Melt the Icebreakers Already

June 18, 2013 in Author, Delivery, Greg Owen-Boger, Presentation, Talent Development, Training

greg 200x300I have had the pleasure to present a session called “Engaging Learners in the Orderly Conversation” for several ASTD chapters this year. It’s designed for an audience of trainers and those who coach trainers and SMEs.

A common discussion that comes up during this session is around the use of icebreakers and energizers that our industry has become so fond of. (Just google “ASTD icebreakers” and you’ll see what I mean.)

Some people in our industry love them. Some don’t.

During the session I make the case that if we, as Workplace Learning & Performance Professionals, want to be respected, we need to value learners’ time. One way we can do that is to not waste it with silly and irrelevant icebreakers.

There’s one particularly awful icebreaker that I’ve suffered several times at conferences. People are to pair up and spend 10 seconds looking at each other. They are then told to turn away from each other and change 5 things about them. For example, move a ring to another finger, take off a jacket, and so on. Then they are instructed to turn back to each other and discover what has changed about their partner.

The point? Change is hard. And here’s the thing: we’re adults, we know change is hard. So how might we make that point quicker? I’d say something like “I think we can all agree that change is hard.”

I suppose I could agree that we need to lighten the mood once in a while. I could also agree that we need to energize learners from time to time. But, as a learner, if you ask me to do irrelevant and/or embarrassing things such as laughing yoga, sharing my favorite Christmas gift as a kid, tell you something unusual about myself, do jumping jacks while yelling “ha,” or recite a nursery rhyme multiple times using different voices and inflection, I may do what I’ve seen others do in these very common situations:

  • Sit there with my arms crossed
  • Roll my eyes
  • Check my phone
  • Walk out

I might also:

  • Question your judgment
  • Think twice before attending another session with you

So, what are better ways to lighten the mood, energize learners, and earn their respect?

  • Explain why they’re there, what they’ll learn, and how to apply it to their jobs. Do this first thing.
  • Acknowledge their knowledge and expertise. Remember: they are not blank slates.
  • Ask them to hold you accountable for not wasting their time.
  • Send them on a break.
  • Listen fearlessly to their ideas.
  • Connect dots.
  • Respect their differing points of view.
  • End early.

There’s always at least one person in each session who will defend their use of icebreakers by saying that they only choose ones that are relevant to the training content. OK, I’ll go along with that as long as the activity doesn’t waste time or make people feel awkward in front of their peers. Unfortunately, most of the ones I’ve seen don’t meet those criteria.

So, what are your thoughts? Are icebreakers ever OK with you? If so, tell us about them in the comments below.

By Greg Owen-Boger, VP at Turpin Communication and co-author of the upcoming book, “The Orderly Conversation”

Greg to present at the Greater Detroit ASTD chapter January meeting

January 11, 2013 in Author, Delivery, Greg Owen-Boger, News, Presentation

Join Greg Owen-Boger on January 16, 2013 at the Greater Detroit ASTD chapter January meeting in Troy, MI. Greg will be presenting Engaging Learners in the “Orderly Conversation” – Tried & True Techniques for Engaging Today’s Learner.

Program Summary:

As trainers, we need to stay relevant in today’s tough market and take responsibility for moving participants from ho-hum observers to engaged learners. But how?

One way is to conduct training sessions as if they are “orderly conversations.” An orderly conversation is one that is (a) carefully organized, well-designed and documented and (b) flexibly executed with lively participation and input from the entire group. When trainers and facilitators engage learners in this fashion, learners are more likely to invest in the learning outcome and apply what they’ve learned back on the job.

The tricky part is that we each thrive with one side or the other: the orderly or the conversational. In other words we each have a “default approach.” While the influence of a trainer’s default is felt throughout the process, it is often too subtle and unconscious to be noticed. This highly interactive session will help you explore what your default means for you and what you can do to manage it to your advantage in the classroom.

Participants will leave the session with:

  1. A clear understanding of what it means to conduct an orderly conversation.
  2. An understanding of their default approach and how they can capitalize on their strengths and improve their weaknesses.
  3. An action plan for moving learners from ho-hum observers to engaged and passionate learners.
  4. Learn new language for coaching SMEs.

Turpin Receives Highest Ratings of Any Session!

September 9, 2011 in Find Your Focus Video, News

Not to brag too much, but Greg Owen-Boger, Turpin’s VP, received the highest ratings of any other speaker at the Chicago eLearning & Technology Showcase held August 16, 2011 at Union League Club of Chicago.

From the Conference Speaker Team Leader, Apryl Cox Jackson: “I’d like to add my thanks for giving such a great session. It looks like your session had the highest ratings of any session all day!”

The session was called Down & Dirty Video: Practical Strategies for Producing Engaging E-Learning Video on a Budget.

Topics included:

  • Best practices for developing and rehearsing a script.
  • Best practices for setting up a make-shift studio and the placement of the camera, lights and sound equipment.
  • Strategies for engaging learners and sounding conversational (and coaching others to do the same).
  • Guidelines for editing and producing the finished product.

Greg to Present at the International Conference on E-Learning in the Workplace

April 27, 2011 in Find Your Focus Video, News

Greg Owen-Boger, Turpin Communication’s VP, has been invited to present at the International Conference on E-Learning in the Workplace June 10, 2011 at Columbia University in New York City.

The session is called Down & Dirty Video: Practical Strategies for Producing Engaging E-Learning Video on a Budget.

Often the best way to convey concepts in E-Learning courses is to include video of the instructor or SME speaking directly to learners. This can be a daunting task if you’re not equipped with the know-how to plan, shoot, edit and deploy the video. It’s even more challenging when you or your subject matter experts are not at ease in front of the camera.

It’s no longer necessary to have a fully equipped sound studio complete with movie-quality cameras, teleprompter and a green screen at your fingertips to produce effective video.

This session will provide practical hands-on strategies for producing “talking head” videos on a budget. Topics will include:

  • Best practices for developing and rehearsing a script.
  • Best practices for setting up a make-shift studio and the placement of the camera, lights and sound equipment.
  • Strategies for engaging learners and sounding conversational (and coaching others to do the same).
  • Guidelines for editing and producing the finished product.