5 Ways To Combat Stale Content

Any professional marketer will tell you, “Content is King” but what about when your content has gone south? Content consumers would say there is nothing worse than irrelevant content. With that in mind, it may be time to take a look at your training content and spruce it up a bit. Here are 5 tips to help you out:

motorolacellphone15. Update any content with outdated graphics

So, you have dozens of presentations with great ideas that are still relevant but they are filled with outdated cheesy clipart or photographs from the 80s with big shoulder pads.  Update the presentations right away, and I do mean, right away.  The obvious appearance of outdated content is a big turnoff. If your audience actually ventures to finish viewing the presentation, it will only be to make fun of it.

windows14. Rework content referring to outdated versions of application

Are the bones of your training handouts still relevant but they refer to Excel version 3.0? Update your handouts, right away. Passing out handouts with outdated versioning ensures the material will quickly find its way to the trash heap.

 

3. Check the color wheel

Does your content make use of an outdated or obnoxious color theme? Think, red text on a green background and vice-versa.  It’s time for a change. Before picking your next color theme, research designing with color or just take a look at the color wheel. Pick colors directly across from one another on the color wheel. These are complimentary colors. You can also pick colors directly next to one another on the color wheel. These are analogous colors.

2. Double-check your screenshots

Check the create date for your content. Is it several years old? Double-check your screenshots. Chances are they are several years old, too and may not be relevant. Your screenshots should accurately reflect and/or compliment your text. By the way, get rid of tiny screenshots, too. If you use a screenshot in your content, may it big enough to see, comfortably.

1. Triple-check your text

While reviewing your content, you may find that you need to make update any of the above, you should take the extra step to check your text. Read it, get another person to read it. Fix it and then read it again. Nothing is worse than instructions that don’t make sense or that you can’t follow along with.

Advertisements

Top 10 Training Tips to Keep Students Engaged

We’ve all experienced flat-out boring training sessions; the kind that makes us feel as if we’re trapped in an episode of the “Wonder Years,” listening to Mr. Cantwell drone on. Though it is easy to fall into a comfortable training routine, as trainers we should do everything in our power to prevent classroom boredom. Here are some tried and true tips to keep every eye open without the need for Scotch tape.

noread

Really, this one can take all ten spots. Absolutely no one over five years old wants to sit for any length of time and watch you read something on a screen to them. The point of a presentation is to enhance you, the speaker. It isn’t just decoration or a script for you to read from because you are unprepared. So do not treat your presentation that way. Review your presentation days before your training class, if you find any detailed information that has to be stated exactly as it reads in the presentation, remove it from your slides. This is information that you are supposed to say, conversationally. If your presentation contains all of the juicy nuggets in the slides then just email it to your audience instead of torturing them in a group by reading awkward and slow. Oh and reading “almost” verbatim is not acceptable, either.

workroom

 

Your training room may come complete with a podium or desk or whiteboard but that is no excuse to act as if you’re surgically attached to it. Move about the training room, the conference room, or the front of that auditorium. Give more students the opportunity to see you up close and hear you a bit better. This will help you see them better, too. I have found this especially true in conference and training rooms where students are following along with the lesson. I find most adults do not speak up in a room of other adult peers when they are stuck on something in a training class. It is annoying but it is human nature. I only discover the confusion by walking around. If I stay at my podium, all I see are smiling, nodding faces and a load of extra desk-side training work later on.

exercise

I know this one seems like a no-brainer but in today’s corporate training world we tend to pack too much information into too tight a time-slot. Sometimes exercises fall by the wayside and we leave them as an after training assignment. I always make room for in-class exercises. It is one of the major tools to help me, gauge whether or not attendees are really absorbing the material. It also serves as a great way to give the brain something physically different to focus on for a few minutes.

know

If you are a corporate office IT Trainer, you may have the luxury of seeing your audience everyday, at the water cooler, in the hall and cafeteria. You’re probably friends with many of them. This is an asset. Use the knowledge that you have about your audience, what features they would find most useful, pitfalls that might fall prey to and divulge them during class. Get a discussion going. I find most people like it when a class feels like it is tailor-made for them.

