Category Archives: Technology

Monday, Monday

Mondays toward the end of a month mean teaching tech training classes. I have the pleasure of teaching agents new to our brokerage how to use the tools we provide for their real estate business.

This seems like a noble cause, and honestly, I do enjoy being able to help the agents learn what the tools can do for them. There are days, though that try my patience. Today was one of those days.

Five minutes before class, there was only one person in the room besides me. There were eight names on the list of registrations. My first thought was that perhaps they decided to skip class to see the solar eclipse. Over the next five minutes, people wandered into the room. One man showed up without a laptop. This class is hands-on training, and agents are prompted upon registration and reminded the day before class to bring a laptop with them. He asked me if he should have a computer. I said yes. I know from experience that those who come without a computer end up staring into space and not getting much out of the class. He departed to retrieve his laptop and arrived at class an hour late. He struggled to catch up with the other participants.

Note to self: Be more explicit with the reminders about bringing a laptop to class.

Sometimes participants are worried that I won’t cover something that they have a burning desire to know about. I always start the class by telling them what the agenda is and how we will accomplish each item on it. That doesn’t stop them from asking me about things I will cover in the minutes to come. This happened repeatedly today. Despite my best efforts to reassure them, I continued to get “how do I” questions that I would cover in short order. Two things about this: It causes me to constantly say “We’ll get to that” (which sounds like a cop-out) and it heightens the level of frustration the agents feel. Neither is a good option.

Note: Prepare an outline and give it to the agents to follow through the class.

Complicated topics require extra preparation and targeted delivery in class. I try to break down the process and explain carefully what the steps are as I demonstrate them. I repeat myself and the demonstration often, and prompt agents to work along with me through the process. Most of the participants stay on track and can follow. A few are unable to keep up and all of a sudden I get the dreaded “where are we?” question. I then must stop the class and assist the person who has gotten off track. It can be as simple as helping them with a click or two to get to where they need to be. Sometimes it requires troubleshooting a range of issues from browser type to restarting the computer to Install updates that the person inadvertently clicked on. It takes time to get back to where we were. It’s frustrating for the participants who work diligently to keep up. It’s frustrating for me to have to stop and start multiple times because some participants are somehow unable to follow directions or pay attention for a period of time.

Note: Break down the process into shorter, more digestible chunks and check in with all participants on a regular basis to make sure they are able to follow along.

When you get to the end of a long day of training, both the participants and trainer are tired and ready for a break. I try to summarize the actions I covered and what they should have learned over the course of the day. It never fails that someone claims he/she doesn’t know what to do or how to do it because they “just don’t get it.” My attempts to calm the frustrations and explain that all participants will want to practice with various tools can fall flat. Such was the case with one man today. He just couldn’t understand the process of setting up a signing session for his client to sign documents electronically. What finally came up was a general angst about not knowing which documents are needed for different situations. Although I could answer his questions, he was convinced there was nothing that could help him (there is/are–he just decided that there wasn’t). I fought hard to not lose my temper or get sarcastic with the agent. My tolerance for this kind of response at the end of the day is nil.

Note: Devise a way to communicate expectations for agents so that they understand the scope of what is covered in the class and where to go for additional help.

Tomorrow is another day of tech training. If I had my way, I would break down these two full days into several shorter sessions. The reality is that everyone (managers and agents alike) want to get through the introductory training as quickly as possible. Ideally, agents would go online for much of the compliance and basic tools training before coming to a class. In class we would focus on application of the tools in selected situations. I have moved the syllabus of this sequence to a more situation-based approach. The next step is to create the online modules to take the place of some in-class time.

Note: Create more online modules and rework the class outline to incorporate them into the sequence. Schedule less time in class. Communicate the rationale for this mode of delivery and get agents and managers to buy into the changes.

A good night’s sleep does wonders for my ability to handle even the most frustrating situations in tech training. Sometimes that’s all I can do to prepare myself for the next day’s adventures!

Running a Training Department on a Shoestring, Part 2

In my last post, I discussed how Eventbrite has provided an effective platform for organizing and delivering registrations for our professional development offerings. Instead of manually entering registration information conveyed in an e-mail, we direct people to a registration page via a calendar widget or URL. Agents enter their own information and get updates and reminders automatically. I’m free to focus on other aspects of the professional development program.

One thing that is a constant in my position is the need to produce updated materials. In addition to print materials, there are videos and images, job aids and user guides that require my attention. I’m always on the look out for cheap (read: free) ways to help me produce learning materials that look good and deliver the message well.

Over a year ago I encountered Canva. I’m not sure where I saw the reference, but it got me curious and I checked out the site. Canva is an online platform that lets you create designs for social media posts, documents, marketing materials, and more. I use the free version, but there is the option to upgrade to be able to load all of your brand-standard materials for use when designing pieces. You can also choose to use images or other design elements in Canva that carry a small fee.

