Author Archives: Carol Prigan

About Carol Prigan

I am an education and professional development specialist serving adult learners through instructor-led and online training. I create programs to teach technology applications and sales.

Power Outage: 5 Tips for Restoring Your Energy

The power went out shortly after 9:00 am today. Thankfully, all of my devices were charged up and I have a mobile hot spot for internet access. I can respond to emails, hold Zoom meetings, and write this article. I’m all set. Eventually the power will go back on and I can plug in again.

What do you do when your power goes out? What happens if you aren’t charged up and ready to go? We’ve all seen the articles and videos about taking care of yourself. Eventually we all experience some level of exhaustion when we keep working without pause. Sometimes it’s just brain fatigue. Sometimes we are so tired and worn out that we need physical rest. Everyone has their own preferences for addressing this, but indulge me as I give you my go-to ways to restore my energy.

  • Sleep: Once upon a time I was the last person to go to bed and the first up in the morning in my house. I operated on five to six hours a sleep. This affected me in several ways: I used food to prop my energy level up during the day, I was irritable and moody, and I had to fight to stay awake while driving to remote training locations. Adequate sleep is important for many reasons. I have learned that I really need seven and a half to eight hours of sleep a night to function well. The 15 minute “power nap” has never been a solution for me.  Instead, I go to bed at night and get up when I’ve had enough sleep. Now that I know how much I need, I can gauge when I’ll awake naturally according to the time I go to sleep. If I have to get up earlier than usual, I go to bed earlier.
  • Good Nutrition: The days of grabbing a Snickers bar out of the vending machine to get me past my 3 pm slump are over. Not only did that habit lead to weight gain, I also didn’t give my body the nutrients it needed. Now I work at making sure I get a balance of protein, carbohydrates, and fat over the course of the day. I’m more alert and able to think clearly when I’m not riding the peaks and valleys of erratic eating and poor food choices.
  • Ride the bike: Exercise looks different for each person. I enjoy riding my bike whether it’s out on the road or trail, or in the spinning studio. I’m not sure it matters what you do, but some kind of regular exercise helps. In addition to the health benefits, exercise gets me out of the office and away from my desk. Sometimes my best thinking happens when I’m riding my bike or walking.
  • Read a novel: Reading has been a hobby as long as I can remember. I love to lose myself in a good book. Reading has many benefits as well as being entertaining. Although I read a broad range of topics, I find novels most entertaining when I want to relax and recharge. I read classics (yes, Jane Austen) and contemporary fiction (I’m partial to spy thrillers and romance novels). I’m happy that my local library lets me borrow physical books, Kindle books, and audio books (yes, audio books count). I will often read two or three books concurrently. Although you can read anything for fun, I think a good novel is a great way to unwind and spark your imagination.
  • Gratitude: Sometimes the pity party goes on too long. We wallow in the unfairness of our situations and can’t see a way out. We are unhappy and unsatisfied. One way to break a cycle of negativity is to focus on gratitude for what you have or experience. A coach once had me list five things each day in my journal for which I was grateful. Some days it was difficult to come up with five, but I did it for a month. Now, I return to this exercise when I find myself succumbing to negative thoughts and feelings, if only to focus on something positive for a while. Expressing gratitude has the makes you happier and more optimistic. Try it!

These are just a few ways I have found to be helpful when my tank runs low or I find myself feeling depressed or negative. If we don’t take care of ourselves as trainers, how can we expect to engage our students and help them learn effectively?

If you have other ways to rest and refresh yourself, leave a comment below!

7 Tools To Build Your Training Materials

I get emails every day from companies promising me that they can produce wonderful, beautiful training materials for me – for a fee, of course. I suppose there are trainers out there who don’t want to bother with making their own materials, and maybe you’re one of them. I am not. Perhaps it’s the control freak in me coming out, but I prefer to do it myself.

When you’re a department of one with little resources, you learn how to put things together on your own. I’ve been creating PowerPoint presentations and course manuals for years. As more course content went online, I learned to create and edit videos. I also learned to make my own promotional materials instead of waiting for the marketing department to do it for me. Does this all take time? Yes, it does. But as you become more proficient with the tools, you can create materials quickly, efficiently, and you can keep the look and tone of the content consistent, regardless of the type.

