Are You Using Some Of The Top 100 Tools For Learning?

Each year, the Centre for Learning and Performance Technologies (C4LPT) puts together a list of the top 200 tools for learning. This year, I decided to vote for my top 10.

When I read the voting requirements – that I had to list ten tools in order for my vote to count – I started to wonder if I would be able to complete my ballot. I have several go-to tools, but I’m not sure that I have ten tools that I consider essential to my role as a learning practitioner.

Throwing caution to the wind, I began completing my ballot. Seven minutes later, I realized that there are more than ten tools that I use and my ballot was complete.

I then clicked on this link and started perusing how other people completed their ballots. It was interesting – many others use the same tools as I do. However, there were some tools that I’d never heard of and which I plan to check out in the very near future. And there were some tools I’d used in the past and then forgotten about, which I plan to begin using once again. And these last two points, I believe, hold the power to this list: an opportunity to be exposed to new tools and a reminder of old tools that have long since been forgotten.

If you have ten minutes, I encourage you to fill out your own ballot by clicking here. I’d also encourage you to see what kinds of tools others are using – perhaps you’ll be exposed to something new (and life changing?), perhaps you’ll simply be reminded of an old favorite.

Inconceivable! Presentation Titles Should Be Creative, but Avoid False Advertising

Conference attendees will judge your presentation by its title, so it’s important to try to stand out. Of course, if your title promises things you don’t deliver, then attendees may just be annoyed.

I was at a conference recently and attended a session entitled: The Impact of Our Profession in Four Vignettes.

Who doesn’t like a good vignette? Wikipedia says a vignette is a short scene that focuses on a particular moment or gives some insight into a character or situation. However, when the presentation took shape, it was simply three short presentations and a panel discussion.

I felt cheated.

When you’re giving your presentation a title, I think it’s important that you are creative, but don’t go around plugging buzz words into your title, especially if you use those buzz words incorrectly. You’ll just end up looking as silly as Vizzini in The Princess Bride:

On Super Bowl Sunday, a 6-Year-Old did something Peyton Manning couldn’t

He kept me paying attention, with a vested interest, until the very end of the game. And it’s a lesson that every presenter can use in their presentations.

As soon as we walked into the door of his house for a small Super Bowl party, 6-year-old Theo gave everyone a handout (click here to download it for yourself). It was a questionnaire asking for predictions on things that might happen during the game such as:

  • Which team would win the coin toss?
  • Which team would be the last to score before halftime?
  • Would the defense score a touchdown?
  • Will there be more than three field goals in the game?
  • Would Peyton Manning throw for more or less than 290 yards?
  • Would Russell Wilson throw for more or less than 210 yards?

The genius behind Theo’s handout was that you could get a question correct at any given time during the game. Some of these questions could be answered right away (the Seahawks won the coin toss). Some of these questions could be answered at halftime (the Seahawks were the last to score before halftime). Some questions could be answered at various times during the game (yes, there was a defensive touchdown… by the Seahawks). And we had to stick around for the entire game in order to find out who might have gotten the most questions correct. Would Russell Wilson pass for 4 more yards during the final possession or would the Seahawks run the ball? Theo’s activity kept me engaged, watching every play until the end of the game.

What can presenters take away from Theo’s activity? If a 6-year-old can keep a group of adults interested in the utter snooze-fest that was this year’s Super Bowl by putting a little effort into a 10-question handout, I think professionals who are passionate about their topics should be able to come up with a way to keep people interested in their topics.

Theo asked some questions whose answers unfurled themselves like a time-release capsule throughout the game. Whether you use a handout or not, presenters can use the same strategy – asking several questions at the beginning of a presentation and challenging the audience to see how many answers they can find throughout the presentation. Maybe the person with the most correct answers can even walk away with an autographed copy of your PowerPoint slides!

Think you have a better idea than Theo to keep your audience engaged from start to finish? Write it in the comment section.

Know someone else who might benefit from Theo’s strategy? Pass this along.

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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:






Ask questions about




Opine about


Explain how the information you shared will impact their job

For longer presentations, challenge your attendees to:






Provide peer feedback

Role play


Write a case study

Solve a problem (preferably a real-life problem)


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


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.

Think someone else might find these ideas helpful? Pass this link along.

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Make Your Next Staff Meeting Presentation Memorable

Following a recent staff meeting, I sat around a table talking with several co-workers about how to get more engagement and participation during discussion items and project updates. One colleague asked: if we wouldn’t simply talk at an audience during a training session, then why are we talking at our co-workers during items for discussion?

