The easiest tweak you can make to your training and orientation programs…

stocking-up-on-classroom-candy
How many of you put out candy for training attendees? I know we do at the day job…in fact, the photo above is a shot of my cart on a recent stock-up trip at my local Sam’s Club. Even when the cost of doing business continues to soar, this is an expense that we have curbed, yet kept.

Why?

Because people like candy.

Before the workplace health and wellness fans start to worry, we also provide fresh fruit and some considerably less-exciting snacks like granola bars and trail mix.

Until I attended a recent conference, however, I didn’t give much thought to the bowl of candy that graces our training tables. Then, a tiny little tweak transformed a simple snack into a learning tool.

I promise you now, whether you are a long-time phase(two)learning follower or this is the first post you’ve read, this is worth the price of admission. Which, frankly, is free…so what a deal, amiright?

Check this out:

tech-tip-on-candy-wrapper

Whoa! Mind. Blown.

How simple is this? All that is needed is candy or snacks, a package of printable adhesive labels and some tips or ideas to share to your participants.

Granted, I’m sure I’m not the first person to “discover” this little nugget, but in over 20 years of teaching and facilitation, somehow it’s new to me. Regardless, it got me thinking….how else could we use this easy tip in training or Orientation programs? Here are 8 beyond-simple ideas:

  1. Provide the URL for your organization’s intranet, wiki, or other learning sites.
  2. Share the Twitter handles for influential, must-follow people in your organization or industry.
  3. Post can’t-miss dates – like when your benefit paperwork is due.
  4. Distribute your company’s IT Help Desk email or phone number.
  5. Share interesting trivia about your organization’s history. (Bonus: Have participants piece together the trivia into a timeline!)
  6. Introduce your company’s mission or purpose statement. 
  7. Solicit simple, one-sentence quotes from other employees – tips on how to be successful at your organization
  8. Share “Fact or Fiction” statements about your industry, organization, products/services, etc. Have participants stick (literally!) the wrappers under one of two columns on a flip chart (“fact” or “fiction”). As the candy is consumed throughout training, the columns will grow. On the last day of training, see how accurate everyone’s guesses are!

Honestly, I could probably come up with a dozen other ideas…there are so many creative possibilities for this one!

Your turn: Have you used this type of interactive element in your training sessions? What tips have you communicated? And most importantly, what is the must-have candy in YOUR candy bowl?

10 Things You Learned in Kindergarten That Will Make You a Better Facilitator

10-things-you-learned-in-kindergarten-that-will-make-you-a-better-facilitator

Do you remember the book, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten? Recently, I came across a copy of Robert Fulghum’s inspirational collection of essays and remembered a high school teacher had a poster with excerpts from this book in her classroom. While I recall looking at the poster, and even reading the simplistic statements…I was a teenager, desperately trying to be seen as a young adult, so any suggestion that I should revert to things I learned as a 5-year old didn’t interest me at the time.

But now, looking back at this idyllic book with a grown-up pair of eyes and perspective, I see how much truth lies in its simplicity. It reminds me of how unnecessarily complicated we tend to make things. Yes, in life. But also in career.

I flipped through the book, first in a general sense, but again as a learning professional. How could we revolutionize our interactions with training participants, with organizational stakeholders, with clients or our own teams if we followed Fulghum’s advice?

Thinking as a facilitator for the purposes of this post, here are 10 lessons we learned in Kindergarten, based on Fulghum’s book, that could make us more effective:

1. Share everything.

Transparency is key. Use your platform as a facilitator to encourage a collaborative environment. Share best practices. Discuss real-world scenarios and struggles. Celebrate wins. Be all in with your participants.

 

2. Play fair.

Maintain a level playing field throughout your sessions. Ensure that your content is relevant. Set learners up for success, not defeat or frustration.

 

3. Clean up your own mess.

Both literally and figuratively. Set house rules that allow for exploration, but also for accountability.

 

4. Take a nap every afternoon.

(I wish.)

Never underestimate the importance of taking a break. Your participants – and YOU – need time to recharge your batteries, get some fresh air, or take care of work issues that may arise. Building breaks into your agenda will also help ensure that your participants stick with you during the content.