Here are the tools that I use most often:

  • Google Slides/Google Docs: Many people use Microsoft products such as PowerPoint and Word to create presentations and documents. I, too, used these programs almost exclusively until I learned the benefits of Google Slides and Docs. First, I don’t need to remember to hit save while I’m working on a project. (How many times have you inadvertently closed something before saving? Or perhaps your computer crashed unexpectedly?) The Google programs automatically save changes to your work to your Google Drive. The other aspect of Slides and Docs that I really like is the ability to share editing responsibility with other team members. You can also share presentations and documents with others for review. You have much of the same functionality as you do in PowerPoint or Word, and if you want to, you can download your presentations and documents in those formats.
  • Canva:  I’ve written about Canva previously (I’m a fan). Not only can I create eye-catching designs for a multitude of purposes, I have access to more templates than I can count for many different purposes: presentations, social media posts, documents, website, and more. Canva makes it easy to create visuals for presentations and documents. If you upgrade to the Pro version, you get access to many more photographs and templates, as well as the ability to save your brand colors and fonts. I create all of my images for this blog/website, social media, and presentations with Canva. It’s easy to use and convenient to have everything in one place.
  • Camtasia: It’s fairly easy to make screen capture videos on a Mac or PC, but if you want to use those videos as part of online training, you’re probably going to want to edit them. You may want to zoom in to specific places on the screen, add callouts or animations, or add music or voice-over tracks. I have found Camtasia easy to work with, and it produces good results. Some of its features can be achieved with iMovie, but Camtasia does give you the ability to produce your final video in a variety of formats including those needed for some online learning platforms. To me, it’s worth the cost of the license.
  • Laptop Stand: I acquired a laptop stand several years ago as a way to help myself sit up straight while typing and viewing the screen on my laptop. Not only do I no long hunch over my laptop, I also discovered that I look at the camera at eye level when presenting webinars without sacrificing my ability to use the keypad. The bonus feature of the stand I purchased is that is it convertible. I can create a “standing desk” with it and stand up to present also. Save your back and neck and give yourself an eye-level camera angle at the same time with a laptop stand.
  • Microphone: Most laptops have built-in microphones somewhere on the side or back of the computer. Most of us will get better sound if we plug in a microphone and use it to capture our voices when presenting during webinars or making videos. This is also true if we use our smart phones to create videos for training. There are a number of different microphones you can purchase. I have both a lapel mike and a standing microphone. I also have a headset with microphone that I use for webinars if I am not on camera.
  • Smart Phone Tripod: You can shoot good videos using your smart phone, but you’re probably going to want to use a tripod to keep the image stable and lined up correctly. You can find cell phone tripod adaptors that fit on a standard tripod or you can purchase a tripod specifically for use with a smart phone. I found one that has a removable smart phone adaptor and bendable legs. I can use the adaptor with a standard tripod or use the bendable legs to place my tripod on sign posts, benches, and railings. My camera stays in place once positioned.
  • Zoom: There are plenty of video conferencing and webinar platforms out there. I mention Zoom because of three main things: The video quality is better than most platforms, it’s easy to place participants into “breakout rooms” for small group discussions or work, and it can be integrated with Facebook Live for streaming to a broader audience. Zoom Meetings gives you the ability to look at all of your participants, too. You can record webinars or meetings and repurpose the video. Whatever platform you decide to use for live, online training, be sure to learn the options and determine how you can best utilize them for engaging online sessions.

In most cases, there are online resources you can use to familiarize yourself with these tools. Learn how to use them effectively and efficiently so you can create training materials whenever you need them. What tools do you like? Leave your suggestions in the comments!

