When is “really good” really, “good enough” for training?


Unless you’ve recently emerged from hibernating in a cave for the past two decades, you’ve probably seen the movie Forrest Gump. Come on, even if you’re not a big fan of movies, you’ve still probably seen that movie. It has gone down in movie history as a classic; Forrest’s extraordinary life story told by Forrest himself, in one of Tom Hanks’ Oscar-winning performances.

This movie brought in an estimated $55,000,000 at the box office, garnered numerous awards, including 6 Academy Awards. Not too shabby.

If you go to the IMDb page for this movie, you will see that there are literally hundreds of names listed for cast and crew…hundreds. So many people had their eyes, ears, hands, heart and soul poured into the creation of this film, and guess what?

It’s not perfect.

The other day, Forrest Gump was on T.V. Right in the middle of the scene where Forrest visits Jenny’s apartment (after he finishes telling his story to people at the bus stop), a little goof caught my eye:

In one shot, the iron is up – in the next shot, the iron is down. Hmmm. So, I was curious – was this the only mistake in the movie? Turns out, there are websites dedicated to pointing out movie flaws and bloopers (these folks must have a lot of time on their hands). And guess what? There were actually a lot of factual errors and continuity issues like the iron. Again, it’s not perfect. But we still love that movie. No one took away the Oscars because of these flaws.

So, if a film that had a team of hundreds, one that inevitably went down as one of the greatest films of all time, has a few errors…why are we so hard on ourselves?

We live in a world of flaws. We work in organizations full of flaws. Yes, it’s our job to disseminate workflows, processes and procedures to enable employees to learn, develop and succeed. But it will never be perfect. Never. Furthermore, it’s likely that you don’t have hundreds of people on your team to scrutinize every detail. Many of us are part of a small team, or possibly even a “team of one.” We do the best we can with the resources we are provided.

Keep on keepin’ on, friends. 

Forrest Gump is complete. A done deal. There’s no assembling the production crew 20+ years later to “fix” that pesky iron scene. But our training-leadership development-onboarding-eLearning (etc) projects? The good news is, so much of what we do allows for continuous quality improvement. As processes update, employee job requirements change, or even when we find a more effective way to facilitate learning, we can do it.

A few tips:

  1. Audit your courses regularly (a minimum of once per year) for accuracy and relevance. Do they still address the learning need? If not, determine what updates are necessary, or consider eliminating the program/course altogether.
  2. Monitor your metrics – what data are you getting from participants and stakeholders that validates the content or approach?
  3. Don’t make changes to your program just for the sake of change – ensure that the change addresses learning needs, business drivers or other organizational goals.
  4. Keep your eye on the content – efficiency, relevance and accuracy should trump “pretty.” Sure, a beautifully designed course is ideal, but don’t lose sight of your higher-priority tasks and responsibilities in pursuit of perfection.

Now, to quote Forrest himself, “That’s all I have to say about that.”


Your turn: How do you audit and review your programs to ensure they are accurate and relevant? Leave a comment below to share your own tips!

Attending the ATD International Conference & Expo (ICE) in Denver next month? I’d love to see you there!


Madonna, Snapchat, and the Art of Knowing Your Audience


There was some interesting news in the music and tech industries this past week: Madonna previewed her new Living for Love video. Via Snapchat.

Now, depending on your musical tastes, demographics and social media preferences, you may or may not have paid any attention to this headline.

As one who is snugly nestled in that little generation between Baby Boomer and Millenial, I was intrigued by this. Partially because I have adored Madonna for as long as I can remember – I’m laughing while remembering the time I got in trouble for singing the lyrics to Papa Don’t Preach a little too loud-and-clear in front of my conservative dad – I was about 11 years old at the time and really didn’t understand what the song was about. If you remember that song, chances are you’re laughing at why it made my dad so uncomfortable!

And now, here we are in 2015 – where I am in equal parts awed and jealous that she is so ridiculously fit for a 56-year old woman (do you *see* those arms in that photo above? Holy biceps, Batman.)

I’m also awed that she continues to put herself out there, blazing trails and being just so….Madonna.

So, that brings us to last week’s video release. The decision to release her video via Snapchat was met with mixed reviews. Are you on Snapchat?

Me neither. But my kids are.

Do my kids care about Madonna’s newest video? Probably not. In fact, I don’t know that my 13-year old even knows who that is. So, releasing the new video through that channel was an interesting call.

