Be Careful with Activities

October 25, 2016 in Greg Owen-Boger, Posts for Buyers, Talent Development, Training, Video

In this video, produced by the Association for Talent Development (ATD), Greg Owen-Boger, Turpin’s VP, discusses guidelines for designing activities for Subject Matter Experts to deliver.

In my experience, if training is going to fall flat it’s going to be because of the activities. And let’s face it, they’re really difficult to set up and execute and debrief well. And that is especially true with folks outside of talent development such as subject matter experts.

So if you’re going to ask subject matter experts to execute activities, make sure that you make clear expectations for how to set them up. Explain that they have to make sure that the learners understand the on the job application and the relevance to them.

And, finally, offer them some suggestions for debriefing the activities.

Set SMEs (Subject Matter Experts) up for Success

August 23, 2016 in Greg Owen-Boger, Posts for Buyers, Talent Development, Training, Video

In this video, produced by the Association for Talent Development (ATD), Greg Owen-Boger, Turpin’s VP, discusses how to set Subject Matter Experts up for success when designing content for them to deliver.

 

My colleagues and I work with a lot of subject matter experts and one of the things we’ve come to learn is that the materials that are designed for them, the the slide decks, the leader guides, and so on, are rarely designed with their delivery in mind. Now if you’ve ever delivered somebody else’s presentation or training material you know how very difficult that can be. So I’ve got two ideas for ‘what to do’ and one for ‘not to do.’

First, always make sure that the slide title is rock-solid. It should be clear and concise and SME should look at that slide title and know exactly what you intended for him/her to say.

Second, think hard about the “so what” about each slide or each group of slides. Don’t ask the SME to figure it out. That’s too much work for them. So give it to them in the leader guide or even in the notes section of PowerPoint. That way they’ll know how to wrap up each slide or groups of slides.

Finally, the thing not to do is to script them. They’re not actors and we shouldn’t ask them to recite a script. Give them their talking points and let them improvise around them.

So there you have it: two things to do, one not to do.

Coach Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) to Understand Their Dual Role in the Training Room

August 17, 2016 in Greg Owen-Boger, Posts for Buyers, Talent Development, Training, Video

In this video, produced by the Association for Talent Development (ATD), Greg Owen-Boger, Turpin’s VP, discusses why Subject Matter Experts need guidance when asked to step into a training role.

 

“I think the biggest challenge working with subject matter experts in the training room is that they simply don’t understand their dual role. That is, of course, that of Subject Matter Expert, but also that of trainer. And once they understand that there’s a very big difference between the two, and that by wearing the trainer hat they need to provide relevance, context, and on the job application, they’re more likely to succeed. And, ultimately, they need to understand that it’s not enough just to say the words. Those words need to be heard and understood.”

3 Ways to Help SMEs Succeed in the Training Room

March 7, 2016 in Dale Ludwig, Facilitation, Posts for Buyers, Talent Development, Training

Originally published by Training Industry’s blog Feb. 29, 2016

Subject matter experts should be a welcome sight in the training room. Their real-world knowledge and perspective brings depth and practicality to the learning process. The challenge, though, is that SMEs can’t do it alone. They need the support and guidance of learning leaders to succeed as trainers.

Here are three ideas to keep in mind.

  • TrainingIndustrySMEsHelp SMEs understand that when they’re in the training room, they wear two hats, “SME” and “trainer.”
  • Encourage SMEs to draw their enthusiasm from their learners and the learning process.
  • When learning designs include exercises or activities, be sure to set the SME up for successful execution.

Read the full article here.

by Dale Ludwig, President & Founder of Turpin Communication and co-author of the book, “The Orderly Conversation”

Lecture is not a four-letter word: 3 ways to succeed when you’re doing the talking

September 9, 2015 in Dale Ludwig, Delivery, Myths Debunked, Talent Development, Training

I had a conversation over the backyard fence with one of my neighbors a couple days ago. She was home for the weekend after her first two weeks of college. The conversation focused on the campus, her new roommate, and her classes. As far as the classes are concerned, she said that most of them were large lectures, an entirely new experience for her, and one that was going to take some time getting used to.

That got me thinking about my freshman year. I remember sitting through a lot of lectures. Some of them good. Some of them difficult to listen to.

Those of us in learning and development hardly ever use the term “lecture.” It’s a bit of a pariah, equated with boredom and what’s called death by PowerPoint. The assumption by most trainers and learning designers is that lectures are always dull. So, when they do occur (as they must), they have to be enlivened with exercises, activities, energizers—anything to break the monotony of listening to the instructor speak. Too often, this leads to wasted time and learner frustration.

It shouldn’t be this way. Delivering information through lecture is not only efficient, it also allows for nuance. Good lecturers are able to adapt what they say to the group’s perspective, emphasizing relevance and context when they are not immediately obvious. [Tweet “Delivering information through lecture is not only efficient, it also allows for nuance.”]

For example, let’s say that you’re involved in onboarding new employees. One of your jobs is to deliver a class focusing on the industry as a whole. It involves a lot of history, competitor research, differentiators in the market, a lot of information that new employees should know—although it isn’t entirely clear to them why they need to know it now. If you were to have them read this information instead of hearing about it from an instructor, they may not be able to put it in context. A lecture about this information, delivered well, would do that. It would help the audience make sense of and prioritize their learning.

