Do you ever have one of those sleepless nights, tossing and turning with your mind abuzz? Often, the thoughts that keep you up can be stressful ones about unfinished work, relationships that need mending or worries about day-to-day life. But last night I had the other kind of tossing and turning – excitement over so many new ideas that I gained from attending the #ATD2017 International Conference and Expo. This is the ultimate, must-go-to conference for talent development professionals or anyone interested in training and presentation skills. So many sessions packed with great information!
In addition to attending, I also was asked to present a session on Caffeinated Learning: Simple Strategies for Keeping Your Audience Awake, Engaged and Learning. Even though it was a later afternoon session, the room was overflowing with enthusiastic attendees seeking ideas for adding a “caffeinated buzz” to their training programs.
One question from an audience member has been rattling around in my brain for the last few days. She asked, “How can you adapt these movement ideas to a virtual classroom?” (Look for my session next year on that topic!) It is critical that we keep our virtual learners awake and engaged, too! So here are a seven movement strategies that I use in my webinars or virtual classes.
At various intervals throughout the session, ask attendees to
Looking for even more ideas? Check out my previous post on "Engaginars," or contact me to discuss providing a session for your talent development professionals or subject matter experts.
Fourteen years ago, skiing down a beautiful blue run, I face planted on ice and broke my leg in four places. After surgery, rest and months of therapy, it was time to get back into shape. My doctor approved me for a running program and I have been at it ever since. Running is my go-to exercise because it is so portable - I can take it to every city I work in - and it gives me a chance to get outdoors and see the sights.
About a year ago, I began to experience significant pain in my left hip. My GP listened to my complaint and diagnosed bursitis. After therapy and shots, with no improvement, I went to my first specialist. An x-ray showed no arthritis or obvious problems, so I was assigned more PT. After months of no progress, I broke down and found another orthopedist who specializes in "dynamic ultrasound." Just the name of the procedure makes sense to me! If we are trying to evaluate a complex body part with moving, changing components, wouldn't something dynamic be better than something static?
The best learning facilitators also need to use dynamic evaluation procedures. A feedback form completed at the end of a class represents a moment in time -more like an X-ray than an ultrasound. But a dynamic evaluation process will look at the learning in application, as a living organism that will change over time. Should you still use a feedback form? Sure, but add these other components to your evaluation plan, as well.
For more ideas on evaluation and other aspects of effective training, go to Caffeinated Learning.
The Triple Crown of horse racing consists of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes. Not only does winning all three races leave the victor in an enviable cash position, it confers upon the winner a reputation of outstanding teamwork. So many individuals are involved in getting to all three finish lines – the owner, jockey, trainer, ???? Their ability to collaborate effectively is essential to their success.
Luckily, recent research discoveries point to the Triple Crown of teaming effectiveness. A long-term study done by Google researcher Anita Wooley (and her team) has identified two critical factors common to all of their successful teams. Combine this study with the ongoing work of Paul Zak on the benefits of oxytocin, and you have a Triple Crown.
1. Equal Conversational Contributions
Wooley’s research team found that on the most effective teams, members spoke in roughly equal amounts. Conversational contributions might not be evenly spaced in every half-hour segment of work, but over the course of time, all members contributed equally. When one person dominated or opted out, collective intelligence suffered and the team did not perform as well.
While it is great if team members naturally arrive at equal contributions, it is possible to develop this norm. For some individuals, simply learning about this research will motivate them to be more reflective about their own level of contributions. In addition, tracking conversational contributions with tally marks or transcribed notes can bring specific data to a team that is struggling. Discussion structures can also lead to more equitable participation. Check out The Discussion Book by Brookfield and Preskill for creative ideas.
2. Social Sensitivity
Members of the best teams have higher than average social sensitivity. In other words, they are able to discern how others are feeling from their facial expressions, body language and tone of voice. Not only are they more aware of how their colleagues are feeling, they are willing to act upon their knowledge by checking in, listening and encouraging others.
Reading the Mind in The Eyes is a simple assessment of a person’s social sensitivity. One approach might be to assess everyone on the team and discuss the results privately or openly. Another method might be to provide training on body language and the powerful impact it has on a sender’s message. Willing to try something a bit more challenging? Try videotaping your team during a collaborative work session and then watch and analyze it together.
3. Shared Vulnerability
Zak’s research has found that when someone is vulnerable with another – willing to share a personal story, a struggle, a fear – oxytocin is released. Oxytocin is a hormone that Zak calls “the moral molecule” or the trust hormone. His work has shown that trust increases between two people after sharing a vulnerable moment. This helps to create a psychologically safe environment, where people feel safe for inter-personal risk taking.
