a more engaging team meeting can yield fantastic results that include:

  • More energy during team meetings,
  • Better use of everyone’s time,
  • More ideas from more people,
  • More innovative solutions, and
  • Shared ownership of problems and solutions.

You won’t find success, however, by merely wanting to engage people. Engaging your team or audience in a meeting requires advanced planning and meticulous preparation.

You need to map out exactly how much time you’d like to spend introducing a topic, facilitating a discussion, and discussing next steps. You need to make sure you’ve defined exactly what results you want to see. Without planning, you could suddenly find that you spent too much time setting up a problem and you’ve run out of time for discussion. Or perhaps you’ll find you’ve spent too much time brainstorming and not enough time refining ideas or clearly articulating next steps.

If you’re looking to plan a meeting that engages your audience, here is a link to a presentation planning template that could help you keep your next meeting organized.

Have you found a strategy to better engage people in your meetings? Please share in the comments section.

Know someone who could use some help engaging people in their meetings? Pass this link along.

8 Ways To Get Your Audience Primed Before Your Presentation Even Begins

When people sit down and wait for your presentation to begin, what do you think is going through their minds? How’d you like to have more control over what they’re thinking about? Following are eight ideas to get your audience thinking about your presentation topic before you even open your mouth.

  1. Music. If intro music is good enough for professional boxers, baseball players and wrestlers, why shouldn’t you have intro music as you take the stage? Even better, put together a playlist that corresponds to the topic of your presentation and have it playing gently in the background as your audience enters the room and gets situated. It’s a nice and subtle way to set the mood and to get people starting to think less about their traffic-filled commute and more about what they’ll be learning.
  2. Trivia. Have you ever gotten to the movie theater early and found yourself competing against your date as to who can answer more of the scrolling movie trivia questions? Setting up a scrolling PowerPoint slideshow with various trivia questions about your topic can get your audience trying to figure out how much they know about your topic before you begin. And it might even pique their curiosity to see if they’ll be able to find out the answers to some of the trivia questions they couldn’t answer.
  3. Photos.  If you have a multi-day presentation, it can be fun to put up a scrolling slide show of pictures from the previous day. People like to see themselves and it can be a good recap of what’s been covered. Click here to see an example of a photo slide show I set to music (using lyrics I created to go with the event). If you’re presenting for only one day (or only one hour), you can put up a scrolling slide show of highlights from past presentations. Unless of course you’re doing a straight lecture and people will just be sitting and listening (or emailing or texting or Facebooking). It might be a good idea to skip this idea.
  4. Promises. Joe Namath promised a Super Bowl victory over Johnny Unitas and the Baltimore Colts. Everyone paid attention to see whether he’d deliver. And he did. What can you promise your participants prior to your presentation? Jane McGonigal promised people would live longer through the information (and activities) she’d share in her      presentation (watch the first 30 seconds of her TED Talk to see the promise, watch the rest to see how she delivers). There’s one catch to this: if you promise, you’d better deliver.
  5. Welcome Them. As the audience files in – whether it’s a large group or a handful of people in a conference room – welcome them. Find out what they’re interested to learn more about. If it’s appropriate, refer to your welcoming small talk during your actual presentation and it’ll help your audience feel like they’re so important to you that they “had you at hello”.
  6. Messy Start. I refer to this strategy from time to time. The short version is that you have your audience answer some questions on various flipcharts around the room before they even take their seats. (Click here to read a more detailed description of the messy start.)
  7. Survey. I’ve seen this work in small meetings and at large ASTD conferences. If you have assumptions or hypotheses about the audience or if you want to find out what kinds of experiences they have with your topic, draw up a few flipcharts and give everyone a dot sticker or a marker as they enter in order to vote on the questions you’ve posted. Some examples could include:
  • Which of the following best describes the amount of experience you have with this topic (I’m brand new; 1-2 years; 3-5 years; 6-10 years; I was around when this topic was born)
  • Which of the following best describes what you hope to take away from this session (Soft skills, hard skills, job aids, networking/contact info)
  1. Warm-up Work. As your audience files in and takes their seats, have a crossword puzzle or a word find with vocabulary and concepts you’ll be covering in your presentation waiting for them. It’ll be more fun for them than sitting in awkward silence, waiting for you to wait for the late-coming stragglers to arrive. You can even offer a prize for the first person to complete it – something glitzy like a $5 Starbucks card or something even more glamorous (and free) like a Certificate of Word Find Completion that they can take home, pin up in their cubicle and by which      they can remember your presentation.