 

5. Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.

Okay, this book was first written in 1988, long before things like “lactose intolerance” and “gluten-free” entered our mainstream vocabulary. But the lesson I take from this statement is that little details make a big difference. Go above and beyond to create a positive environment and make your participants feel special. Warm cookies and cold milk are certainly a nice touch…even if you have to provide a healthy alternative.

 

6. When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together.

Provide support opportunities after the session – whether through online resources, discussion forums, social media or other channels that work for your organization. Encourage participants to network and share with one another to continue the learning long after the lights go out in the training room.

 

7. Live a balanced life – learn some and drink some and draw some and paint some and sing and dance and play and work every day some.

As a facilitator, I interpret this as accommodating a variety of methods and learning styles into your session. Balance heavier content with lighter, interactive methods. Don’t rely on stale, wordy PowerPoint. Avoid lecturing for hours on end. Leverage group discussions and other engaging exercises to keep your participants moving throughout the day.

 

8. It doesn’t matter what you say you believe – it only matters what you do.

I saw a bumper sticker the other day that said, “Less talk, more walk.” That’s really what it’s all about. Live and facilitate with conviction, friends. Be an advocate for learning in your organization not only by what you say in meetings, but how you interact with peers, subordinates, stakeholders and bosses.

 

9. It wasn’t in books. It wasn’t in church. What I needed to know was out there in the world.

Amen to that. The most effective learning takes place through practical means – on the job, in the real world. Recognize that, and design your formal instructional time in a way that sets learners up for real-world application.

 

10. You may never have proof of your importance, but you are more important than you think. There are always those who couldn’t do without you. The rub is that you don’t always know who.

A self-aware facilitator understands that it truly is all about the participant, not about the facilitator. Yes, even those of us who have a flair for the dramatic and like to dazzle the crowd. But friends, please remember what a privilege it is to bring learning experiences to the workplace. You are in a unique position to add value to your organization – even though sometimes, on days when “everything is a training issue,” it can feel like a thankless, after-thought of a job. And my goodness, how rewarding does it feel to see the proverbial light bulbs switch on during a session, or to see tangible business results after a big learning project was implemented?

So, in a way, it can be **a little bit** about us once in awhile…

 

Your turn: What childhood lessons do you follow, when designing, delivering or managing the learning function in your organization? How have those lessons helped you throughout your career? I’d love to see your insights in the comments!

 

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3 Facilitation Tips from Jimmy Fallon

3-facilitation-tips-from-jimmy-fallon

Confession: I have been a little smitten with Jimmy Fallon for quite some time – since he was  a young SNL player, giggling uncontrollably during sketch after sketch. His easygoing, likeable style has kept me coming back, show after show. I was thrilled when he visited Indy for a week to host the Late Show when our city hosted the Super Bowl a few years back. I was even more excited when it was announced that Jimmy would be Jay Leno’s Tonight Show successor.

So, the Tonight Show. An institution in American television, right? For many years – since 1954, in fact – people have tuned in to watch a similar agenda: The host delivers a monologue, often inspired by current news and pop culture events. This is followed by a celebrity interview or two – sometimes a standup comic. The show often concludes with a musical act.

And millions of people faithfully watch, and are entertained. Myself included. Then a few years back, Jimmy Fallon burst onto the late-night TV scene, and shook up the status quo.

While there is still a monologue, celebrity interviews and many of the other mainstays of a successful late-night talk show formula, he added in a few elements that are more reflective of his personality, and really ushered in a new generation of this television genre.

Because when have we been able to witness an Oscar winner (Diane Keaton) playing beer pong?

jimmy fallon diane keaton 1

jimmy fallon diane keaton 2

 

Or cut up in the now-famous “Ewwww!” sketch with Will Ferrell and the First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama?

jimmy fallon will ferrell michelle obama ewww

Or make up games like Faceketball?

jimmy fallon bradley cooper faceketball

Or sing hit songs with kids’ classroom instruments?

jimmy fallon idina menzel the roots band classroom instruments

Or play Antler Ring Toss?

jimmy fallon antler ring toss
I could definitely go on, but my point is this: He is a master at having fun, engaging his guests and audience, and being a little bit (or a lot) silly.