Did it convert other Boomers and Gen Xers to join Snapchat? Did it entice current Snapchat users to watch the video to see who this Madonna person was? Well, as I was learning about this, I caught wind of this tweet, sent from the Twitter account of the Material Girl herself. It made me laugh:


So, there must have been some feedback from people who had no idea how to use the app, so Madonna took it upon herself to act like Snapchat Tech Support and help them locate and launch the video. This tweet got me thinking about the situation, and reminded me how important it is to know our audiences when we develop and deliver workshops, training classes and other sessions.

Friends, one of the most important parts of what we do is to ensure relevance, so our participants can carve out a meaningful learning experience to help them be more effective in their job today…or prepare them for wherever their career might take them in the future. To set the stage in our sessions (the 10% of 70-20-10!) for participants to carry the content out to the job, so they can apply it in the real world (the 70%!) and work with others to master the content and build context (the 20%!).

Was the decision for an artist with primarily a non-Millenial fan base to release a video through a Millenial-heavy channel a risky one? Sure. Did it pay off? I think the jury is still out on that. Am I going to start Snapchatting now? Nah. But I can certainly appreciate the fact that technology is changing the way we do things and the way we learn.

As learning professionals, we need to remember that – and like Madonna, blaze our own trails, continuously evolve, and shatter the status quo in our organizations.


Your turn: What are your thoughts on how Madonna launched her new video? In your opinion, was it a hit or a miss? Share your comments below!

Know of someone who would appreciate this post? Be kind and share it!


Trick Out My PowerPoint: Episode 2


Every second of the day, PowerPoint is used in approximately 350 presentations around the world. To put that into perspective, there are more PowerPoint presentations born every second than babies.

If you’re planning to use PowerPoint (along with 30,240,000 other people every day), it’ll be important that your slides can stand out and be memorable.

Brian Washburn from Train Like a Champion and I are here to help! In this second edition of our Trick Out My PowerPoint series (did you catch the original post?), we’ve taken a look at an actual slide from a conference Brian recently attended and put our own spin on the design of the slide.

trick-out-my-powerpoint-original slide-goals of eye banks

While the presentation itself featured good, relevant information, here’s a sample of how Brian and I would have “tricked out” this slide deck for maximum impact on the audience:

Trick-out Artist #1: Brian Washburn

Brian says:

All the information is there on this slide, and I would have broken up the bullet points into four separate slides (when you list all your bullet points on one screen, your audience will be too busy reading the text on your slide to pay attention to what you have to say… the brain can’t do both things at once!).

To me, the word “goal” lends itself very easily to a sports metaphor. One way to trick out this slide deck, at least this particular section revolving around goals, would be to turn the slide into a stadium scoreboard, complete with jumbo tron screen for the image.


The word “goal” also reminds me of the old “fundraising thermometer” whereby reaching one goal is a small victory along the way, but the ultimate destination is to reach every single goal.


Finally, there are times when someone at a higher pay grade than I insists that a slide template must be used. There are so many reasons I don’t like slide templates, but the biggest one is because the slide template eats up valuable slide real estate. Nonetheless, if a slide template is required, it doesn’t prevent the visual imagery of your PowerPoint slides from being powerful. I might put together a series of slides that looks like this…


Followed by a series of slides with text that is not blurry:


During the delivery, I’d make the point that without all four of these goals being achieved, millions of people would remain corneal blind and those blurry slides represent all they would be able to see.


Trick-out Artist #2: Michelle Baker

Michelle says:

Well, I took the challenge in another direction. Ordinarily, my gut reaction would have been to take the same approach as Brian suggested, to divide the content among multiple slides. But as I looked at the slide, I couldn’t help but wonder if I could actually communicate the point of the slide on one individual slide, without looking cluttered or forced?

As a reminder, here is the original slide:

trick-out-my-powerpoint-original slide-goals of eye banks

I transformed this slide three ways – here is what I came up with:


Option 1: Simple and Straightforward

Trick out my PPT - Goals of Eye Banks - MB SLIDE 1

On this slide, I specifically called out the two goals of eye banks, using a simple “bullseye” graphic for participants to identify these goals with the importance of achieving the goal.  Using a callout box in a contrasting color, I added the additional talking points. The box and color breaks up the text, and allows the participant to focus on “zones” in the slide, rather than looking at many text rows.  You could also utilize PowerPoint’s animation/transition features to have the text box float in after discussing the two goals, to make the slide appear even cleaner.