5 Things Everyone Gets Wrong About Training

During my years as a training director, I learned that everyone in the organization knows how training should happen. I listened to a myriad of opinions about what we should train, when, and where. Don’t get me wrong–there were good ideas, too. I happen to believe that the training department should partner with managers to learn about needs and direction of the program. I learned that along with that comes several misconceptions about what “training” is and how to do it effectively. Here are five things everyone gets wrong about training:

  • Anyone can train. Subject matter experts are just that: Experts in the subject matter they perform. Sometimes subject matter experts (lovingly referred to as “SMEs” in the training field) are good presenters, sometimes not. If confronted with the idea that Bob the mortgage loan originator can teach a class on mortgages, my duty was to confirm that Bob could, indeed, teach the content. Not everyone can teach or train. When I evaluate a prospective trainer, it’s to determine whether the person wants to present in front of people and if yes, how can I best help them to accomplish that without sacrificing the standards of the program. There are alternatives to getting the material into the hands of learners such as interviews, podcasts, videos, and articles.
  • Give them a handout. Somehow, having a handout legitimizes the training class. It should have as much information on it as possible so that when someone leaves the class with the handout, they will be able to remember the information presented. Such handouts, in my opinion, are wastes of time. If the participant can get just as much out of a handout after the class as they can participating in the class, why bother attending? The best handouts are those that require the participant to pay attention to what’s going on in the class to be able to follow along on the handout. The handout could have sentences that need to be completed, prompts to write down a number of points that were made, or illustrations that the participant could describe. The handout could be a simple piece of paper for the participant to take notes. The handout shouldn’t replace the content of the class.
  • Give them the slide deck. This is a kin of the handout and sometimes even a substitute for it. Giving participants a copy of the slide deck may seem a plausible way to help them remember content, but only if the trainer is reproducing a high volume of class content on the slides. I prefer to make my slides primarily visual aids for the presentation and limit the number of bullet points on them. A copy of the slide deck might not get the participant very far in their recollection of the session if they are relying on the deck having all the information. There are times, however, when providing the slide deck in handout form can be useful for participants. Give it to them when appropriate.
  • Training has to be in person. This admonition is fading away as more and more companies are looking for ways to train their staff remotely. It is very common, though, to hear managers declare that people need to go to training (read: to a specific place at a specific time to take part in a class with a live instructor). With people accustomed to watching videos online and taking tests and quizzes via social media, the need to be in a physical classroom has diminished. We are finding ways to train people virtually, either live, in person or through learning management platforms that provide on demand training. There is a benefit to having a community of learners for social learning. That community can be assembled in the online space, too.
  • You don’t need training if you’re experienced. It’s surprising that people believe we can stop learning once we’ve achieved a particular level of competence in our fields. With rapid changes in technology and how it’s applied to different professions, training to use these tools is essential. Even if you have “learned it all,” you forget or don’t use information or techniques as consistently as you think. Often we need to keep learning to advance our careers. Exempting experienced people from training does not benefit them. Training needs to adapt and be flexible enough to allow for participants at different stages of their careers and their changing needs.

Everyone has an opinion about training. When you’re the trainer, you need to listen to them and then separate the valid recommendations and ideas from those that are less helpful. You may be called upon to justify your decisions, and that becomes a training opportunity, too. If you’re a trusted partner, others will welcome the chance to understand why you do what you do.

5 Tips To Get The Most Out Of An Online Community

We are all spending a lot more time online these days. It’s easy to find an hour has gone by and all I’ve done is watch some videos and read a couple of articles. This may seem like a waste of time, but I schedule my online “research.” I want to continue to learn new approaches and discover best practices for my use. This means using the resources I have available to me through online networking and social learning platforms.

Long before the pandemic I discovered that there are online communities of professionals who gather to learn and exchange ideas regularly. At one time, LinkedIn Groups functioned as great resources for information and exchange of ideas. Unfortunately, most of the posts in these groups do not get seen unless the member purposely goes to the group page. Just as any other social media platform, engagement dictates whether group members will see any content posted.

Other types of online communities include member-only platforms. Some require that you pay a fee to join, others have no fee. I joined Training Magazine’s online community, Training Magazine Network, several years ago to get resources and tips when I was researching Learning Management Systems. I stayed involved because I found that the multitude of topics covered in live and recorded webinars, e-books, and information on the site made it a good compliment to other industry-specific resources. I also enjoyed the interaction with other attendees on live webinars. Training Magazine Network also offers a place on the platform where I can record my insights as I watch a webinar, share my insights, and read others’ comments. This is all part of a social learning platform.