Depending on the size of your audience and the amount of time you have to deliver your presentation, some of these ideas may work better than others. Do you have a specific strategy to get your audience thinking about your topic before you take the stage? Drop a line in the comments section.

Know of someone else who’d like to get their audience primed and ready to go before a presentation? Pass this along!

As for you, if you want access to a steady stream of articles to help improve your presentation skills then you should probably follow this blog.

Training Tip: When You Can’t Tape Things To The Wall

Some hotels and other meeting space venues don’t allow you to use tape on the walls, which generally rules out the ability to post flipcharts around the room.  Several years ago I stumbled upon a solution to this.

Plastic Sheets

Flipchart-sized plastic sheets that can serve as a cross between a white board and a flipchart have been a savior for me on several occasions.  They stick to the wall using the power of static cling – no tape, no irritated conference facility staff.

As much as I love Mr. Sketch markers, they actually are one of the worst things you can use when you write on these plastic sheets.  You’ll need to use either dry erase markers or something extremely permanent (like chisel-tipped Sharpies).

Bringing a package of these along takes a little extra space in the suitcase, but they’ve helped me look prepared on several occasions.  I’ve used these sheets in training sessions and with team members and executives during last-minute strategy meetings while on the road.

The Train Like A Champion blog is published on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.  These brief “Training Tip” posts are a series of quick reference tips that are published while your beloved Train Like A Champion blogger is currently enjoying a little vacation.  The more in-depth posts will resume again in August.

Training Tip: The Handout that Keeps on Giving

2 part NCR

What kind of training worth its salt doesn’t have some type of action plan activity toward the end?

How many training professionals know whether or not their learners even think about those action plans once they’ve returned to their office?

Several years ago when I began facilitating a diversity training designed by Casey Family Programs called Knowing Who You Are, I was introduced to 2-ply, carbonless paper (if you go to a print shop, the official name for this paper is “2 part NCR paper”) as a way to help the facilitator follow-up with learners about their action plans.  The learner would write her action plan on this paper, tear off the top copy and take it with her, then put the second copy in a self-addressed envelope.  The facilitator would send that envelope to each learner 45 days after the training session as a reminder on what the learner had committed to doing.

You can get the same result if you collect everyone’s action plans and make photocopies, but I find the 2-ply carbonless paper to be much easier, much quicker and it involves many fewer logistics.  You can have something printed on this paper by sending an electronic file to your favorite print shop or by going to a place like Office Max.

I’ve used this tool in a variety of ways to help follow-up on training with my learners.  I’ve also found 3 part NCR paper helpful by offering the third copy to immediate supervisors so they can help follow up on the training and review action plans when their employees return to their offices.

The Train Like A Champion blog is published on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.  These brief “Training Tip” posts are a series of quick reference tips that are published while your beloved Train Like A Champion blogger is currently enjoying a little vacation.  The more in-depth posts will resume again in August.

Training Tip: Keeping Handouts Organized

Multi Colored Handouts

Handouts are a great way to help learners follow along with the content you’re presenting and they can serve as a physical reminder for the learner to use your content when they return to their offices.

If you’re distributing multiple handouts, it can be helpful to copy each handout onto a different colored piece of paper.  This allows you to call your learners’ attention to the “pink sheet” or the “green sheet”. When all of your handouts are printed on white paper, you’re left having to describe the handout that you want people to pay attention to (“please turn to the fourth page in your packet” or “please turn to the page that looks like this”).  Even with page numbers, it can take valuable session time for learners to find the correct page.

Different colored handouts allow your learners to identify the correct page with one quick glance.

The Train Like A Champion blog is published on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.  These brief “Training Tip” posts are a series of quick reference tips that are published while your beloved Train Like A Champion blogger is currently enjoying a little vacation.  The more in-depth posts will resume again in August.