schedule

This one might be the most difficult to accomplish, effectively. As a professional trainer in some of the largest international law firms, I have long pondered how to schedule effectively. I have finally come up with a plan that makes me happy, at least. If it is your responsibility to enroll students into training classes, use the knowledge that you have about your audience to group people who get along together in the same class but do not enroll best friends into the same class. Be very careful scheduling training at the end of the day and around lunch periods (unless the class is catered). No one is engaged when they are watching the clock. Do not enroll quick-learners into classes with slower learners. The class will move too slowly and frustrate them. Attempt to speed up and slow learners will be lost. I have even gone as far as placing name cards at tables to avoid a very near-sighted attendee from constantly sitting in the back row. Taking the time to do this level of recon helps keep everyone happy and engaged.

complete

Sure you can host a generic Excel class for your company’s Marketing department. Or you could help them tackle a common problem specific to them. Build a class around creating and updating an event tracking workbook. Specific real world examples that are immediately usable are always a big sell and it provides an opportunity to delve deeper into more obscure concepts effortlessly, like data validation.

role

Done right, this can really get a class going. I do not recommend having parts scripted out. This can quickly feel stiff. Just keep it loose and assign roles, like boss, Marketing Assistant, etc. In class, time can seem to stand still but in the cubicle everything needs to be done, 5 minutes ago. A classmate pretending to be the boss waiting impatiently for a report can make a training assignment feel more real.

handouts

I still print handouts, not a lot of them. Just enough for the exact number of attendees. The printed handout may seem antiquated. I could email the handouts or post them on the company’s training site but that places the burden on the attendee to do it. It is easy enough for me to remove that burden by printing handouts. My handouts come complete with a space to take notes and on the back are the in-class exercise questions so I am sure there is no waste.

prepare

Prepare for your classes. Do not simply rely on the company course outline and then stumble through training. Everyone will know something is amiss. I have witnessed this scenario in action and no one was fooled. This move proved to be detrimental to the course, the course attendees, and the trainer’s career.

break

Nearly every class needs a break period, if only for five minutes. When possible, schedule breaks into your training material where it feels natural, like before beginning a new concept. If no time feels exactly right, break after completing an exercise. At the very least, break before all eyes glaze over.

Training Gap

Is on-the-job training non-existent?

The day was a normal day, like any other. I had typical errands to attend to, a trip to the grocery store and a trip to a big-box home improvement store. I do not particularly enjoy doing either, so the plan was to zip in and out of each store while checking off all the items on my list. That was unrealistic considering the training gap.

First stop, home improvement store. I needed to purchase some gardening supplies and some PVC trim that was priced per foot. I was a little distracted crossing off items on my list when I realized the nice young man at the checkout counter having the toughest time calculating the amount of PVC trim I had. There were five pieces cut into eight foot lengths. As I raised my eyebrows, he quickly rattled, “Eight times five is thirty-five.” I said, “Uh, no…eight times five is forty.” The young man asked if I was sure and I replied, “Why would I lie to pay more?” He thought about that for a quick second, smiled and nodded and said, “You’re right, sorry. I don’t math.” I paid the total and pushed the gigantic cart out of the store confused. Why would someone that doesn’t math, as he put it, (I’ll save my rant about the omission of words as a new form of annoying slang for a later date) get assigned to work the cash register?

Next stop, my favorite hoyty-toyty grocer with the big organic product spread. Yes, it is expensive but that is why I stopped at the hardware store. I’m going to plant my own garden just to stick it to the grocer. Just kidding…about sticking it to the grocer. I am totally going to plant a garden, however. I grabbed lots of fresh produce and perused the fish. The whole trout looked great with clear, cloudless eyes and the price wasn’t bad, either. Good thing too, I had been too cheap to buy a trout stamp for my fishing license, this year. I asked another nice young man for two whole rainbow trout. Sea trout fish isolated on white backgroundAs I waited for the fish to be weighed and wrapped, I took out my list again and crossed off the produce I selected. When I glanced back at the counter I see the young man with his hand in the cooled display case hovering over red snapper and his face looked like a giant question mark. I asked what he was doing. He said he was getting my fish. I replied, “That’s a red snapper. I want trout.” He nodded feverishly and then his hand slowly moved to another fish. I shook my head and said, “No, that’s a mackerel.” Then I guided him to the trout. He was relieved but I was confused again.

