An extremely athletic friend of mine recently convinced me to do a “girls’ weekend” with her by attending an intensive swim clinic. While I can swim, no one would ever accuse me of being super proficient at the sport, so I thought “Why not?”
Our instructor was four time Olympian, gold medal winner Sheila Taormina. Clearly, Taormina knows her stuff when it comes to swimming. She has developed the STGRID, a metal contraption placed in the pool, so that when a person swims past it an underwater camera can capture the movements against the grid. This allows swim mechanics instruction to be articulated in measureable, definable, specific terms rather than vague, abstract verbal terms.
Using this grid, Taormina has filmed elite swimmers from all over the world. She has catalogued the common movements, collecting evidence for what contributes to the most successful careers.
Do you have a strong grid against which to measure the skills you are teaching? Have you assessed, in an objective, reliable way, what your most elite workers do to be successful? By developing and implementing a system like Taormina’s grid, you will be able to more clearly articulate to your learners what they need to do to improve.
I significantly increased my distance per stroke after seeing my performance against the grid. Now, if I could just stop eating brownies…
I found my new love on Valentine’s Day – Pexels! Pexels photos are super great quality and completely free (!) licensed under the Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license. All photos are nicely tagged, searchable and also easy to find through their discover pages. They currently have over 40,000 photos to choose from and add approximately 3,000 more each month.
This will definitely be my new go-to site. Thanks to all of the generous photographers who are willing to share their fabulous pictures!
Two distinctly different events this week have me considering the importance of poise over panic when presenting.
On Tuesday, I had the amazing opportunity to watch the SpaceX rocket lift off from Kennedy Space Center. The pleasure of watching the rocket soar and the boosters return to land was amplified knowing that Elon Musk believes that we need more fun in life. To emphasize this, Musk chose to use a red Tesla sports car as his payload, with an empty astronaut suit in the driver's seat and a sign that read "Don't Panic."
Then last night I watched the Olympic Biathlon competition, in which athletes have to cross-country ski, then shoot a rifle while their hearts are beating at approximately 190 beats per minute! Winners are adept at calming themselves enough to hit the targets with amazing precision.
Presenters need this poise when things go wrong - which they inevitably do. Technology failure? Yup, I've had it. Stranger walking on stage mid-speech? Yup, been there. Fire? Yup, had that, too. In every case I managed to avoid panic because I knew I had two solutions.
1. I am comfortable telling my participants to turn and talk with their colleagues or to take a ten minute break. This allows me to handle the problem without the anxiety of having everyone watching and waiting.
2. I always have predetermined material or activities I can cut if I am running short on time. This pro-active step provides me with a sense of patience, so that I am not rushing to try to solve a problem (and potentially making it worse.)
Do you have tips for staying poised instead of becoming panicked? If so, please share so that we can all learn from each other.
For additional tips, check out my book "Caffeinated Learning: How to Design and Conduct Rich, Robust Professional Training."
There are three video clips that I wanted to share with my seminar participants this week. Instead of the typical, old-fashioned approach – projecting them to the whole group - I decided to turn them into QR codes and set them up at three separate stations.
Quick Response Codes (QR) are two dimensional bar codes that are usually linked to a URL. When scanned with a mobile device, this visual code quickly takes the user to the linked content. Easy to generate, QR Codes can be linked to expert interviews, demonstration videos, Google documents or content related web sites.
By hanging the QR codes on the wall at three different stations, I had participants up and moving. I also provided questions at each station to guide them in their discussion with their colleagues.
Not only were participants more actively engaged, but this approach freed me up to wander, check-in with people and assess how the learning was progressing.
No more sage on the stage – instead honor your participants’ expertise and be a guide on the side!
Click here to see my favorite QR code generator.
Oprah Winfrey’s speech at the Golden Globes received more attention than the biggest Hollywood stars. It was powerful because of her use of proven techniques for inspirational messages. Let’s break down her five key techniqes.
1. Be authentic.
“…a kid watching from the cheap seats as my mom came through the door bone tired from cleaning other people’s houses.”
By sharing about her real life, especially the not-so-glamorous, Oprah becomes relatable.