Option 2: Let SmartArt Do the Work

Trick out my PPT - Goals of Eye Banks - MB SLIDE 2

When used properly, SmartArt can be a very effective way to visually convey information on a slide without using too much text. It’s a wonderful, easy-to-use feature for non-graphic designers (like myself!) to add to their PowerPoint design arsenal.  For this slide, I used two converging arrows. This particular graphic clearly shows the relationship between the two goals of eye banks, and why they are so important to work in conjunction with one another. The ribbon-tied finger graphic at the bottom adds a bit of personality to the reminder of why this is important, particularly for new eye banks.


Option 3: A strong graphic can make all the difference

Trick out my PPT - Goals of Eye Banks - MB SLIDE 3

Leaning on the participants’ perceived passion around healthy eyes, I used a strong graphic of a stunning blue eye as the focal point of this slide. By adjusting the image size, the eye appears to fade directly into the blank, white canvas of the slide, which provides an ideal space to add my text – simply stated and clean.  Again, using basic animation/transition functionality, I would add the “What does this mean?” subtext after discussing the two primary goals.

On all three slides, I made sure to call out the source information, but notice that I used a muted gray color for the font in a smaller size – it is visible, but does not compete with the primary message the slide coveys.

Another point of consistency is the use of animation/transition functionality – subtle is key; avoid crazy twirls, spins and checkerboard effects! A simple float or fade will suffice, and use the same effect, speed and direction throughout your entire slide deck for a polished, professional look.



So, there you have it. Between Brian and Michelle’s unique approaches, you see 6 very different, tricked-out approaches for the same PowerPoint slide. Maybe give one of these styles a try the next time you’re faced with refreshing a text-laden slide?

What say you?

How would you trick out this slide? What is your preferred approach? Share your creative ideas in the comments below!


Need some help Tricking Out Your PowerPoint?

Let Brian and Michelle give it a shot! Send us a slide, and we might just feature it in an upcoming blog post on Train Like a Champion and Phase(Two)Learning!


Stay tuned for a big phase(two)learning announcement coming soon!

Don’t miss it – subscribe to receive email updates from phase(two)learning…you’ll be glad you did!



Pros and Cons of Using Paper-Based Training Materials


Ah, the training binder. An irrefutable repository for all things both relevant and irrelevant. If you’ve attended or facilitated a training session within the past century, chances are good that you know what I’m talking about. The thick, encyclopedia of information that is probably sitting on your shelf right now, collecting dust. Or maybe it’s being used as a doorstop?

(it’s okay, take a moment to glance at your shelf and/or “doorstop” and chuckle)

Yesterday, I noticed this as I was walking through an office – I just had to take a photo:


Times, they are a’changing. Not so many years ago, these binders would be loaded with documents. But now, we see nothing more than a sad, lonely training binder graveyard.

So, my question for you is this: Is there still a place for paper-based training materials – in the 21st century training world? We have so many tools at our fingertips – wikis, tutorials, FAQs, checklists, job aids, videos, blogs, and other wonderful technical resources – but are they truly the end-all-be-all for learning in today’s world? Well, to get you thinking, I came up with a short pro/con list:

pros and cons of using paper-based training materials


I know, I barely scratched the surface. That’s by design, because it’s your turn – I would love to hear from you. Please take a moment to answer this simple poll:

Thanks for sharing your pros and cons – look for the survey results in an upcoming phase(two)learning post!

This was a somewhat lighthearted post on the topic of paper-based training materials. Don’t get me wrong, I do feel they have their place in today’s learning world. I have a few training binders that I’ve received throughout my career that I reference often. I also have a few, like these, that sit on my shelf and collect dust…I haven’t touched them in months (maybe years?):


My opinion is that as facilitators and designers, we must evolve with our learners and the organizations we are supporting, and use all learning tools – whether paper-based, web-based, social or something else entirely – in a context that makes sense.

Our goal should be to determine the most appropriate learning solution/vehicle/platform for the situation, to effectively support the learning function.

Please share any other thoughts or ideas in the comments!


Enjoy this cartoon to close out today’s thought…





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3 Things a Flat Tire Reminded Me About How Young People Learn


Last week, I had the ever-so-joyous pleasure of a flat tire. Who doesn’t LOVE that?

(The photo above was clearly taken before I made it to the tire place for a replacement the next morning!)

I was driving with my son, Matt, when it happened. While I am grateful it happened in a place when we were not in danger, I actually learned – or maybe was reminded of – something during the experience.