You can become a member of an online community and never watch, read, or comment on the content. For the best return on the investment of your time and attention (and perhaps money), I offer these tips:

  • Watch webinars live: Not another webinar, right?! I have learned about many training topics on webinars, and I’ve learned best practices for presenting a webinar just by observing a live webinar. If you watch the webinar live, you can also participate in the conversation in the chat. There are other professionals watching who contribute to the conversation. The webinar presenter will often use the chat to gauge interest and engagement, or a least to field questions. For best results, watch webinars live and be engaged!
  • Connect with other members, on- and off-line: Sometimes you meet someone on one of those webinars you watch and end up having conversations with them, connecting with them on LinkedIn, and even collaborating on a project. This only happens if you pay attention, strike up a conversation, and respond when someone invites you to connect with them. You never know where that connection could lead.
  • Participate in interest groups: Some networking or social learning platforms create opportunities for you to participate in small groups. Depending on the group, this may be for a finite period of time or an ongoing discussion. I find myself enriched by the conversations in the groups I have joined. You might discover that you create connections with the others in your group that last beyond the group’s dissolution.
  • Learn something new: As a training professional, I understand well the need to learn new things, but when was the last time you challenged yourself to learn something new? An online platform may give you the opportunity to stretch yourself and move out of your comfort zone. Think outside the box when contemplating which webinar to watch or what group to join. Consider topics you’ve always wanted to know about, but didn’t think relevant enough.
  • Contribute: It’s easy to sit back and watch a few webinars or videos, read a couple articles, and then move on. Sometimes you read something that makes you mad or resonates with you. If the platform gives you the ability to leave comments or engage with the author through a chat function, consider continuing the conversation. If you’re watching a webinar, use the chat function to contribute. Ask questions. Help someone else understand something. Contribute to the discussion. You’ll find your experience enriched in the end.

You only get out of it what you put in.

Make the most of online resources to help you with your professional development and to learn about tools that could help your department (even a department of one). Join an online networking group to find connections with other professionals. You may just find your new favorite place to hang out online.

Repurpose Your Content

Once upon a time, to teach meant that you stood or sat in a classroom in front of people and engaged in activities designed to help those people learn something. You might have lectured or presented concepts, theories, or formulas. You might have demonstrated how to perform an activity or experiment. You might have engaged the people in the classroom in a discussion about a topic or a reading. When the time for the class was up, you left the room and interacted with the people only if they had questions or needs, and they most likely came to you during specific times when you were available for consultation.

The content for these classes was in a notebook or file folder, prepared and maintained by you, the instructor. If you shared anything, it was in the form of paper handouts. Sometimes you prepared manuals for distribution to the participants in your classes. In some cases, you may have added audio cassettes or CDs for participants to use when reviewing the lessons. Each person had their own set of materials for their own use.

Times have changed, haven’t they? We are less likely to be in a classroom these days, and the materials we provide may be documents, videos, or audio files stored on a website that participants in training access on their own, according to their needs. The ability to provide new materials and make changes to previous versions has also made updating course content faster (and easier, in my opinion). We are connected to students in a variety of ways: Email, text message, social media, and learning management systems, to name a few.

I believe that the nature of teaching and learning has also changed. We still conduct formal training sessions to present material and give students the opportunity to ask questions and practice; however, there are also informal, social learning opportunities as well. The content we prepare for formal learning can be repurposed and used for informal learning as well.

I have been creating short “Quick Tip” videos for some time. Each one explains to real estate agents how to do something for their business and in some cases, why it’s important. The content for these videos comes from the material I regularly train on in my classroom sessions. Because these are short “Quick Tips,” I use discrete lessons that can be presented in two to four minutes in a video. I typically use no visual aids, and it’s just me in the frame of the video.