Zak recommends that leaders be especially willing to share their vulnerable side with colleagues and employees. Sharing a personal struggle will not only increase trust but may improve your approachability factor. Team members who are comfortable approaching each other with concerns or new ideas are more likely to perform effectively over the long run.
With the Kentucky Derby right around the corner, you may be tempted to place a bet. While taking a chance on a horse may be a thrilling way to increase your pocket money, strategically choosing your Triple Crown next steps can be a sure-fire way to increase team effectiveness.
How long does it take the average human brain to consolidate a memory?
a.) 6 months
b.) 1 year
c.) 2 years
d.) 10 years
According to Dr. John Medina, a developmental molecular biologist with a specialty in memory, it can take ten years before a memory finds its final resting place in the brain and is fully consolidated. Along the way, all types of things can interfere with the memory, changing it and even causing it to morph into something totally different than the original.
Now picture your next class of adult learners or audience members. They are seated at tables, surrounded by colleagues, with a dozen “to dos” going through their minds. They may be sincerely interested and highly motivated to hear what you have to say – or not. They may be tired, multi-tasking, or experiencing cognitive overload. Yet it is your goal to have them remember your message. What can you do to reduce the morph factor? How can you make sure the learning has long-term value?
Thankfully, Medina’s research also tells us that information that is repeated within 30 seconds moves from immediate memory into working memory. He recommends that the first repetition use the same form as the original, but that subsequent repetitions are best if they utilize a different sensory form. Examples might include asking your participants to take notes, illustrate, discuss or summarize. These types of interactive repetitions help to solidify the memory more quickly than passive listening. Meaningful repetitions can decrease the interference that may try to morph the memory at a later point.
For more ideas on how to increase learner participation and retention, check out my blog at www.caffeinatedlearning.com
Looking out at my audience one day last week I saw a sea of silver and black laptops. Fingers were quickly flying over the keyboards, as participants took notes at a furious pace. Taking notes on a laptop or tablet is increasingly common because of the many advantages. Many adults report that they can type faster than scribing by hand. Notes are then quickly stored or linked to other materials. Web sites are easily accessed for supporting information. And, to be honest, games or shopping are at your fingertips.
Researchers Pam Mueller and Daniel Oppenheimer (2014) set out to determine if the keyboard was mightier than the pen. A meta-analysis of the research showed that learners who type notes are processing the information more shallowly than those who write them out longhand. Students who type tend to record the information verbatim, rather than rewording it so that it makes sense to them. When tested, students who typed performed more poorly on conceptual questions than those who wrote longhand.
So should you ban the use of laptops at your next conference presentation or training? No. Not when there are other ways to encourage longhand note taking.
Mueller, P. and Oppenheimer, D. (2014) The pen is mightier than the keyboard.
China has recently announced an interesting solution to a common problem they experience in large cities. It seems that most public restrooms do not provide toilet paper. This is because it is usually stolen by people who worry that the next restroom they go into will not have toilet paper – which means that the one the have just left no longer has toilet paper. An unending problem, unlike a roll of toilet paper!
Using technology as a solution, Chinese officials have decided to install machines that will scan a person’s face and then a two foot length of toilet paper. If the same person tries to get more t.p., the machine will recognize that they have already had their allotted share.
While this may be an innovative response to the toilet paper problem, it ignores the fact that individuals may need differing amounts of paper on different days (Number 1? Number 2? Diarrhea? You get the point.) A “just the right amount” perspective might be helpful.
Perhaps these officials could learn something from the best trainers and facilitators. We know that each learner has different needs. Some may learn the material quickly, while others process more slowly. Some may embrace social interactions, while others prefer to study solo. The best trainers provide for different learners by proactively building in variety and choices.
Look at the following two comments that a presenter might offer. Which would you prefer to hear as a learner?
Which of the following would be better for the learners?
And again in this scenario – which might be better?
When classes are designed and facilitated with the individual learner in mind, differentiation is inevitable. People have access to “just the right amount” to match their needs.
For more ideas on how to design for differentiation, check out “Caffeinated Learning: How to Design and Conduct Rich, Robust Professional Training.”
Netflix has just announced that they are abandoning their star-rating system to a “thumbs” rating system to make it easier for viewers to provide them feedback. Apparently, having to choose between 5 levels of satisfaction was too confusing or time consuming for some customers. According to Cameron Johnson, director or product innovation, testing over the past year showed that viewers were three times more likely to respond to the thumb-rating system than to stars.