Another example involves the use of Subject Matter Experts in the classroom. SMEs bring depth of knowledge and experience to the lecture format. Done well, their lectures can bring complex information to life. (Which, come to think of it, explains why some well-regarded university professors are terrible teachers: They are SMEs who never learned how to lecture.)

Three keys to lecturing well
So what can we do to make this type of delivery better? How can lecturing be a useful, effective, even an enjoyable part of the training process? Here are three ways to do it.

  1. Understand that lectures are not speeches. They are a type of conversation. You may wonder if it’s possible to have a conversation when you’re doing most of the talking. It is. Just stay focused on your learners and their responses—verbal and nonverbal. If you’re using a script (memorized or not) or relying heavily on your notes, stop it. Speak spontaneously, just as you would if you were delivering the training information to a single individual.
  2. Draw your energy from the group. Trainers often say to us that the information they’re delivering is boring. They assume that bringing any amount of energy or enthusiasm to its delivery is impossible because the content is dull. I don’t buy that. The enthusiasm you bring to the process doesn’t come from what you’re saying. It comes from your desire to explain what the information means to the learners. It’s about your desire to make them feel that it’s relevant and useful. [Tweet “The enthusiasm … comes from your desire to explain what the information means to the learners.”]
  3. Make it easy to listen and remember. The surest way to lose people during a lecture is to ignore purpose, context, and structure.
    • Emphasize what you want learners to take away from the lecture. Be specific. This goal is not the goal of the entire class, just the lecture you’re delivering.
    • Put the information you’re talking about in the context of their work. Why is it important to them? Be specific and practical.
    • Give them an agenda. If your learners were taking notes based on your lecture, the notes should be a clear reflection of your outline. Again, think about how easy it was to take notes in some college courses and how impossible it was in others. Be the lecturer who communicates structure and emphasizes priorities.

Listening to one person deliver information even for just a few minutes can be a major challenge. But avoiding any sort of sustained delivery of information—or interrupting it too often to “energize” the group—isn’t the answer. The key is to stay focused on your listeners’ and their needs.

by Dale Ludwig, President & Founder of Turpin Communication and co-author of the book, “The Orderly Conversation”

Coaching SMEs to be Expert Facilitators of Learning

May 13, 2014 in Author, Greg Owen-Boger, Posts for Buyers, Talent Development, Training

UPDATE: Back By Popular Demand

Greg’s been asked back to deliver this same session two more times at the 2015 Association for Talent Development International Conference & Exposition (ATD ICE).


ASTD ICE 5-13-14I had the pleasure of speaking at the ASTD (renamed ATD mid-conference) International Conference & Exposition in Washington, DC last week. The audience for my session included instructional designers and leaders within the training & development function. The topic was about ways to coach SMEs to be more effective in the training room.

The session, as you can see from the picture, was packed. Over 200 people attended, and more would have joined had the room moderator not closed the door and turned people away. I was reminded (again) how hungry the training industry is for help working with their Subject Matter Experts.

Why Bother with SMEs?
There’s good reason to involve SMEs in the training process. They bring credibility, depth, and enterprise-wide perspective. They can also cause frustration for everyone involved, including the learner. And when learners are frustrated, learning doesn’t happen as fully or as efficiently as it should.[Tweet “when #learners are frustrated, #learning doesn’t happen as fully or as efficiently as it should.”]

The Challenge We See
In our experience, working with SMEs to improve their effectiveness in the training room, my colleagues and I have discovered a few things:

  • Materials, slides, and facilitator guides are rarely created with the SME’s delivery style and experience level in mind.
  • SMEs want to do a good job as trainers, but they don’t fully understand what the job is and what’s expected of them.
  • They usually focus too much on the information rather than the application of the information to their learners’ jobs.
  • They don’t understand how to frame the information to provide proper context to the learners.
  • They often aren’t given proper training.

In short, organizations aren’t setting the SMEs up for success. They’re not getting the resources they need to be effective presenters and facilitators of learning. This, in turn, leads to dull learning events and the loss of learners’ good will.

The Solution
Let’s not beat up on SMEs too much. They mean well, but they need help.

On the instructional design side, they need materials designed to support them and their unique needs. Design elements that work for professional trainers don’t necessarily work for others outside the industry.

In the training room, once the session starts, they need to understand that they wear two hats.

  1. The Expert Hat is the obvious hat that they wear. This is the one they wear when they are talking about data, details, and their area of expertise.
  2. The Trainer Hat is less obvious, but a much more important hat. This is the hat they need to put on to provide context, connect dots, and to facilitate learning and the application of the information to the learners’ jobs.

Once they understand their dual purpose in the training room, SMEs are much better able to facilitate learning.

Contact us at info@turpincommunication.com to learn how we can help your SMEs be more effective in the training room.