2. Be vulnerable.
“What I know for sure is that speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have.”
Speaking the truth can leave you vulnerable. Vulnerability shared breeds trust.
3. Use emotion-laden words.
“under siege” “a blind eye to corruption” “to tyrants and victims and secrets and lies” “ how we love and how we rage”
Strong emotion is captivating and memorable. Why be bland when you can be powerful?
4. Paint a story.
“In 1964, I was a little girl sitting on the linoleum floor of my mother’s house”
Oprah didn’t say, “I was watching t.v.” Instead, she added the sensory detail so that we could be in the story with her.
5. Challenge everyone to act.
"Become the leaders who take us to the time when nobody ever has to say “me too” again.”
Build to the final moment with a clear call to action. Your message isn’t enough if your listeners don’t do anything about it after they leave the room.
Craft your next speech with these techniques in mind and be a superstar with your audience!
The stage lights were positioned in the worst possible way - making it almost impossible for me to see my audience. I was silently wishing for a baseball cap but instead settled for squinting into the large auditorium. It is always important to me to be able to see my participants, but especially when I am about to ask a question. So I asked my question, stepped strategically into a less debilitating spot and peered out at my group to look for an answer.
Not a single hand was raised.
Is this a presenter's nightmare or an opportunity to boost your value? I choose to view it as an opportunity, and here's how you can, too.
1. If someone's hand is up immediately, we are tempted to call on that person and move forward. In doing so, we are cheating other participants from some "think time." If you truly want your audience to remember the information, they must have processing time.
2. Wait time, the seconds that elapse between asking a question and accepting a response, is critical for learners who process more slowly and deeply. This often includes members of your audience who are introverts. It may take them a bit longer to be ready to share their thoughts, but when they do, their answers are usually of higher quality than those of the speedy hand raisers.
3. If we ask, "Are there any questions?" and don't allow wait time, a fairly large portion of our audience will end up walking away with unanswered questions. Back on the job, these unanswered questions can turn into costly mistakes and failed initiatives. However, if you ask "What are the questions you still have?" and wait at least 5-8 seconds, you are sure to have a few surface.
Wait time is an essential skill for any presenter, manager or facilitator of adult learning. Try to practice your wait time skills this week by counting to 8 after asking a question. Become comfortable with the silence by remembering the value it creates.
You’re in front of a large audience. The presentation is on a roll. You are in a rhythm that feels right to you and your confidence is building. Suddenly a hand shoots up – too obvious to ignore. You finish your thought and decide to take the question.
What do you dread the most?
Questions, even well intentioned ones, can be a challenge for presenters. Having a collection of responses at the ready will help decrease any hesitation you feel about taking questions from your audience. Here are 10 of my favorite responses to questions, depending on the situation. For my Question Cheat Sheet, click here , print a copy and leave it on your presentation table for quick reference when a question arises.
1. Thank you for your question.
Avoid saying, “That’s a great question,” unless you will respond to each question with that same descriptor.
2. Let’s ask the audience for a response first. Turn and talk with your neighbor about that for a moment.
This gives you time to take a deep breath and think about your answer. Then you can ask people to share out and add your own answer if necessary.
3. I’d like to clarify with a few follow-up questions.
Ask for more information so you are fully informed and not making assumptions or responding to a question that was misleading.
4. I will give you a short answer now, but address it in more depth later today.
Don’t just put them off until later, as it doesn’t affirm their need to be heard.
5. I’d love to give you a detailed answer, so will you please come see me at the break? Your audience will love you for this if it is a question that is very unique to that individual or off-topic.
6. Would you please write that question on a sticky note and place it on our parking lot chart? I promise to address it a bit later.
Before you start your presentation, set up a chart on the wall where people can post their questions. Be sure to check it several times throughout your session. You can also use technology for this, such as www.todaysmeet.com
7. I can hear the frustration (anger, worry, etc.) in your question.
Acknowledge the emotion before moving ahead with your answer. In doing so you are honoring what they are feeling, rather than appear to be brushing it off.