These videos are distributed to my social channels (YouTube, Facebook, and LinkedIn). They also sit on a page on my website. I invite viewers to comment and subscribe, but most people will see the video through social channels as they view their newsfeeds. Recently I took one of the “tracks” we teach as part of the Floyd Wickman Program, the “Referral Lead Generator,” and created a short “how to” video:

I can use this video as a short reminder lesson for students in the program, to promote my business as a Floyd Wickman trainer, and to simply connect with past students who may have forgotten the technique and want to review it for their use. Eventually this video will be linked to my email signature where I invite people to view my latest “Quick Tip.” It gives a broad audience a taste of what I train on and how I present the content.

When I create videos, I order captions and a transcript from an online service. The transcript of the video can be stand-alone content for a blog post or website page. Many podcasts double as audio and video files, distributed to different channels for different purposes. Webinars can be recorded and offered for on-demand learning on a learning management platform or other website. Repurposing content is taking what you have already prepared and using it in a different way.

People learn in different places, at different times, and by different means than they did 20 or 30 years ago. By repurposing your training content and making it available via different channels, you are more likely to reach more students (and potential students) than you might by confining your teaching to the classroom.

Work Today

Truthfully, I don’t really want to sit at my desk today and work. I would rather be anywhere else, but there’s really no where to go. I am not inclined to sit in a coffee shop even if it were open to customers. There’s no place I would go to shop. So here I am at home – still.

Oh yes, there’s work to be done. I feel ambivalent about doing it right now. I will slog through the tasks because I know I need to. There are deadlines to be met (external and internal). What would I rather be doing? Reading? Listening to music? Working on a non-work-related project? The choices overwhelm me and I end up doing nothing or very little.

So why do I feel so guilty? As an independent contractor, it is my choice what I do with my days. Still, I find it hard to relax into my days because it has been pounded into me that idleness or play is not for adults. We must always be working, doing something constructive, achieving. So I chain myself to my desk in hopes that I will be productive and can earn the ability to goof off.

My mind wanders and I end up going down a rabbit hole of internet fun or staring at my to-do list, trying to figure out what I can skip. I think about all the things I want to do and few of them are income-producing activities, and boom! I’m back on guilt island, worried that I will never earn money again and we’ll lose everything.

Notice how I automatically shift from following my desires and being destitute. It feels like a fine line, but really it’s not. I think it is because not doing all the right things, right now, feels like I’m being a slacker who depends on others and gives nothing in return. As someone who lived in a corporate world with responsibilities and expectations for years, it’s hard to adjust to creating my workday in a different way.

Instead of focussing on all the things I haven’t done, I have decided to celebrate what I do accomplish, like writing this article. I came close to deleting the entire contents of the post thinking it was too personal or not specific enough for an article about training. What does this all have to do with training, anyway? I know that in order to stand in front of a group of people, share knowledge, and help them learn, I need time to learn and grow professionally. I need time to contemplate how current events impact the topics that I teach. I need time to relax and renew my commitment to providing the best professional development courses I can.

I am not alone in my feelings of disruption these days. The pandemic continues to upend the expectations we have for ourselves and our businesses. I have decided to give myself permission to pace myself and not do the next task on my list right away. I am learning to be kind to myself, focus on the process, and not worry so much about the results. It’s o.k. to take time away from my business. I know I will come back to it better equipped to tackle the tasks at hand.

Time Off (And What To Do With It)

I initially thought of calling this post “What to do when you’re not working.” The problem with that is for some of us, we’re spending a lot of time not working. Or at least not doing the work we want to do or we were trained to do. For those of us who are independent trainers, the pandemic has caused us to retool our businesses, pivot to different methods of delivery, and/or  spend time perfecting our online delivery of training classes. What happens when you don’t have classes scheduled though?

Sure, it’s summer. Time for picnics and vacations. (Or maybe not this year.) Here’s one thing I know about this time we’re in now: There’s a difference between the time you set aside for pleasurable activities and the time you have off because you don’t have the work you planned for or were able to book.

So what do you do? I can always find a book to read, a video to watch, a new online class to take, or a webinar to watch. Some of this qualifies as continuing education and I participate in it happily. I think we all need to keep learning and employing what we learn in our training. However, I am, like many of the people I talk to, getting tired of watching webinars. I find myself registering for what looks like an interesting presentation and then not attending because I just don’t want to click on another link.