I make almost all of my visuals for social media on Canva. I also create presentation designs and upload them to PowerPoint. My next project is to use the infographic template to create job aids and quick reference guides. Canva has numerous free designs you can clone and edit for your purpose. You can also create your piece using basic templates and adding background, text, images, and graphics. If there are no images in Canva’s library that suit you, or if you have a specific image you want to use, you can also upload these to your account and have them available for a piece.

There are other free platforms (Adobe Spark, Venngage) that let you create images and designs for use on social media and in documents, but I have found Canva to be very versatile and relatively easy to use. I was disappointed with Venngage because many of the templates they offer require the user to upgrade to a paid account. If you have a free account, your sharing and downloading are restricted. I know others who use Adobe Spark and like it. Adobe Spark has additional features that let you create animated videos and web stories. While Canva is set up for easy sharing online if you so desire, Adobe Spark is primarily geared toward social sharing and web applications.

Great content is the backbone of effective training materials. Good designs, images, and graphics reinforce the message. We have a marketing department at my company, and they do help with some design work (and use Canva as well!); however, I find that by creating the images I need for a presentation, video, or document myself, I can tailor the message with image and the words, written or spoken. It’s helpful to have a tool that gives me the “rails” within which I can confidently play with the visual message. That the tool is free is a definite plus.

Running a Training Department on a Shoestring, Part 1

There are many challenges to managing a training program for over a thousand real estate agents located across a state. Automating as many processes as possible becomes required when you have limited personnel and funds. One process that we had to find a cost-effective solution for quickly was class/course registration. We needed cheap, effective way to give agents access to a calendar of upcoming classes and the ability registration online.

Our registration process depended on agents or managers sending e-mails to one person who would then add the person registering to a calendar invitation for the class. All monitoring of attendance was done manually with a sign in sheet and a spreadsheet where names and dates were recorded. This was time-consuming and did not give us an easy way to monitor registrations prior to a class. We used a Google calendar as a class calendar. This displayed the upcoming offerings on our intranet site, but it was not interactive and did not allow agents to register.

After some research, I landed on Eventbrite. Although it is primarily for event organizers who want to sell tickets or charge a fee for registration, I found that Eventbrite suited us well for what we needed. Eventbrite is free to use (a big plus) and gives us a calendar widget we can post to our intranet site. The calendar is interactive: Click on a date and you can see all classes scheduled for that date; click on “Register Now” and you are directed to the online registration page.

Eventbrite charges a fee if you sell tickets through the site and have Eventbrite collect the charges. We have used this feature for our annual convention where we charge a small fee to attend. The process was straight-forward and the fee was not exorbitant. It saved us the hassle of collecting checks or cash prior to and at the event.

In addition to having the interactive calendar for class registration, Eventbrite offers several tools that make life easier for the department. We check in participants on our mobile devices through the Eventbrite Organizer app (this is how we take attendance now!). If necessary, we can even register/sell tickets through the app.

I often send e-mail messages to participants before or even after a class through the platform. This eliminates the need to copy addresses into my e-mail message to send from my e-mail. I also have a record of what was sent when in an easily accessed location.

At any time, I can download reports of registrations and attendance. This makes keeping track of required attendance easier and more efficient. I often download information to a spreadsheet and forward it on to managers so that they can also see who is registered for or attended a class.

Eventbrite will also create a Facebook event for a class and include all the relevant information as well the link to register. I typically do not use this option, but I do take the URL for a class (each one has its own, customizable URL) and post it on Facebook when promoting a class or program. In addition to the Facebook interface, you have the ability to connect an Eventbrite account with any number of platforms including Survey Monkey and Mail Chimp via extensions.

There are many more features available in Eventbrite. On occasion I’ve used access codes to limit who can register for a class or program, the name badge function to create badges for classes, the wait list when demand for a class has been high, and the copy function to create “events” based on past offerings.

It’s rare to find a versitle tool that provides options such as these at a low cost. I’m happy to have stumbled upon Eventbrite for our class registration and reporting needs.

Social Selling is Not Just For Marketers

Not long ago, trainers could depend on students showing up to class because they got a flier or a printed newsletter with a list of upcoming offerings. Their manager or boss told them about the class and they dutifully filled out the registration blank and sent it in to the training department.

Today, that printed promotional piece may never be seen, ending up instead in a recycling bin or trashcan when it is discovered after the class took place. Today’s trainer needs to be an effective marketer utilizing various channels to “get the word out” and attract participants to the seminar, class, or webinar. Social media gives trainers another channel to reach the people who need training. It’s also a way to build trust in your programs and the credibility of your message.