And yes, he manages to make celebrities look a little ridiculous. “Egg Russian Roulette,” anyone?

jimmy fallon tom cruise egg russian roulette

Look at the celebrities’ faces in the photos above. They are having fun. This is clearly not just another interview to promote their newest film or project. Sure, they have the opportunity to promote during the show, but I think it’s obvious that they also have a pretty good time when they hang out with Jimmy Fallon.

And as a facilitator, I want to be like that.

Okay, maybe I wouldn’t try to convince a participant to smash an egg on his head, but I would love for that participant to walk out of a session I facilitated confident that he not only learned something, but also enjoyed himself.

How does Jimmy do it? I’ve noticed these techniques that training facilitators can leverage:

  1. Try something different. As the photos in this post indicate, you really never know what you’re going to encounter on the Tonight Show. Have you been using the same icebreakers, energizers or group exercises for a long time? Maybe it’s time to retire the old and bring a new activity into your rotation.
  1. Have fun with your participants. Get involved in discussions, do something silly and unexpected. If something is funny, laugh! Humor can be an effective way to connect with your audience – just keep it appropriate, of course!
  1. Extend the conversation past the classroom. Jimmy Fallon not only engages his guests and the studio audience, but he keeps the viewers engaged as well. A good example is “Hashtags” – Jimmy encourages people to tweet personal experiences or anecdotes to a particular hashtag; he includes some of his favorites on the air:

jimmy fallon hashtags why I'm single

jimmy fallon hashtags my worst birthday

jimmy fallon hashtags my worst birthday 2

 

I may just “steal” the Hashtags idea to use as an icebreaker….I’ll keep you posted, Phase(Two)Nation.

Your turn: Jimmy Fallon has found a niche among the noisy late-night talk show space. He always looks like he’s having the time of his life…which draws people in. So, fellow facilitators, let’s shake up the status quo in the noisy space of training classes and other learning events. What can we do to convey passion for what we do, genuine interest in our audience, and have fun? Share your ideas in the comments below!

 

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Just for fun!

Did you happen to catch the special episode of the Tonight Show after the Super Bowl? There was another epic Lip Sync Battle (not a new thing) between Jimmy Fallon, Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart. Absolutely hilarious – if you’re looking for a hearty laugh, check out the video below!

Tech Tools for Training

TD-Magazine-July-2014

Here’s an exciting little nugget: I was thrilled to contribute an article for this month’s issue of T+D magazine.

The topic? “Tech Tools for Training”. As a longtime supporter of using cell phones and other devices in training sessions, this was a fun topic to explore. The article includes 8 easy-to-use apps and tools, as well as suggestions for surviving a technical malfunction or other disaster.

I’m not going to quote the article in this post, but I did want to share it for you here on phase(two)learning!

You can access the online version here.

If you are not an ATD (formerly ASTD) member and would like to see a PDF of the actual magazine article, you can access it by clicking on the image below:

T+D-Magazine-July-2014-Tech-Tools-for-Training-Michelle-Baker

I’ve also added it to the Free Resources tab here on the blog. Enjoy!

 

Your turn: What are your go-to tech tools to use in the training class? How do you leverage cell phones and other devices to engage learners? Share your favorites in the comments below!

 

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Bring phase(two)learning to your organization and take advantage of a July T+D special!

Now scheduling workshop dates for Fall 2014 and beyond! Contact us before July 31 – mention the T+D article to receive 15% off your workshop pricing!

Current topics can be found on the phase(two)learning official website, or just ask about a specific topic that is relevant for your team or event.

 

If Trainers Were Listed on Yelp, How Would You Be Rated?

if-trainers-were-listed-on-yelp-how-would-you-be-rated

I’m just coming back home from a few days in a log cabin outside Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Ever been there?

After a couple of days in the wilderness, I learned that this pretty much sums me up:

all-i-want-is-a-log-cabin-and-wifi

Who am I kidding? I’ve known this all along…I’m not exactly an outdoorsy girl. It was a great trip, nonetheless. Due to the lack of connectivity, I used the past few days as a “digital detox” of sorts…catching up on some reading, doing a little phase(two)learning brainstorming, and enjoying a few days of peace and quiet.