Postscript #1: SMEs From the Ground Up
I was glad my session at ATD ICE was on Tuesday because that gave me an opportunity to sit in on Chuck Hodell’s session on Monday. He wrote the recent book SMEs From the Ground Up. If you work with SMEs, I highly recommend it. He has some fresh thinking that’s well worth taking a look at. During his session, Chuck talked about ways to manage SME relationships, set expectations, and celebrate their accomplishments.

Perhaps his most impressive thinking, though, is around redefining who the SMEs are on any given project. He writes, “… SMEs are both content-related and process-related. The programmer, the writer, the teacher/trainer and the manager are all SMEs in ways that matter in our work. Identifying and working with all of these specific types of SMEs provides endless possibilities for improved products and processes.”

Postscript #2: Is that Flat Stanley in the Picture Above?
Yes! Not only did I get to speak with 200 learning & development professionals, I got to do it with my Great Nephew Jayce’s Flat Stanley! It’s a cool project. If you’re not familiar with Flat Stanley, click this link: https://www.flatstanley.com/about

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

No Easy Button

November 15, 2013 in Dale Ludwig, Myths Debunked, Nervousness, Preparation, Presentation, Training

easy-buttonRecently, Greg and I delivered a facilitation skills for trainers workshop to a group of Subject Matter Experts. This group had been called upon to deliver training to less-seasoned employees in the organization.

Although the training content was technical and detailed, it was also highly nuanced. The goal of the training was to help learners not only understand the details, but also help them know how to use them to make complex business decisions.

During our needs assessment discussion at the beginning of the class, one of the SMEs put it this way:

“We’re trying to teach people that there is no Easy Button. They need to learn how to think about this information so they can be confident using it to make decisions.”

As I charted that idea, I thought about how the same thing is true for our workshops. A lot of presenters are looking for the Easy Button. They want simple answers to complex questions. The problem is, many of the simple answers aren’t the right answers. Presenting and facilitating are too complex and improvement too individual for that.

Here are three of the most common questions we’re asked and our think-about-it-this-way responses. If you’ve participated in one our workshops, these probably sound familiar.

“How can I eliminate nervousness?” Instead of thinking of nervousness as something you can eliminate, think of it as something to be worked through. If you’ve participated in one of our workshops, you know that the key is engagement. Presenters need to figure out what they need to do to engage their listeners.

“How much should I rehearse?” First, we have to define what you mean by rehearsal. If you define it as the process of perfecting your presentation before it’s delivered, then you shouldn’t rehearse at all. However, you do need to be prepared, and the best way for you to prepare is affected by your Default. Improvisers prepare differently than Writers.

“Is it okay to have eight words in a single bullet point?” Instead of counting the words in a bullet point, think about how you’re planning to use it. Can it be easily read in relation to the other bullet points in the list? Does the bullet make understanding easier? Can you make it smoother or simpler? The number of words you wind up with is secondary to these more fundamental issues.

In the long run, our training is about simplifying improvement for everyone. It’s just that getting to a simple solution that is also the right solution for you takes thoughtful consideration.

by Dale Ludwig, President & Founder of Turpin Communication and co-author of the upcoming book, “The Orderly Conversation”

Setting Up Training Exercises: Be Clear and Specific

May 7, 2012 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Delivery, Facilitation, Greg Owen-Boger, Preparation, Training

Last week, Greg and I were teaching a workshop for a group of Subject Matter Experts getting ready to deliver training to people new in their roles. It’s one of my favorite types of classes to teach because the challenges for an SME/trainer are so clear.

During the last segment of the workshop we were practicing how to set up the exercises that are part of the training the SMEs are delivering. These exercises were relatively simple things: round table discussions about a particular topic or maybe practice applying new information in a real-world situation. Pretty typical stuff.

One of the main points that Greg and I were trying to get across is that trainers have to be very clear and specific when telling learners what to do during an exercise. Something as simple as “Group 2 should work with Group 1 on this exercise” can cause a major disruption when people stand up and struggle to figure out where they should go, what they should take with them, how long they should work and what their goal should be.

Then Greg said something that I thought was really insightful. He said,

When I was fresh out of school, I directed children’s theatre. The type of theatre where the kids are the actors. When I was giving directions I was taught to say, “All right now, everyone look at me. (pause and wait until they do) Now, when I say ‘go’ and not before, I want all the boys to go over by the piano and stand in a group facing me. (pause to let that sink in.) All of the girls should go over to the table and stand in a group facing me. (pause to let that sink in) OK… go.”

Greg acknowledged that the SMEs weren’t teaching children, of course, but the same level of clarity about what people should do and when they should do it can be applied in every training situation.

The take away was the SMEs should always anticipate confusion and do their best to avoid it by:

  • Standing still when delivering directions because it’s easier to get and keep every person’s attention that way.
  • Delivering directions before asking learners to do anything. If you’re asking people to move across the room, don’t get them on their feet and expect them to stay focused on what you’re saying.
  • Keeping in mind that adults are out of practice when following very simple directions, especially when they’re in groups. Kids, because they do it every day in school, are much better at it. Adults require more patience.

So the next time you’re setting up an exercise or asking a group of people to carry out a simple task, borrow some of the techniques that people working with children use all the time.

by Dale Ludwig, President and Trainer at Turpin Communication