I started using a Facebook business page several years ago as a way to learn how to use Facebook for business so I could teach others. What started out as an experiment has turned into an effective way to promote our training programs. HER University is both an example of what real estate agents can do with their own Facebook business pages but also a tool for the training department to get more agents to our programs. Here’s a sample of how I use the page to market training at HER Realtors:

  • Events This is probably a no-brainer, but the ability to create Facebook events and invite people to them is one way to draw attention to special training programs or classes. The event has a link to register through Eventbrite (more on Eventbrite in a future post), information about the speaker/trainer, and all the basic details. As we near the date of the program, posts about what participants need to know or other helpful information is added. If available, I post videos and pictures to the Facebook event also. I encourage people to share the event to help broaden the reach, but ideally it should be promoted.
  • Sharing and tagging When we hold a special event or program, I and others share to the page about it with one or multiple photos and tag participants. This doesn’t necessarily get people to the event or program, but it heightens awareness of what we’re doing. Participants will often share these posts or comment. (I or one of my colleagues always respond when someone comments on a post).
  • Class Posts Any time we want to try to get more registrations for a class or webinar, it goes on the Facebook page with a link to register for the class/webinar. It’s not enough to just post information about a class or webinar, people need to have a way to contact someone or register for the class. And don’t forget pictures or video!
  • Video We create videos with quick tips or other information that our agents might find useful. Posting these videos helps demonstrate that the page is a resource for information. I used to post the YouTube link to the videos, but now I post directly to the page. This gets more attention and organic reach.
  • Interesting Information In addition to the information about upcoming classes and programs, we regularly post information about the company and real estate industry for agents to share. This is intended to help get the word out about topics we think they need to know or would like to know, but it also serves to give agents something to share on their pages. Creating content can be difficult for some of them despite our efforts to teach and reinforce best practices.
  • Private groups Sometimes it makes sense to create a private group for agents participating in a multi-session program. The private group becomes the place they and the instructor(s) can communicate and share their progress. The private group becomes a place for social learning also.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of what a Facebook page can be used for to promote a training program. To be truly effective, I believe you need to put some of your budget towards boosting posts and advertising the page. Training is a recruiting opportunity in real estate, and the more agents at other brokerages know about a company’s programs, the more attractive it might be to affiliate with the company. This is likely true for other industries as well. Engaging managers on the page is helpful. They can help get the word out and have a presence on the page, too.

Facebook is not the only social networking site that’s useful for promoting a training program, but it’s relatively cheap (or free) and easy to use.

Tech Training Truisms

Twice a month I facilitate training on our technology platforms for agents new to the brokerage. This introductory training consists of two, six-hour days of hands-on training. Participants are asked to bring a laptop with them so they can work along as I demonstrate the various tasks they need to perform to be able to use our technology tools effectively.

Since I’ve been leading this kind of training, I’ve noticed a few things that, no matter where I am or how many people attend the class, always tend to come up. Here are my top five tech training truisms:

  1. People pay little or no attention to the description of the class or registration confirmation telling them to bring a laptop to class. I have nothing against iPads or other tablet computing devices (I own an iPad and use it often). They are handy to have and work well for many applications. Unfortunately, they don’t work well for some of the tasks we need to perform in class. I’ve learned to adjust my instruction to accommodate those with tablets. I’d prefer not to have to take time in class to show the one person with a tablet how to do something while the rest wait to move on. I believe that this will not be an issue in the future as more technology platforms accommodate mobile devices.
  2. The wifi will crash when you’re in the middle of working on a crucial task. I travel with my own wifi now, but if the internet access in the building goes down, the entire class is stalled. I now have back-up presentations I can show if I can’t do a live demonstration. Participants can’t perform the tasks I instruct them to do, but at
    least they can still learn.
  3. tech-training-truismsThere will be someone in the class who doesn’t understand basic instructions like “point,” “click,” “open a browser window,” or “upload.” I could name a few more, but you get the drift. You’d think that everyone has basic computer skills these days, but it’s not necessarily true. I usually need to teach to several levels of computer literacy in any given class.
  4. No matter how engaging you are as an instructor, someone will get bored and decide to check e-mail, go shopping, play online games, etc. I have spent much time working to provide engaging training to avoid this problem; however, the lure of the internet is too great. I’m not sure anyone could keep people from surfing with the most engaging training in such a class.
  5. People might “get it” in class but they don’t really understand the tool until they have to use it. For many of the agents new to the business, this means there is a gap between their initial training and actually using a tool in the field. Some are able to retain what they were taught, but many forget. This is where online, on-demand training fills the gap. They can refresh their knowledge in order to use technology when working with a client.

I was never a boy scout, but I have learned the value of being prepared when I train on technology tools. Whatever can go wrong usually does.