Monday evening, we were thinking about where to get dinner. We decided to turn our decision over to the Yelp community to try a good, local place with good reviews. We stumbled upon this BBQ place that was, conveniently, just minutes from our cabin. The ratings were overwhelmingly positive and prices appeared to be reasonable (not always the case in a vacation spot!). On more than one review, it was stated that this place was a “hole in the wall” – but it was worth giving a try.

We drove to the address and found an old, run-down house-turned-restaurant. It was, indeed, sketchy. But the intoxicating smell of BBQ wafting from the place lulled us into submission; we shrugged our shoulders and walked in.

Am I glad we did. This place – despite the rough appearance – was legit. Delish.

So this experience naturally got me thinking about how these folks are experts at what they do. They know BBQ. Would I ask them to facilitate a workshop for my team? Probably not – unless it was a cooking demo on how to make some killer pulled pork. But would I recommend them to future travelers who are in the area? You betcha – I’ll be adding a review on Yelp.

What about us? It’s our job to know the business we support. It’s also our job to know the learning industry. In order to be true experts at what we do – at the organizational level, in our industries and in the collective Learning industry – we need to dig deep to continually develop ourselves. How can we do this? Here are 3 simple strategies:

1) Ask why.

Whether you’re at work or outside work, strive to learn WHY things are the way they are. It’s not enough to know a lot of “stuff” – you need to surround the “stuff” with understanding the bigger picture. A good way to start is by having a simple conversation with your manager – learn how decisions are made for your team. Learn how you can better support your boss, your team and your organization. Let “asking why” spill over to your partnerships – when completing needs analysis, developing content or while facilitating. Let asking WHY be your gateway to gaining context.

2) Learn something every day.

There is a lot of talk about being a “lifelong learner” – and I think people define that in different ways. Whatever this means to you, embrace it. Maybe you’re pursuing a degree. Maybe you are involved with a local or national organization, like ASTD (ATD) or SHRM. Maybe you follow like-minded people on social media and have a strong Personal Learning Network (PLN). Maybe you follow this little blog (thank you!). Whatever works for you – do it. Learn from it. Put it into practice.

3) Spend time with the greats.

I’d be willing to bet that the guy who made the BBQ at the Hungry Bear BBQ didn’t just wake up one day and decide to start making BBQ. He probably learned it from someone – whether a family recipe, or if he took over from someone else at the restaurant. Who is the expert you’d like to learn from? Is it your boss or a leader in your company? An industry leader? Someone in your community? Whoever it is, reach out. Even if you’re not seeking a formal “mentor” relationship, you can certainly ask that person to join you for lunch or to grab a cup of coffee. Learn their story – how did they get where they are? What have they learned along the way? What pearls of wisdom might they share? (Bonus: refer to Strategy #1 and ask them WHY.) You never know what you might learn by building deeper connections to interesting, intelligent people.

 

All of this to say, it takes effort to get really, really good at what you do.

Malcolm Gladwell has famously stated in his book, Outliers, that it takes roughly 10,000 hours of practice to truly master a skill. In our world, no one is going to become a master trainer/facilitator overnight. It takes years and a number of different actions to achieve “expert” status…and even then, there is always. more. to. learn. in our business. Trends emerge. Projects come along that challenge us. Take advantage of them to learn and move forward in your role and career.

After all, if people were to start rating trainers, instructional designers, HR professionals and workshop facilitators on Yelp, how would you want to be rated?

 

Your turn: One simple question…what do you do to continually develop yourself and sharpen your skills? Share your own strategies in the comments below!

 

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Check out the Free Resources page for handy job aids, checklists and more!

 

 

A Lesson in Influence…from Ashton Kutcher?

are-you-an-influencial-trainer

Lately, I’ve been all about breaking the rules. Getting people to think outside the box. Trying new things in the classroom. And this week, I learned something:

If you don’t have influence, none of it really matters.

Over the past few days, in a social feed near you, you may have seen links to a video clip of an actor, Ashton Kutcher. Now, maybe you know of this guy…the guy from Punk’d. The guy from Two and a Half Men.  The guy from That 70’s Show.

Yeah, him.

