This past weekend, the Dale Carnegie training team of NE Ohio held their yearly training refresher.
This year’s area of focus was Active Engagement and Business Acumen.
Our day started with discussions on engagement. Laura Nortz led us on a spirited journey of discovery through some of the conditions that impeded engagement in the classroom and in the workplace. Supplementing our discussions were the usual battery of exercises involving us creating sessions that addressed active engagement in the work place while getting our audience, the other instructors, actively engaged in the training environment.
The afternoon session centered on business acumen. We reviewed 5 drivers for business, with profit on one end and people on the other. We even had a brief discourse on the correct pronunciation of the word “acumen”. But our afternoon exercises involved a series of 2-minute talks and coaching centered on activity that reflected our business acumen.
We even had time for a birthday celebration for one of our trainers:
There were a few spirited discussions throughout the day. Two of them stood out for me:
Engaging An Online Audience
For training, the topic came up of how to engage a group when performing a webinar, an important topic for any trainer in this age of online video and ubiquitous webcams.
For a Dale Carnegie trainer, it’s always about getting engagement as quickly as possible. When a participant arrives early in one of our classroom sessions, it usually means that they are looking for something – looking for help in a talk, looking for help in applying the Dale Carnegie principles in a work situation, or looking for new ideas on getting ahead in their career. When they arrive, whatever time that happens to be, we have to stop what we are doing and get them engaged.
Now consider your typical webinar. When a person signs on early, they are typically greeted with music and maybe a few PowerPoint slides flashing on the screen. That leaves the participants free to check their email, finish up some other errands, or engage in a quick session of Angry Birds.
As the webinar leader, it’s up to us to make sure our participants are engaged and not thinking about how to clean up their email, unless, of course, our webinar is about how they can clean up their email inbox.
We discussed some options to increase engagement, such as conducting a quick poll or doing some preliminary house cleaning. One technique I’ve seen used by LinkedIn expert Lewis Howes is to ask people where they are from and to type their responses into the question box.
You can also use this time to set up any other social media channels. Most of your audience will probably use Twitter as a backchannel. Use this time to set the tone, establish the hashtag, and let people broadcast that they are about to get on one of the best webinars this year.
The Power Of A PowerPoint Presentation
I recall another spirited discussion surrounding technology, in particular PowerPoint, and if it added or detracted from our events. The argument against PowerPoint was that it represented a tremendous temptation for presenters to use it as a crutch. However, the argument for PowerPoint was that it maintains the presenter’s credibility and shows our participants that we are fluent with all of the latest technologies.
My impression is that most people don’t know how to use PowerPoint beyond knowing how to position it, turning it off when not needed, and not having the image display across our faces like one of those cheap science fiction movies.
Every PowerPoint presentation I have seen typically contains a series of bullet points on every slide with the corporate logo in the background. That’s not a visual aid. That’s an abbreviated book projected on a screen. Cliff Atkinson’s book Beyond Bullet Points outlines a number of tactics that help presenters move beyond the simple bullet points to creating slides that truly display information in a visual format. And that’s what PowerPoint is all about, giving your audience another channel to consume your information and understand your message.
You don’t use technology for the sake of using technology. As instructors, sales people, and managers, it’s up to us to use the appropriate technology to support the environment our users live in and achieve the desired outcome. Remember, you are the message. All of the tech at our disposal simply allows us to get our message to a larger audience faster.
If you are in the Ohio area, the next instructor refresher will be in the Columbus area on April 20, 2013. Happy engagement!