I finished walking the maze of a store and headed to the checkout area. With my items on the conveyor, the young lady bagging the groceries asked the cashier what time it freshly turnipswas. She thought her break time was close at hand. The cashier, another young lady, pointed to the clock on the wall. The bagger exclaimed, “I don’t know how to tell time with that!” The cashier giggled while saying, “Me neither!” I helped out. “It’s 3:42.” “Thanks,” the bagger said with a flush. I could feel my brow furrow with more disbelief and confusion. I had to come out of it, though. The cashier was holding up a turnip and asking me what on earth it was.

Sigh. I don’t think I can get the garden planted soon enough.

You Sir, Are No Trainer

I was discussing a job opening with a friend. His company was in search of an I.T. person. Currently, there wasn’t really a Technology department and the company suffered because of it.

What the company wanted out of an I.T. person was pretty vague. The only specifics were, “…we want someone that can reset a password when asked and does not get upset because they’ve had to reset it several times before.” I chuckled. My friend explained they needed someone to work with phones and backups every now and then but mostly they needed someone to not get upset about routine requests.

The current candidates have assured them that they will be fine answering routine requests, repeatedly. No sweat.

3796784

I told my friend there was a problem and it was crystal clear. First, no one should become upset by a routine request but then again, we all know what can happen on a particularly stressful day. The real issue is the repeated routine request. Why does the same person need their password reset so often? That is a symptom. A symptom of a problem. Does the person have difficulty creating a complex effective password that is easy for them to remember but hard for others to guess? Do they need training to help them see special characters as a way to make their passwords stronger? Or is there something else? Is there a hardware problem? For example, BlackBerry requires a network password to deliver mail when used in an enterprise on a BES server. Has the person changed their password on the network but forgotten to change it on their BlackBerry? If so, BlackBerry will continue to provide invalid credentials and Windows will lock out the user.

I ran through a few scenarios that would cause a person to think they need to have their password reset to my friend and he was surprised by the depth that such a “routine request” could take on. He was also surprised that none of the candidates touched on the possibility of an underlying problem.

I just smiled and said, “Well, they are certainly no trainer.”

 

Should Instructor-led Training Become a Thing of the Past?

This past weekend, I attended an instructor-led fruit tree grafting course. My husband and I have planted hundreds of trees in the past, all of which we have purchased. Grafting our own trees would allow us to continue to plant trees while reducing costs and insuring quality.

As I sat in the class, handling a small pocket knife in one hand and a skinny twig in the other, with all the dexterity of a newborn baby, I found a new appreciation for instructor-led training.

Prior to attending the class, I thought I had “done my research”. I read about grafting trees. I watched some YouTube videos. You know, the typical research. Now I sat watching two instructors with more than a couple thousand grafted trees under their belts.  With the greatest of ease, they swiped pocket knives through twigs, making perfect bias cuts. I and a room of about another twenty eager learners were now tasked with completing the same action. Guess what? We couldn’t do it. Not at first, anyway.

twig

The two instructors proceeded to go to each table to provide a better close up and to reiterate what had so obviously been shown. To make the bias cut, the knife is held still and the twig is moved across the knife.

I was struck by this. A group of more than twenty adults got the same thing wrong over and over again. Even the last table of students, which by that time had heard the instructors several times, required personal attention, and that was just the beginning. There was a wealth of knowledge transferred through impromptu questions and answers, from the viability of planting trees in the presences of established walnut trees to what happens if the grafted tree is planted with the graft inserted into the soil. These were questions I did not ask but I certainly benefit from the answers.

During the four hour ride home, I thought of the frustration I might have faced on my own and of the continue importance of instructor-led training.