At first glance, it’s not unusual to see him making headlines. After all, he’s a pretty popular guy. At the time of this writing, he has over 14 million Twitter followers, is getting ready to release a movie about Steve Jobs, and stars in a highly-rated TV show (I’ll spare you any post-Charlie Sheen “Jump the Shark” commentary). And let’s be honest, he’s not bad to look at either.

But what was THIS video clip all about? After seeing a couple dozen posts, I finally caved and watched it. I’m so glad I did. The video was from his acceptance speech after receiving a Teen Choice Awards (the program aired earlier this week). Not exactly a credible source for leadership development, eh? Once Ashton took the stage, and got past the eardrum-piercing screams of thousands of teenage girls, he started talking.

And what he said impressed the heck out of me.

I’m not going to write about it; I encourage you to take a moment and just watch the video yourself at the end, but I will say a few words:

As learning professionals, we talk about being advocates for learning in our organizations. Assessing needs. Sharing recommendations and best practices. Being a trusted advisor to the business. But none of that means a darn thing unless we have influence. Whether your audience is one person, or in Ashton’s case, a room of thousands, we need to recognize and leverage the opportune moments we are given to influence up, down and across our organizations, to bring learning experiences to the workplace.

Watch the video here:

Your turn: How have you used your expertise to influence people and programs in your organization?  What challenges have you faced…and how did you overcome them?

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Before Your Training Session: 3 Simple Things to Remember

3-important-things-to-do-before-starting-your-training-session-begins

It’s 7:15 a.m.  Your training session is scheduled to begin at 8:00 a.m.  You arrive in your training room; it is set up and seemingly ready to go.  An amateur trainer might just fire up her laptop, assume everything is ready to roll, and kick back with a cup of coffee for the next 45 minutes.

(But we’re not amateurs, are we?)

Just because things look “ready” on the surface doesn’t mean they are. Taking a few minutes prior to the start of your training session to finalize the details will not only ensure that your surroundings are in order, but it will give you, the facilitator, an added boost of confidence that will energize you and create a welcoming learning environment for your participants.  Here are 3 things every facilitator should be in the habit of reviewing, prior to kicking off a session:

1. Test your equipment and connectivity.

Is the wifi connected?  Do you have batteries in your presentation “clicker”?  Is the projector – well, projecting? What about participant workstations – do those need to be powered up and ready?  Is your laptop connected to a power source?  These are just a few things that are sometimes overlooked.  When we overlook these details, it can slow us down and get the session off-track, before it even starts.  Make a list of the tools and equipment you need to use for your session, and ensure that everything is in working order prior to the start of your session.

2. Consider the view.

Sit in participant seats around the room – front, middle, back and sides – and make sure that any visual aids, whether a flip chart, PowerPoint or whiteboard, can be seen legibly from any vantage point.  No one should struggle to view your materials!

I tend to wander, so I also take my clicker and walk around to different points in the room to make sure it works, even when I’m at the back of the room. I need to know that even if I’m “working the room”, I can advance my slides or use the laser pointer, if needed.

3. Greet your guests!

Introduce yourself, and get to know them (if you don’t already)! If you’re providing coffee or other refreshments, encourage them to partake. Take the opportunity to build rapport from the earliest moments. Engage participants from the moment they walk in the door! This rapport also puts you at ease and helps you relax. The more comfortable you are with your audience, the more natural and confident your delivery will be. I believe this wholeheartedly.

Your training room is your “home”. If you were hosting a dinner party in your home, how would you want your guests to be treated? Naturally, you would want the atmosphere to be just right, so your guests can enjoy themselves.  Successfully executing a training session really isn’t any different!  Awhile back, I wrote a piece about must-haves for training events.  Check it out here, and compare your list to mine! Add your own must-haves to the comments, if you’d like. Having the right tools on hand is such an important part of the preparation process!

So, to sum it up, details matter. When things go smoothly, participants remember. When things go awry, well…they also remember.  How do you want them to remember your session?

Your turn: What preparation “rituals” do you have before kicking off a training event? Veteran trainers, what lessons have you learned about preparation throughout your career? Start the conversation here in the comments, and continue the conversation by following me on Twitter.

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