Matt will be 13 next month. Like most boys his age, he is never far from his gadgets – particularly his phone or iPad. So, as he was riding in the car that afternoon, Matt had his phone in hand, playing a game. When the notification appeared that the tire pressure was low, I pulled over to investigate. By the time I got back in the car, Matt was already on his phone, looking up the online user manual so he could understand the car’s messaging system and look for online tutorials on what we should do next.

I, being in the “pushing 40” crowd, probably would have just grabbed the owner’s manual from the glove compartment. Whippersnapper.

This left me in awe. Not the “my kid is a genius” kind of awe (well, maybe a little), but in a way that got me thinking about learning instincts across generations. Matt is a “digital native.” I am not. Where my instinct told me to look for a static book, Matt knew to go to the internet to find current information.

His homework is the same way – while he sits in his comfy bedroom using a search engine to do research for an assignment or project, I sat in an uncomfortable Naugahyde chair at my local library branch, scouring a likely-outdated set of World Book encyclopedias.

So, with this experience in mind, here are 3 things I learned about how to engage Millenial (and younger) learners:

1. Leverage “just in time” learning.

Just like Matt instinctively sought out online resources and tutorials to learn what to do about our flat tire, it’s important that you provide the right learning solution for the right learners at the right time. Don’t skimp on the needs analysis to determine the most appropriate learning solution for every situation.

2. Make learning social.

Whether you use social collaboration tools like Yammer or Chatter, create blogs or wikis, host internal Twitter chats or use a blended learning approach, do what you can to connect learners to others. Make the social nature of learning come alive in your organization, and be mindful with how to intuitively connect learners with tools and each other.

3. Embrace technology.

Mobile learning, video-based learning and games are all wonderful methods for engaging learners, but it is important to be mindful of how you utilize them. Be careful not to consider designing a learning game because it would be “fun,” but rather the act of simulating a task or reenacting a scenario that mimics an on-the-job environment. Likewise, the idea of using mobile or video-based methods simply for the sake of incorporating them into your learning program would miss the mark. Embrace technology; recognize its merit, and implement learning solutions accordingly.

It’s funny how the headache of dealing with a flat tire can make one think. Mad props to my kiddo for this one! This is Matt, after a recent 5k:


Your turn: How do you create a learning environment that engages learners of all levels in your organization? Please share your thoughts and tips in the comments!

Got some old school folks in your network who could use a reminder about engaging young learners? Be kind and share this post!

Are we connected?

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Trainers, remember: Context Before Content


Recently, a friend and fellow blogger asked the question, “Is nothing sacred?”

I’ll give you a moment to check out the link…

(insert hold music)

According to this post, the answer was an emphatic no. I would have to agree.

Coincidentally, I was at church this past weekend, when I had my own “Is nothing sacred?” moment. I was sitting in my seat, when I noticed our pastor rolled out a flip chart. Given my fondness for flip charts, I was intrigued. He proceeded to talk – as he started to set up the lesson, he said these three words:

“Context before content.”

Rather than jumping right into the Scripture passage he was referencing, he took a moment to give the congregation the backstory. It set up his sermon in a way that prepared the congregation to absorb and understand the passage and his points.

As an attendee, I appreciated the color. As a facilitator, I was drawn into the setup, his unorthodox use of a flip chart and the subsequent lesson. It was a valuable reminder:

Trainers, we need to set our learners up to be successful. To understand the content, whether it’s in an instructor-led session or through technology. To gain the skills and knowledge they need to be proficient. To improve performance to impact the organization.

We do this by providing context. Before content.

So often, we (including myself) are guilty of providing nothing more than an information dump.

A “text-and-next” eLearning module.

Wordy slides. Death by PowerPoint. Lecture.

Butts in seats. Smile sheets.

You get the idea. The content is the easy part. Context is more challenging. How do we overcome these default training behaviors to get to the sweet spot – the context?

Start by establishing clear learning objectives. A clear learning objective answers 3 questions:

1) What is the action the learner will need to perform?

2) Are there any specific conditions under which the learner will perform the action?

3) How will learning/performance be measured?

We need to meet our learners where they are, then create an environment that is conducive for learning. Keep these 3 simple questions in mind when you’re developing content…and you’ll find that context is easier to communicate.

Your turn: How do you avoid a “content dump” and provide context to your learners? Share your tips in the comments below!

Would your colleagues benefit from the tips in this post? Please share it with your network! 

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Trick Out My PowerPoint!


Today, we have a special treat for you here on phase(two)learning – a first, in fact. This is a collaborative post! Read on…

PowerPoint is such an easy tool to use. Just because we use it, however, doesn’t mean we use it well.

The Challenge: Trick Out My PowerPoint!