It was a fair question. Perhaps anyone responsible for leading a discussion item or a project update should put together some sort of modified lesson plan – even if they have only been allocated 15 minutes during the meeting agenda. Following are two simple suggestions, based on adult learning principles and the core features of a lesson plan, that can make your next presentation during a staff or team meeting memorable and engaging:

  1. Clearly define what kind of reaction, participation or feedback you want (or need) from your co-workers (for example: do you want feedback on a project you’ve drafted, do you need help brainstorming a solution to a problem)
  2. Create a clear opportunity for your colleagues to offer the participation that you need (perhaps asking: “what does everyone else think?” works for your team, but many teams – especially when meeting via conference call – need something more intentional designed to get everyone engaged during a conversation. Intentional design ideas include breaking the team into small groups for a quick discussion – you can’t just sit silently in a small group; for teams meeting via web conference, using the white board or other writing tools can help dispersed teammates feel closer to the action)

The photo below is an example of a team member taking it upon himself to engage the rest of our team during a project status report. Instead of enabling us to daydream about other things while he presented, he asked everyone to stand up and surprised everyone with an interactive flipchart (!!!) to ensure the team hung on every word of his project update.

Interactive Flipchart

Status updates don’t need to be mind-numbingly boring. And if your team needs a little nudge to give you the feedback you need during your next team or staff meeting presentation, don’t assume that they’ll pay attention to you (let alone give you feedback) just because they’re present in the meeting and you expect them to pay attention or offer inout. Make sure you spend a few minutes coming up with a plan to design a presentation that offers an opportunity to your teammates to give you the input you need.

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Using “The Dating Game” to Identify Amazing Conference Presentations

On Monday I wondered whether 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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Is Lecture the Root of all Evil? My Position is Evolving.

Recently I saw my picture in a newsletter.  The caption under the photo read: “Picture shows participants listening as Brian Washburn delivers a lecture.”  Delivers a lecture?!  I don’t lecture.  I facilitate.

For years I’ve crusaded against the all-lecture format.  I’ve never found any research that suggests even auditory learners retain information through lecture better than through a more interactive format.  How can a lecturer tell whether or not the audience gets it, let alone whether or not they’ll be able to do something better or more easily?

But there’s something about some of my favorite TED talks that is compelling.  And TED talks are 100% lecture.  Last week in response to a post I had written, instructional designer Kirby Crider posted a link to this video.

It’s 100% lecture, yet I hung on every word.  I still remember some of the major points.  And the speaker’s 8 minute riff on the future of gamification and how it just might be integrated into everyday life both amused and haunted me.

What Lecture Can Be Good For*

Maybe, just maybe, it’s ok for people to come together, invest their time (and often their money) to attend a presentation without being able to do something differently.  Perhaps some presentations aren’t as much about learning in the moment, but rather being introduced to a topic, being excited about a topic, being inspired to go out and discover more about that topic on your own.

In the “Design Outside the Box” presentation posted above, the speaker does an amazing job offering some context and painting a picture of what might be possible.  He uses a few well-placed and well-designed slides with limited text in order to illustrate his points.  He doesn’t overdo it, he doesn’t rely on stale templates with lots of bullet points.  He’s obviously invested significant time preparing what he wants to say.

The Asterisk

Sometimes presenters – subject matter experts, keynote speakers, employees who have been asked to address their colleagues or some other group on a topic – mistake the time and effort invested in preparing a presentation (which ends up being lecture-based with lots of slides and lots of text) with good design.  Just because a presentation took 8 or 12 or 20 hours to prepare doesn’t mean it is a good or useful presentation.  And herein lies what I feel gives lecture such a bad name.

When the forum or format allows only for a lecture-based presentation, I appreciate the “SUCCESs” model espoused by Chip and Dan Heath in their book Made to Stick.  A compelling, inspirational, memorable lecture really needs a combination of the following elements (many of which were demonstrated in the “Design Outside the Box” presentation/lecture):

  • Simple
  • Unexpected
  • Concrete
  • Credible
  • Emotional
  • Stories

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I Confess, I Have A One Track Mind

“Honestly, I’ve never hiked on terrain like this in my life.”

“Is that a good thing?”


Lava Field

I was talking with my guide as we climbed through a lava field on the Big Island of Hawaii.  There was lava rock as far as the eye could see in three directions, with the Pacific Ocean off to the distance in the fourth direction.  As we walked to the end of the lava field, overlooking the ocean, we could see lava flowing into the sea.

Taking it all in: the unique landscape, new parts of the island being formed, the sun setting, the ocean boiling, my mind began to fantasize.  It’s where a lot of my fantasies go nowadays.  My wife tells me I have a one track mind.  I was fantasizing about how this amazing experience related to training and instructional design.