I have books on my shelf that I’ve wanted to read for some time that are waiting for me to pick them up and start or continue reading. I find references to new titles as I read articles and I quickly reserve them at the library for pick up. As time goes on, I begin to feel bad about not reading these books despite having the time to do so.

Instead of feeling bad about not utilizing my time well, I’ve employed a few tactics to keep me engaged and working toward my goals. Here are my ideas for ways to stay working when you’re not:

  • Make a Schedule: I look at my week overall and determine when I will do what each day. I have my previously scheduled appointments, my “business development” time, and regular calls and video conferences. I also create a “top five” list of things to do most days. These keep me on task and working. I schedule my reading and exercise time to ensure that I do these important activities. I love to read, but I often feel guilty about taking the time to sit and read a book. Sometimes I listen to audiobooks while I exercise or do other tasks and then I feel very productive!
  • Say No: Sometimes you just can’t add anything else to your load. It might seem like you have a lot of time to take on another task, but really, can you? I ask myself this every time I see an announcement for an interesting meeting to attend, webinar to watch, or group to join. Sometimes the best response is to say no and focus on the things you really want to do.
  • Practice: For those of us who earn our living teaching and training others, if you’re not in a classroom teaching or presenting online, it may seem like you have nothing to do. Use the time to practice your delivery. If you update course content regularly, you’ll need to spend some time updating your presentation of the material. Find a room and practice. When I moved classes online, I updated the courses to reflect the difference between presenting online vs. in a classroom. Then I fired up Zoom and practiced a bit. Don’t forget to record yourself so you can review the results and continue to refine your presentation.
  • Commit to Learn: There are always new things to learn, but we might need to be choosy about what we commit to do. Where are the gaps in your knowledge? What would help you do your job better? There are likely online courses out there that can help you learn something new or deepen your understanding of a subject. I belong to the Training Magazine Network, and online, social learning community that sponsors webinars and courses for training professionals. I have found TMN to be a great source of information and assistance over the years.
  • Help Others: Sometimes you need to get out of your own head and help someone else. The shift in focus from your problems to someone else’s issues can bring about a clarity you wouldn’t otherwise have. Helping others can take many forms. I’m spending my summer leading a “squad” of women who are all members of the Ellevate Network. I act as a moderator for the group and coordinate our weekly online meetings. It’s not a lot of work, but it does feel good to help others.

These are just a few ideas that I have used to be more intentional about my time and my work this summer. It’s good to have time off to relax and play. It’s also good to use our time well so that we live well.

Six Social Media Tips for the Trainer

When I started my first Facebook business page for training at HER Realtors eight years ago, I did it to learn the ins and outs of Facebook so that I could teach it to agents. Social media was already a marketing tool utilized by a few agents to gain business and stay in touch with their sphere of influence. More and more agents wanted to learn the tool, so I took the plunge and constructed the page.

Much of what I learned back then has been updated as Facebook has changed over the years. I’ve added LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram to my repertoire of social media channels that I teach. I’ve had the benefit of learning from social media experts for real estate such as Katie Lance and Marki Lemons-Rhyal, too. It became apparent to me early on that teaching social media is only part of the story. I began to use social media to promote training internally and now in my business generally.

There are many resources out there to guide you in your use of social media: Books, articles, webinars, videos, and infographics. I’ve written about using social media for the marketing of training previously. I’d like to pass on just a few tips and techniques that I have learned while using social media to promote training:

  • Use video: Get over yourself and create videos to teach, inform, and entertain your audience. Create a playlist and promote the playlist in your video as a way to get people to pay attention to your content. Use a captioning service such as Rev to get captions and a transcript. Add the captions when you post the video and include the transcript in the comments. There are several reasons to use captions, but my favorite is that the majority of people watching video on Facebook do so with the audio muted. If you add captions, people are more likely to watch. Don’t forget live videos, either!
  • Create and use a Content Grid: To answer the most common question I get (“What do I post?”), I tell agents to create a content grid with categories and descriptions of the types of content you can (and will) post. Then, when you sit down to create your posts, refer to the content grid for ideas. You will begin to post interesting content on a regular basis (because you no longer need so much time to generate ideas) which will get you noticed more often.
  • Repurpose your content: When you spend time creating a video or blog post, don’t just use it once, post it on multiple channels. When I create a “Real Estate Quick Tip” video, it gets posted first on YouTube, then later on Facebook, and then the next week on LinkedIn. The transcript could also be the basis of a longer blog post, or I could use bits and pieces for shorter posts.
  • Share carefully: Most social media sites don’t like you sharing links that send people to another website. They sometimes punish these posts by not displaying them in people’s newsfeeds or on their timelines. It may be a good idea to share an article or video, however. One technique is to create the post, then place the link to the article or video in the comments. Tell people in the post to look for the link in the comments.
  • Use hashtags and tag others: Most social media sites favor content that is searchable (via hashtags) and engages others (likes, comments, and shares). To get more views of your content, use hashtags that will make it searchable and tag people when appropriate. When I share an article, for example, I tag the author. This gets their eyes on the post and they will probably “like” it which means all of their connections/friends/followers will see the post. The more engagement a post gets, the more often it will appear when your people view the social media channel you posted in.
  • Monitor views and responses: The benefit to using social media to promote your training is that you can access analytics to tell you how many people are seeing your content and what type of content your audience favors. Use the analytics available to you on Facebook to also determine what time of day you should post. These free tools are on all the platforms I use, and I check them on a regular basis to determine what sorts of posts get the most attention (hint: videos and pictures rate highly!).

There are many ways to promote your training programs, and social media can be an important  tool in your marketing tool bag. Consider where your audience hangs out (LinkedIn? Twitter?) and how you will get them to see your content (do you ask them to like your Facebook page?). If you’d like to see examples of what I do to create interest for my training on social media, like my Facebook page, subscribe to my YouTube channel, or connect with me on LinkedIn!

Training or Coaching?

In my now “ancient” Webster’s New World Dictionary, “coach” is first defined as a covered, four-wheeled carriage. Alternate definitions that appear are as a tutor or someone who tells a baseball player what to do. Most of us had our first understanding of what a coach is or does through athletics. The coach was the person who told you how to play the game and helped you understand your role.

Our understanding of coaching and what a coach does has not changed much in this respect, but the introduction of athletic coaching principles to the business world has grown and morphed coaching into its own discipline. We look to business coaches to help us in our careers and “life coaches” to help us with all aspects of our personal lives.

Today’s dictionaries still list the definition of “coach” as a carriage or bus, but now the meaning of coach has expanded to “someone whose job is to teach people to improve at a sport, skill, or school subject.” It makes sense that those of us in training should also consider ourselves coaches.

In today’s world, coaching is usually thought of as a separate activity outside the normal training course. In this sense, coaching is an extension of training where students have learned the basics and now need tutoring to gain expertise in a chosen field. The coach is someone who can help another person be better at something.

When I began my career in real estate, I learned the basics to pass the licensing exam, then attended training classes in the fundamentals of the practice of real estate. I knew what to do, but coaching helped me refine how to practice the profession and helped me discern what was most important to me in my business. Meeting on a regular basis with my coach kept me accountable to myself and my coach. By attending coaching sessions, I gained insights about myself and learned how to be a better real estate agent.

Later on, I sought the help of a coach to help me define and refine the next steps in my career. I wasn’t sure of my direction and I felt that I needed the assistance of someone who was not a colleague or superior. I found my coach by attending a webinar she gave on a topic I was interested in. We connected after the webinar and discussed how she might help me. Again, the training lead to coaching. My coach didn’t just teach me what to do though. She helped me discern my next steps and create a plan to achieve them.

The greatest benefit of coaching in a career or profession is that it helps bring out the best in people so that their expertise can grow and they can be more satisfied in their work. We don’t always have the ability to address individual concerns in the context of a training course. It may not be appropriate to do so. Coaching can provide a way to work one-on-one with someone so that they can meet their goals. They may already know what they need to do, but lack the awareness of how to achieve.