Flip Chart Examples: The Art of the Flip Chart

Before you read this, you may want to check out 9 tips for better flip charts. This is a great introduction to improving your flip charts and also includes some great flip chart examples.

As I wrapped up a day-long training session, a participant came up to me and said: “I don’t know why we don’t do more of this kind of thing.  Such little changes make a world of difference.”

She was talking about my flip charts.

I like using flip charts because they can stay on the wall for an entire session (with PowerPoint I lose my image as soon as I advance a slide), I can add to them at any point (with PowerPoint, I’m mostly stuck with the slides I’ve created in advance) and anyone else in the room can add to them at any time. Here are three major factors I’ve found to good flip chart design:

Advanced Preparation

When participants walk into the room and see flipcharts prepared and hung in advance it sends the message that I’ve invested some time in preparing for the session.  I find that my handwriting is much neater when I can take my time, so preparing the flipcharts I plan to use in advance creates a better visual experience and just seems more professional than last-minute, ad hoc creation of flipcharts.  In addition, having flipcharts prepared in advance allows me to go right into the next topic without having to use valuable class time to (sloppily) create the next flipchart.

As a participant, which kind of visual imagery would you prefer to have hanging around the room?

flip chart created on the fly

Flipchart created in the moment

flip chart prepared in advance

Flip chart example prepared in advance

Continue reading

An Emergency Facilitator Kit Can Be A Presentation-saver

I had a co-worker who never went anywhere without her “emergency facilitator kit”.  I thought it was a little crazy.  Until I was leading a training and my hosts didn’t have tape.  Or markers.  I could hear my co-worker’s voice (and laughter… actually more of a cackle) in my head: who’s crazy now, buddy?

Over the years, I’ve grown to love my emergency facilitator toolkit.  It’s saved me on many occasions.  And in having this kit with me, I was able to continue to focus on providing a good learning experience to my audience (instead of running around at the last minute, trying to find tape or scissors or markers).

Here are the must-have items that I generally travel with to be sure I’m ready for any training emergency:

  • Mr. Sketch markers
  • Tape (generally blue painter’s tape – it doesn’t tear the paint off of walls)
  • Blue Stick adhesive putty (in case the venue doesn’t allow tape on the walls)
  • Scissors (be sure not to put this kit into your carry-on bag if you have scissors!)
  • Post-it notes
  • Pens
  • Name tags
  • Card stock (for name tents)
  • Blank paper (for note taking, for scratch paper, for small group work)
  • Thumb drive (just in case I need to transfer files from one computer to another and don’t have Internet access)
  • 3×5 note cards
  • AA and AAA batteries

A couple other things I like to bring along if I have room (though these can be a little bulky for an “emergency kit”) include portable speakers and a small remote to advance slides.

Am I missing anything? What would you put in your kit?

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”!  And now you can find sporadic, 140-character messages from me on Twitter @flipchartguy.

Training Materials Checklist

Nobody wants to walk into a training room to find an unprepared presenter.  Of course, I’ve never met a presenter who looked himself in the mirror and said: “I really hope that I look foolish and unprepared today!”

How To Prepare for Training Day

One of the best ways I know how to prepare for a presentation is through a well-designed lesson plan.  But even the most creative, instructionally sound presentations can quickly get derailed if the presenter forgot to bring an important material or if a piece of equipment just wasn’t set up in time.  The training materials checklist could prove helpful in day-of-presentation preparation.

Training Materials Checklist

On the day of a training workshop, I know there can be a lot of things happening – meetings, phone calls, emails, other project deadlines.  I’ve found having a training materials checklist can help remove my anxiety around being certain I have everything I need as I head into the training room.

What if You Have Materials to Print?

training materials checklist for printerAt Endurance Learning, we often create custom training sessions that use a training materials checklist for each day. Instead of hunting through the materials to know when you use something, how much of it you use and how to print it, we create these as checklists in the printed Facilitator Guides and as Word documents that the facilitators can use as an order sheet. They can copy the contents of the order sheet directly into email and send the files to the printer. Voila! When you add this to the materials list, you know that you have everything you need and in the format you need it.

Is there anything missing from the training materials checklist?  Drop me a line in the comments section.