8. I’m not sure of the answer, but I will look it up and get back to you.
Admitting this shows the audience your human side and your willingness to be vulnerable. This is especially helpful if you are asking them to be vulnerable in learning something new or accepting a major change.
9. I don’t have the answer on the tip of my tongue, but I know where to access it. Let me get back to you with it at the break.
Your audience doesn’t expect you to have every fact memorized. It is completely acceptable to look up references, research, minute details - just be sure to follow through.
10. Does anyone in the audience want to share their answer to this?
Depending on your audience, you may have experts or local authorities who are in a better position to answer the question. You may also need to be in sync with their policies or positions.
For additional ideas, gift yourself a copy of my book Caffeinated Learning. You (and your audiences) deserve it! So do your colleagues or staff - a great holiday gift!
Variety works when teaching adults in sessions that last longer than ten minutes. While it is important to use multiple methods for content delivery, each of the most popular has advantages and disadvantages. Successful presenters and facilitators take these into consideration when designing and conducting presentations or classes.
Click here for my chart on the 10 most popular methods, their advantages and disadvantages, and tips for making these methods most effective.
Webinars have a well-deserved reputation for being dry, slow, and an opportunity for multi-tasking. Let’s destroy that reputation and add some simple ways to wake people up and increase learning. I call these more powerful webinars "Engaginars."
Here are screenshots of 3 slides that I used in a recent webinar to get attendees participating. (I use dozens of other ideas, too. Check out this blog post to learn more and/or join me for my presentation at ATD2018.) The concepts are applicable to any content you are presenting in your webinar, and each has research to support its use.
Astros or Dodgers? No matter which team you root for, baseball fans and trainers everywhere can learn some important lessons from this series.
1. Warm Ups are Essential
The wear and tear on the muscles during a long season is a major concern. Proper warm ups help to prevent muscle damage and lost time in the game. Neuroscientists and learning researchers tell us that this is true for ongoing professional learning, too. Warming up the neural pathways by activating prior knowledge will ensure that your players stay in the game.
Here’s a favorite warm-up exercise.
2. Highs and Lows are Common
The lead shifts back and forth during the game, giving fans a marathon of highs and lows. This roller coaster of emotions keeps us on the edge of our seat, wondering what is next. Successful trainers build this tension into ongoing professional learning activities. Debates, inconsequential competition and humor are all simple ways to add an emotional element that will keep your learners coming back for more.
3. Some people need extra innings
The unpredictability of the game is balanced by a structure that allows for adaptability. Extra innings, while unusual, are occasionally necessary. Game 5, with its 10 inning marathon, lasted as long as it took to get to the win. Successful trainers proactively build in structures that allow for learners to advance at different paces.
4. Errors Happen
The longer the game runs, the more likely errors will occur. Most trainers can be at the top of their game for a brief presentation, but long-term, multi-session classes are likely to show up a few weaknesses. Have you considered what yours are? Is it group management? Adding in movement? Infusing variety? Players get coached on error patterns. What are you doing to reduce yours?
Check out some group management tips here.
5. Expect fly balls
Fly balls occur almost 50% of the time during a game. Fielders try to anticipate the fly, get under it as quickly as possible and be in perfect position to catch it. Successful trainers also anticipate questions that will be flying at them and are prepared to provide solid answers.
Here’s a recommendation for how to field questions.
6. Endurance is Necessary
By the time the World Series begins, pitchers and other players are approaching the edge of what the body can tolerate. The winners must have incredible physical and psychological endurance. Facilitating a multi-session class also requires endurance. Adult learners need our very best performance at each session, not just during the first. Try adding novelty to each session to invigorate everyone involved.
7. Celebrations are Valuable
Teammates are frequently seen sharing their excitement over the small wins. Whether it is a high five in the dug out or an excited scrum on the field, celebrations don’t need to wait until the big parade. Smart trainers find or create small moments to celebrate learner contributions and growth. I keep a stash of Lifesavers, Paydays and other inexpensive items to toss out as a thank you for contributions to the group. I also will ask my participants to join me in a round of applause for someone who has been a good sport. These little moments matter and add to the overall feeling of success.
For even more ideas...
Anne Beninghof is passionate about teaching and learning.
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