Category Archives: trainer topics

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.

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.

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).

What Do You Want To Learn?

I wrote one book (my dissertation) and always wanted to write another – and another – but never got around to it. I thought that writers were a special breed and everything they wrote would get published and hit the best seller list. How could I do that?

I read a lot and realize that many people write books. Some are good, others are not so good. And yet others are really bad. But somehow they got published. I began to think: I can do this. But how? When I wrote my dissertation, it was for a specific purpose (to earn my Ph.D.). I could have published it, but it would have needed more work to get it into shape for publishing. I didn’t have the energy or desire at that time to put in the work. Then, I left academia for business and all thoughts of publishing were left behind.

Fast forward a few years and I’ve returned to the idea of writing and publishing a book. For some time, I’ve followed a company, Scribe (formerly Book In A Box), that helps authors publish their books. They offered a workshop that I was too cheap to attend. It was intriguing, though, and when the pandemic hit, Scribe took the workshop online and let people take it at no cost. I signed up.

I spent 10 hours over two days plus a couple hours on day three watching live webinars with Tucker Max, author and founder of Scribe, and his staff and actually working on my book. I learned how to position the book, write an outline, deal with all the fears that accompany writing a book, and create a writing and editing plan.

But why tell you all this? Yes, I do hope you’ll take a look at my book when it’s published. That’s not the point, though. Too often, we trainers are so focussed on delivering training that we forget what it’s like to sit in the seat and be the student.

Why is it important to be the student now and again? It gives you perspective. Do you see the trainer using techniques you employ in your classes? How well do they sit with the students? What works? What doesn’t work? You consider how you teach and what you can improve to help your students learn the material, retain it, and be able to use it when needed.

If we want to be effective trainers and teachers, we need to evolve and learn new ways of teaching. That’s where learning comes in. Many trainers who had never presented online had to quickly learn how to deliver a webinar in the past two months. Some did well; others stumbled and limped through their webinars. What if you had watched other trainers deliver webinars over the past few years and started offering your training online prior to the pandemic? Sometimes circumstances force us to learn something new, but online training isn’t new. It’s just that some have come later to it than others.

So what do you want to learn? Find something and take a class. Use it to gain knowledge and skills, but also to learn how others teach. You will gain some level of expertise in a topic and perspective in the art of training adults. Take what you like and leave the rest.

In college, I lived in a dormitory that carries an inscription on one of its exterior walls. It says: “The end of learning is gracious living.” We thought that it meant we could leave the rigors of our educational pursuits behind us when we earned our degrees and start living well. The college interprets this quote differently and sponsors a “Day of Gracious Living” when they encourage alumni to contribute to the annual fund. The sentiment is that when we finish our learning, we’ll be gracious and give back. It’s an effective way to get alumni to contribute, but I would argue that we shouldn’t stop learning. Just because you have a degree or credential doesn’t mean you won’t benefit from continuing education.

Go ahead. Take a class. Learn something new.

Can Online Training Be Better?

I have to admit, I like delivering online training classes. I don’t have to “dress for success” (or at least not in the same way) and my commute is very easy. I get to teach from the convenience of my home where I have everything I need at my fingertips. My “assistant,” aka Calvin the wonderful wiener dog, appreciates being able to hang out with me while I teach, too.

I know that people will debate whether online training classes are better or worse than in-person classes. I would contend that poor content and training delivery is bad for learners, regardless where it originates, in a classroom or online. Nevertheless, online training requires the presenter to adapt content and change delivery for the online platform. In person, the trainer can gauge the reaction of the people in the classroom and change delivery or content accordingly. When online, the trainer relies on beefed up participation to get real time feedback. Sometimes this goes awry.

Online training has its benefits though. Both the trainer and participants can be anywhere. This broadens the scope of the trainer’s reach and delivers content to people who might not usually have access to that trainer or topic. Most online platforms are easy to access, depending on internet connection, of course. As a trainer, becoming familiar with various platforms and managing the content and delivery with them necessitates a learning curve. Once you’re familiar enough with a platform, you’ll waste less time trying to figure out what to do and more time actually delivering content.