The Trick Out My PowerPoint Challenge is an attempt to walk the everyday presenter through some very easy steps that can transform a normal (and mostly forgettable) PowerPoint deck into something a little more visually appealing, a little different, a little more interesting and a little more memorable.

Meet Trick-out Artist #1: 


By day, he’s a global training manager. By night, he blogs and huffs Mr. Sketch markers (generally the cherry red or the blueberry blue). He’s never taken a graphic design course in his life. He just wants learning to be engaging and thinks anyone can do it. Give it up for Train Like A Champion blogger Brian Washburn!

Meet Trick-out Artist #2:


It’s Yours Truly! If you’ve followed this blog for long, you probably know that I’m a corporate learning leader and onboarding strategist. I’m just tall enough to get onto the Space Mountain ride at Disney World, have a slight shoe addiction, and I’ve been bringing progressive learning experiences to the workplace for 15 years.

Let’s do this!

The Target: A presentation Brian co-facilitated in 2008 at the Association for Experiential Education International Conference:

Some Initial Thoughts from the Trick-out Artists:

Brian: Honestly, the deck was serviceable. People came up to us afterwards and told us how much they enjoyed our presentation. Although I have to say, looking back on slides I created five and a half years ago, it seemed a bit like looking through an old high school yearbook. Sure, the spiked hair, skinny tie, pegged jeans and sweater vest worked for me back then, but in hindsight I probably could have (should have) done better. Same with these slides.

Michelle: Ha! Yes, this definitely looks like something from days of yore. The template is about as fresh as big, aqua-netted hair and stonewashed jeans. (Not that I’d know anything about that!) So, if you were going to freshen up these slides, what would you do?

Brian: If I was to take an hour or two to re-visit this slide deck and to trick it out as best as a non-graphic designer could trick something out, this is what I’d come up with:

Three simple things that Brian changed about the original slide deck include:

1)      Eliminate the template. There was a time when PowerPoint templates (just like pegged jeans) were the in-thing. Now templates that come loaded with PowerPoint are pretty stale and their pre-built borders and images take up valuable screen space.

2)      Eliminate the clipart. I’m not sure if clipart was ever the “in”. I’ve removed any vestiges of it and added several images of experiential education to give the audience an image to which they can relate.

3)      Reduce the words. In an attempt to de-clutter the screen, I’ve removed several text-laden slides. I think a lot of the points from the slides that were removed could be delivered by the facilitators during the session (or better yet, they could be brainstormed by the audience and written on flipchart).

Michelle: Nice! I like the vivid imagery on the first several slides and the simplicity of the shapes and text throughout. Now it’s my turn… if you want to see something tricked out – tricked out, then keep reading…

Here are three easy things that were used to trick out these slides:

 1)      Don’t settle for the “default” font.  Did you know that hundreds of free fonts are out there for the taking? Two great resources are fontsquirrel.com and Google Fonts. The large block-letter font is called BEBAS and the script font is called PACIFICO. I stuck with trusty Arial for standard text and bullet points, for easy readability. A word to the wise: Find 2-3 fonts that complement each other – do not go crazy!

2)      Ditch the template. Like Brian, I also unpegged my acid washed jeans, de-AquaNetted my hair and opted for a blank slide over a PowerPoint template. For some weird reason, a blank slide can be intimidating.  A simple tip to help align your text, images and spacing is to utilize the “view gridlines” feature: Under the “View” tab, simply check the “gridlines” checkbox. This has helped me many times!

3)      Let the visuals do the talking. In the “welcome” slide (slide #2), for example, I could have just typed the word “welcome”. Instead I used a large, simple graphic of a welcome mat to convey the same message in a more appealing way. On the next slide I used a man with a question mark over his face. When you look at the text (“What is the role of a facilitator?”) the learner is drawn into that simple graphic. After all, as facilitators, haven’t we all wondered what our role should be? That question mark over the face tells a story that doesn’t require bullet points. It doesn’t require an abundance of text. Looking at the photo, you just get it. Strategically placed visuals can replace the need for words. Your presentation should work in tandem with your slides. If you’re looking for free images, try Flickr’s Creative Commons licensing or Google Images. Just remember to give credit where due.

What did we miss? Is there something you’d have done to better “trick out” this deck? Let us know in the comments section.

Have a slide deck you’d like us to trick out? Drop a line to bpwashburn@gmail.com or phasetwolearning@gmail.com.

Know someone who could use some ideas to improve their PowerPoint skillz? Be kind and pass this along!