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TRAINING TIP 14: Humor

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Ask people what they like, and you will often hear them say, “I like to laugh and have a good time.” The truth is we all do. It releases endomorphins in the brain that add to our feelings of well being. If you are successful at using humor in your class, the participants will be attentive and engaged. (Note we said humor, not telling jokes). They are likely to retain more from a positive and enjoyable learning experience. If you use inappropriate or offensive humor you might subject yourself to a mortifying training experience you will never forget. Speaking of mortifying, I remember many years ago sitting in a class in Infantry Hall in Ft. Benning where ...
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​ Greek Mythology has always intrigued me. Their stories are lively, interesting and filled with wisdom. So goes the story of Sisyphus, a Greek king who angered the gods. They punished him by making him push a boulder up a hill only to watch it come right back down again. One wonders if we are achieving similar results with our training. If we aren’t doing what Dana and Jim Robinson call the five factors in their book Performance Consulting , we might be getting a Sisyphean result. Here are the questions, you have to answer satisfactorily in order to avoid having the rock come back down the hill: 1.   Is there clarity of the roles and expectations of ...
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​ Study after study shows that people remember more of what they see and hear rather than just what they hear. Windowpaning is an exercise where learners create their own images and label them. They draw windowpanes on a flip chart with no more than nine panes. It is more fun if the learners work in groups and know they are not expected to produce a Rembrandt or van Gogh. Matchstick figures or whatever the learners are capable of will do nicely so long as the images fit in a box. In each box and under each image the learners will draw a line and write in words a description of the image or what it means. Ask them to describe what ...
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Flip Charts are still your most versatile training aid. While it is impractical for large audiences, it has great utility for small ones i.e. no more than 50. If you are preparing flip charts all you will need is a flat surface, a yardstick, chisel-point permanent markers, a pen knife, and transparent tape. Lay the flip chart on the flat surface. Using the yardstick and a dark permanent marker, draw horizontal straight lines across the paper about 2 inches apart. It doesn’t have to be exact.  Remove this paper from the chart pad and place it under the sheet you will write on.  Draw your images, charts or printing on the paper neatly following the lines ...
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I often resort to this energizer when participants are changing tables for the first time, or they are strangers to each other.   I ask them to write down five things about themselves on an index card, five things about: a hobby they have, a place they have been, a language they speak, something they have done or accomplished or anything else about themselves that they believe no one else at their table has experienced.   They announce their experiences to each member at their table, and win one point for each experience no one else can duplicate.   This way, they get to share things ...
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The Six Trumps of Sharon Bowman almost sounds like the title of a Sherlock Holmes novel, but it is really about making your training stick, information that is remembered, and skill retention. For those of us in training, that is as thrilling as a Sherlock Holmes mystery.   First, a little background: Ms Bowman has written a number of books in the field of training, and she is completely opposed to conventional teaching or training, so she has developed the “six trumps.” The dictionary definition of trump is to override.   Trump 1:   Movement Trumps Sitting When participants move, they get an increase in oxygen which in turn enhances alertness, ...
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​ When I conduct a train-the-trainers course, I am invariably asked what advice I would give to new instructors. Since I never remember all the things I want to tell them, I’ve compiled these points. Doff the authority armor. People don’t learn through intimidation or from instructors who put up mental or physical barriers. (Toss the lectern in the supply closet and keep a table beside you, not in front of you.) If you intimidate them, they are more likely to freeze up mentally, and if that doesn’t work, their brains will work overtime to push the learning experience as far away from their memory as possible. Make training fun. I can relate to that from personal ...
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  I sat through the presentation with a sense of dismay and irritation. I counted 24 slides in all that were rich with ideas, bullet points, arrows, boxes and text of which at least half were too small to read. The presenter proceeded to read each item on each slide that was guaranteed to send me into a hypnotic trance. I wondered, “How many of these slides will anyone remember?” I quizzed myself. Thirty minutes and a half a gallon of Jolt Cola later, I concluded that I couldn’t remember a single one. The truth is that so many of us have been doing PowerPoint slides so wrong for so long that we don’t know what is right anymore. So here are several tips ...
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The only thing worse than participants sitting through a boring video is an instructor trying to bring the class back from the dead after having shown it. Often it will require a July 4 th sized fireworks display. Here are some 10 tips to energize the video—and your class. 1.    Never, ever turn out the lights, especially after lunch. 2.    Divide your class into multiple groups or just two groups, Family Feud, Tic-Tac-Toe, or Jeopardy style. 3.    Stop the video periodically and ask questions e.g. “You just saw how to apply a splint. What are the steps?” 4.    Ask them to write down questions and answers on index cards. Stop the video at intervals, ...
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Now it’s time to discuss what to do with our feet. Some of us have a tendency to march back and forth across the room. Others will rock from side to side, while others will rock forward and backward as if it’s the Last Tango in Training. Get two pieces of shirt cardboard and place them on the floor slightly less than shoulder width apart. Stand on them and stay there while you practice your delivery and facilitation. Pretend they are roots that go through the floor. Are we advocating now that you don’t move at all? Well, not at all. We love facilitators that move, Movement is the first thing the human eye notices because ...