The uniqueness of the terrain, the opportunity to interact with a couple from Switzerland and New Zealand, the opportunity to learn about new earth being formed, the chance to see molten rock rise from the Earth’s core, it all came together to create an experience I’ll never forget.

As instructional designers, presenters, trainers, why shouldn’t we aim to give our learners a similarly unforgettable experience?  Why can’t we abandon the familiar (and safe) terrain of PowerPoint templates and bullet points for a unique visual aid, an unexpected story, a well-rehearsed delivery?  If the Earth can spend tens of thousands of years in order to create a spectacular experience, why can’t we spend a few extra hours putting together a learning experience our learners won’t soon forget?

This is the view that the Earth rewarded us with at the end of our journey.


What kind of reward can we offer our learners who have taken the risk of investing their time (and sometimes money) in order to take a learning journey with us?

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Adding Your Logo To A PowerPoint Presentation Can Kill Your Brand

The hammer.  It’s a simple tool.  How many centuries did it exist before humans figured out how to effectively use it?  PowerPoint is also a simple tool.  Will audiences have to wait centuries before presenters figure out how to use it effectively?

There are some outliers who have found an incredibly effective way to use slides.  Here’s a great example of how Steve Jobs did it (pay particular attention to slides 38, 61, 62).  And this is just a great tutorial on how to design slides.  But far too many presenters still rely on PowerPoint to be the presentation, while the presenter does little more than provide voiceover talent for the slides.

I recently watched this short video that was put together by Will Thalheimer and was struck around the 4:30 mark by the research that implies that a learners’ mind eventually gets trained to ignore and avoid certain features on slides they deem to be superfluous (like a logo).  Putting your logo on slides can actually train your learners to ignore your logo.

It’s PowerPoint week on the Train Like a Champion blog.  On Wednesday, I’ll pick up on Will Thalheimer’s plea to avoid using slide templates.  On Friday I’ll highlight five of the most impressive PowerPoint presentations I’ve ever seen.

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!

Don’t Let Your Own Voice Get in the Way of Your Success

Bill Belichick, and I have something in common.  If you’re a trainer or presenter, perhaps you do, too. 

Every elite level coach and athlete will watch hours of game film each week, dissecting each play, finding out how to improve their performance and where to make adjustments the next time around.

As trainers, do we take advantage of available technologies to review our performance with an eye toward continual improvement and effectiveness in our delivery? Or do we cringe at the thought of watching ourselves in action?  If you’re like I am, hearing your own voice is the one thing worse than hearing nails on a chalkboard.

Seeing is Believing

About six years ago, I facilitated a train-the-trainer session for the first time in a new job.  The end-of-session feedback was incredibly positive; to sum it up, the participants felt that my co-facilitator and I rocked, we had exceeded expectations. 

Except for one participant.  She literally thought I rocked, as in I swayed slightly from side to side as I was talking in front of the room.  She said I made her sea sick.  I dismissed it because there’s always one attendee who just has to say something critical.

A year and a half later, as an assignment for a masters program, I had to videotape myself delivering a 5-minute presentation.  And I rocked!  Literally. I was gently swaying from side to side.  Reviewing the video, I grew sea sick.

Since then I have made a conscious effort to beware of my body language and posture when in front of a group.  I never would have made this adjustment (and I would still be gently swaying) had I never seen that video.

Hearing is also Believing

Recordings – whether video or audio – can also be an extremely helpful tool when working with others (such as clients, subject matter experts or co-workers).

Recently, a co-worker and I spent an hour in a conference room reviewing a recorded webinar he had delivered. He’s a subject matter expert and knows his stuff forwards and back.  In all honestly, his presentation was fine.

Listening to his voice grated on his ears. But it was his opportunity to listen to his own voice that was the most important part of this exercise.

Feedback after the live event could have easily turned into a debate between my observations and my co-worker’s perceptions of his delivery.  But after we reviewed a recording of the webinar together, he could hear how many times he said “uh” or “um.” He could listen to the way he struggled to respond to some of the questions.  And there was no disputing these observations.

We identified opportunities for more learner participation:

  • throwing questions back to the participants to answer
  • using the polling feature
  • allowing everyone to see the questions in the chat box (watching the recorded webinar, we realized that participants did not have access to see others’ comments in the chat box)
  • stopping at critical points in a case to ask what others would have done with such a limited amount of information

As we thought about future webinars, we even saw the potential for using the breakout room feature.

After Further Review

Whether you’re working on a 60-minute webinar or a week-long training program, the fact is that your participants are investing time out of their lives to spend with you – time that they’ll never get back.  In exchange for this investment, you owe your participants a top notch learning experience.  Recording technologies offer trainers and presenters an opportunity to catch bad habits and improve every element of your delivery. 


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