Small group coaching can also be an effective way to reinforce lessons learned and help people achieve. It has the added benefit of the wisdom of the group. Peers can be coaches, too. At the Floyd Wickman Team, we provide small group coaching on a weekly basis through the RSquared Coaching Program. Groups are no larger than eight people and a coach. Participants hold each other accountable and help with concerns and suggestions. The coach guides the conversation and provides insights that can help participants put their knowledge into practice. Coaching is how I extend the classroom into daily practice.

A good coach doesn’t give a person the answers to their problems by imparting more knowledge. People know what to do. Coaches help them uncover the impediments to reaching their goals.

 

Five Tips for a Successful Online Event

You’ve probably seen the Progressive Insurance commercial with the people on a video conference where one person can’t seem to get logged in and others talking over one another. Maybe you’ve experienced this on one of the numerous online meetings you’ve attended over the past several months. We laugh because it’s all too real (there’s always someone who can’t figure out how to mute or unmute themselves) and yet painful at the same time. You shake your head at the sight and think, “it’s been almost three months since ‘work from home’ became a thing. Why can’t they get it together?”

It’s one thing for a work meeting to go online and get messed up. It’s an entirely different thing to move a large-scale event online such as a conference or convention and watch it go belly up for a number of reasons. Conferences are intended to be networking and learning events and an online version doesn’t seem to solve anything but the need to not meet in person. So how can you redeem the event you’ve been planning and give attendees something that approximates the live, in-person experience? Here are some tips:

  • Choose your platform wisely. How many people do you expect to take part in the event? What type of activities are you planning? Will you have multiple speakers and will they be in one place or remote? This is point where you decide whether the event will be a video conference meeting or a webinar. In a meeting, participants can, for example, speak, see each other, and be placed in discussion groups. The webinar is a “one to many” broadcasting tool where participants are limited in what they can do and cannot be seen. There are several meeting/webinar platforms that can accommodate and online event. Many people instantly think of Zoom, but don’t forget GoToMeeting/GoToWebinar, Adobe Connect, and WebEx (and others). Depending on the size of the event and what you want to do, you may need to adjust the plan to accommodate the number of participants, etc. Don’t forget to check out recording capabilities or limits, too.
  • Create an agenda with your participants in mind. Give them a break – or two. People may leave the event if they feel like they have no time to use the bathroom or answer a voicemail. You build in breaks for a live, in-person event, so do it for an online event, too. If you’re using a platform like Zoom meetings where people are visible and can speak to one another, add time in your agenda for small discussion or “breakout” groups. This gives participants the ability to network with each other and breaks up the time they spend just watching. You can also create opportunities for networking before or after the main event on the platform. Give consideration to how long the event will run and what you want to achieve when planning your agenda and activities.
  • Determine if speakers can deliver using the online platform. The best speakers can fumble when presenting online. Verify that your desired speakers can deliver well to an online audience or plan to spend some time working with them to ensure a good experience. It’s best if the speaker can be seen by the participants. All speakers should have access to the proper equipment: good internet connection (hardwire is preferable), webcam, microphone, lighting, and uncluttered background. They should understand how to position the camera so that they are looking into it at the proper height. If they are sharing slides, they need to know how to share and advance the slides. If you are engaging a speaker for an online event, ask to see video of one of their online presentations or get on a video conference with them and verify that they know what they’re doing!
  • Engage a virtual assistant. A virtual assistant who knows the platform can handle all of the “I can’t hear” comments in the chat, troubleshoot technical questions, and assign participants to breakout rooms, if you’re using them. In addition to the technical assistance, have members of your team assigned to monitor chat and questions during sessions. Having people in place to deal with the online logistics frees you, the organizer, to focus on speakers and agenda.
  • Deal with the little stuff. There are a lot of little details that go into an event, whether it’s online or in person. You have decisions to make about the program, its length, the topics, registration, etc. Just because your event is online, don’t treat it any less seriously than you would if you were welcoming people to a ballroom with balloons and tote bags. Start planning well in advance of the event. Be determined to create an experience that participants will enjoy and be satisfied that they attended. The devil is in the details!

Events can be a great opportunity for people to gather, even virtually, to exchange ideas, learn something, and get to know someone new. If you plan well and craft your event for the online space, you will give attendees a great experience, limited only by your imagination (and your people’s internet connection).