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​  You have dressed in your best uniform or suit. You move effectively among participants. You make good “eye connect,” except all of a sudden your arms feel like oak tree stumps that feel awkward and out of place. Do you stand at “parade rest?” Should you hold onto something until your knuckles appear bloodless? Do you twirl your hair? Do you cup your hands in front of you in the fig leaf position? Do you sink your hands into the depths of your pockets and project an “aw shucks” image?   No to all the above, but you still want to know what to do with those hands!   Hold a paper in your hand or an index card, or even a pen. Make sure you don’t twirl ...
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​ Here are some guidelines for writing your learning outcomes: 1.    It is about what you want the learner to be able to do back on the job. That means it describes a skill not an attribute.        “Classify inmates according to prescribed category” is an example of a skill. “Develop team players” is an attribute. 2.   The performance statement, (what you want the learners accomplish) should be clear and not open to interpretation e.g.       walk, talk and write, shoot, as opposed to understand, to become acquainted with, to appreciate, know, or learn. The rule of       thumb is if you cannot hear it or cannot see it, it is open to interpretation ...
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​ Sometimes you will experience a sidebar conversation going on between two or more people during your training. It is not as difficult to deal with as you might think.   1.   Stop your lecture and create a group activity. 2.   Walk near the conversation. This is usually enough to get them to stop. 3.   Lower your voice or suddenly stop talking. The lack of sound will usually make the offenders look up to find out why you       stopped. 4.   Rotate groups if the socializing persists. To ensure they will be in different groups, ask for a volunteer from each group. The       volunteer will be no.1. Give each group member a different number. 5.   Ask a ...
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​ It happened too many times that we don’t even realize how much we are slaves to habits. We always started our Instructor Development Course (IDC), with the mundane sign-in sheets, registration forms and everything else required of people who wanted to be certified by New York State as Certified General Topics Instructors. Additionally, we would also introduce ourselves highlighting our qualifications. With post-it notes, fidget toys and plenty of index cards at each table, we wanted to supercharge them from the start. Since the herd instinct is strong, people sitting with those they know from their own commands or their own city agencies, we asked ...
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Reading can be an essential part of your training and a pitfall you will want to avoid. First the positive: As long as people are reading they cannot be daydreaming (at least some of the time). Using the Scavenger Hunt strategy where teams of participants try to find essential information in a bland policy document can be a fun way for them to learn and promote healthy competition. Now the negatives: Instructors who read to participants are inviting daydreams to the nearest Lotto winning fantasy. (Remember, the first time anyone read to you was to put you to sleep). Many of them will be able to read to themselves ...
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​ 1.  If training is the problem, it is not the solution. Training is a solution to a problem; it is not the problem. As Bob Mager      writes in “What Every Manager Should Know about Training,” when you have a headache, it’s a headache. It’s not an      aspirin problem. While it might seem Mr. Mager is dealing in semantics, bad training decisions result in bad training.  2.  If training is the first consideration to solving a problem, it will not solve the problem. This is usually a knee-jerk reflex to a      crisis and the choking death of Staten Islander Eric Garner by a NYPD officer is a perfect example. Although chokeholds      have been a violation ...
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In the summer of 2015 I was teaching Lesson Plan Writing to a class of prospective instructors. I was trying to explain how important chunking was, but I didn’t feel that I was making my point emphatically enough. On the break, I copied a recipe for baking apple pie from Julie Dirksen’s book, “Design for How People Learn.” When the class resumed, I handed out the recipe. Mix together the flour and the salt Chill the butter and water Add the butter to the flour and cut it with a pastry blender until it resembles coarse crumbs. Add enough water until the dough barely hangs together Cut ...
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Mark Twain said it perfectly: “I have been through some terrible things in my life some of which actually occurred.” He could have been describing some people’s approach to public speaking. This fear stems from the speaker making negative predictions that can be traced to three thoughts: 1) What if I make a mistake? You are not going to be perfect. Everyone makes mistakes except 2 nd lieutenants. You might make minor ones such as forgetting something. Targeting yourself for making them is a waste of time and contributes to a self-fulfilling prophecy. Accept it and focus on your training, presentation or speech.   2) What if they don’t like me or ...
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Have you ever stayed up past your point of exhaustion just because a movie or TV show was so interesting, only to have fallen asleep and missed it anyway? It is the same thing in training if you are racing to cover content and skipping the breaks to do it. You will probably be getting various states of unconsciousness from your participants. Breaks are just as important to the training as the topic. If you continue well beyond the participants’ attention span, you may be covering the material but they are no longer learning, and you risk becoming a content-centered instructor who is more interested in the topic than insuring that learning occurs. It’s an ...
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There is a simple formula for making impromptu presentations for the social or business occasion: Before you arrive get mentally prepared that you WILL be invited to speak. That helps remove the shock that puts many people into a panic. Take notes during the main speech or presentation. Focus on two things only: What the speaker’s or presenter’s message means to you. Praise for the speaker’s accomplishment or the presenter’s idea. What the occasion or meeting means to you You can combine a., b., or c. Keep it short. No one expects an impromptu speech or be long, and you don’t have to make it long to be effective. Remember that William ...
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