Does this mean that it is time to abandon your Likert scale evaluation system for your training classes? Probably not. But perhaps it is time to reflect on the types of questions you are asking, your formatting, and the time you are providing for people to respond.
Thomas Guskey, in his book Evaluating Professional Development, makes a strong case for the limited value of post-training surveys. Although they procure immediate feedback and the results are simple to tally, the data usually are not helpful. Participants frequently circle the same number for each question, just to finish up quickly and hit the road. Survey data doesn’t usually to improved instruction. Neither will thumbs up or down.
In an article I wrote for TD Magazine, “How’s My Training?” (January, 2015), I suggest that if your goal is to ensure what I call “caffeinated learning”—the kind of learning experience where participants are alert and engaged, and real learning occurs—then the surveys must be tailored to elicit better feedback on your instructional design and delivery skills. You want participants to give actionable insights to your unique areas for improvement.
Instead, I find more value in open-ended questions. True, the answers to open-ended questions are harder to quantify, but are much more effective in improving program design and delivery. A thoughtful presenter will be able to mine these answers for nuggets of information and use them to improve their instructional practices. Just be sure that your end your session a few minutes early to provide the extra time it takes to complete this type of evaluation.
In addition, custom-designed questions for each session will provide more value than a generic form. Barbara Boone, responsible for training and development in a California firm, decided to add one custom-designed question to each survey, based on the professional growth goals of the trainer. Boone found “By custom-designing some of the evaluation questions, we are able to support our employees to grow as professional developers. They feel that the feedback is more meaningful and valuable to them as individuals.”
One last tip comes from a conversation I had with Ken Phillips, founder and CEO of Phillips Associates. If your evaluations are not meant to be anonymous, Ken recommends putting the name line at the bottom of the evaluation form, rather than at the top. Most people will assume that the evaluation is anonymous and answer more honestly. When they get to the bottom and see the request for a name, they are unlikely to go back and change their answers.
Have some tips for designing evaluation forms? We’d love to hear from you!
Looking for more ideas about training? Check out my book Caffeinated Learning.
March Madness has rolled into April, with the Final Four games upon us. Both the women and the men have given us some exciting, down to the wire games. I was heartbroken over the UConn Women’s team loss, but impressed by the Mississippi team; nail biting over the game between Oregon and UNC and torn between who to root for in the championship.
Our anticipation and excitement grows from the opening round, through the quarterfinals to the championship game. The Final Four is filled with emotion, intensity and hope. The best presenters also develop this anticipation and excitement as they advance to their closing remarks.
Here are my picks for the Final Four – what to do as you reach your closing remarks.
3 Points for a winning closing! For more "pointers" check out Caffeinated Learning: How to Design and Conduct Rich, Robust Professional Training.
Halfway through a recent three-hour presentation, I was asked to finish thirty minutes earlier than planned. No, it wasn’t that the group was bored, but instead that a critical, unexpected matter had arisen that my client needed to discuss with the group. I pride myself on being flexible and so, of course, said “yes.” Immediately, my mind began scanning through my presentation slides to decide which I could skip without shorting my participants.
It is very common for presenters to have more material than fits the time they have available. This may be due to:
If this ever happens to you, the worse thing that you can do is begin quickly forwarding through slides and saying “Sorry, but I am running out of time and can’t talk about that.” Your audience will cycle through a series of emotions you don’t want - confused, stressed, disappointed and short-changed.
Instead, make friends with the Freeze button on your projector remote! This little, often-ignored button, has a highly valuable role to play in a slide-based presentation. When you press it, the slide that is currently projected will freeze, or stay on your screen until you press the button again. This allows you to then go into your Keynote or PowerPoint file and skip, change, add or delete slides without your audience witnessing your changes. To give myself a chance to do this, I might ask my participants to turn to a colleague nearby and discuss my last idea. In just a minute or two I can freeze, make changes, and unfreeze, ready to go again with my audience being unaware of what I have eliminated.
For more ideas, check out Caffeinated Learning: How to Design and Conduct Rich, Robust Professional Training.
Inclusion, the act of welcoming and accommodating all people, is a wonderful goal with many challenges. As a facilitator of adult learning, I am always on the lookout for simple ways to make sure that everyone in my audience or class is having their needs met.
One simple way to be inclusive is to consider the design of your PowerPoint or Keynote slides. Watch this short video to learn how.
For more ideas, check out Caffeinated Learning: How to Design and Conduct Rich, Robust Professional Training.
For even more ideas...
Anne Beninghof is passionate about teaching and learning.
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