With a broad reach comes the opportunity for participants to network with people outside their usual circle. I know some trainers who actively discourage participants from using the chat or questions functions to communicate with others. I’m not so concerned with that. I see the chat or questions boxes as opportunities to get to know other participants and engage with them. Most platforms will let you save the chat to your computer. That way, you can refer back to it and connect with other participants outside the formal training session.

This leads me to one of the biggest issues I see with trainers presenting online classes. It’s true that participants can engage with each other even if they aren’t in the same room; however, we must be intentional in creating communities of learning when online. This doesn’t come as easily as when you’re in person in a classroom. There is no natural inclination to talk to other people or exchange ideas when you’re attending an online class. The trainer and the students must make an effort to foster community and participate. From the trainer’s perspective, this can be something as simple as asking people to contribute their name and location in the chat box or more complex such as using breakout rooms with small group exercises. The trainer holds the key to unlocking the door to creating community online.

As we wander back to classroom training, will learners follow? The convenience of online training will continue to appeal to people who may not be able or are just unwilling to travel to an in-person class. The trainer who wants to broaden his/her reach beyond a local geography will continue to embrace and utilize the online space. I can see a move toward more “blended learning” approaches that use online training for the knowledge base and in-person workshops for the application of what was learned online. This type of online training could be static, on-demand courses or live instruction.

This still begs the question: When there’s a choice, will people continue to attend online classes? I think so. Online training existed prior to the pandemic, and it will continue to thrive. The difference going forward is the commitment trainers have to improving the online class. Its ease of use and the familiarity we’ve gained over time will make online training a viable alternative to traditional, in-person classroom sessions.

The Blank Page

I sat down today for the first time in 10 days to write in my journal. What used to be a firm morning routine of reading and writing with my cup of coffee before the newspaper and radio invaded my brain was swept aside by “stay at home” orders and “social distancing.” My routine had a rhythm of getting up at a certain time based on when my spouse went to work. Now he’s home all day. The routine got disrupted and I let the upheaval continue too long.

In much the same way, my training schedule and opportunities have been disrupted. I can’t count on in-person training to fill my schedule. Instead, my classes have moved to online offerings. There are always the basics to teach; however, in exceptional times, we trainers need to have exceptional content that speaks to our students now. I have to ask myself: What do real estate agents want to learn, and what do they need to learn now.

When the world changes daily (or hourly), it’s hard to tell people to do something when the result may not be allowed or applicable in just a short time. The uncertainty surrounding us all creates doubts about what we can teach people. Will it still be true in two or three weeks? Who will this resonate with if . . . ?

I work in the real estate business. I train people to be better, more productive real estate agents. Here’s what I know to be true: real estate agents are relatable people. They want to help people and grow their businesses. Consumers look to them for advice and assistance. Agents form close personal relationships with people as they walk through the buying or selling process. This is something the big real estate search engines can’t do, despite their presence in the market. Training should reflect what agents need to know to reach consumers and prove their value proposition.

There’s little or no opportunity for influencing people in person right now. We must provide training online. This scares some trainers, I’m sure, but it’s time to learn the tools if you haven’t already. There are different ways to conduct training virtually. In addition to Learning Management Systems that provide on demand training, we can conduct live webinars and even utilize Facebook or YouTube live to engage our followers on social channels. We can create training content such as video quick tips. These static videos become “evergreen” content online that we can continue to use in the future.

Beyond these somewhat traditional means of training virtually, we can reach out to students via phone, text, and email with “micro-learning” opportunities. If you utilize a platform that gives you the ability to send mass emails or text messages, you can send a group of people a mini lesson with a short assignment. Have participants upload their completed assignment or results to a closed Facebook group to create conversation and the ability for you to give feedback.

The opportunities are there and depend only on your willingness to be creative with training now. You may need to create new content for delivery through different means than you have in the past. You may need to learn something new yourself to be able to deliver training in a new way. Keep moving forward with your ideas and plans despite the temptation to throw your hands up and give in to the disruption. Your people need you.

Fill up the blank page.

Award or Reward?

I loved getting awards. (Notice the use of the past tense here.) I used awards as a carrot to get me to do the work needed to achieve the particular level or award status. In a sales position, awards are often used to entice the salesperson to do more work. If you’re a recognition junkie, getting the award is your fix and you’ll do anything to get it.

I attended a company awards function today and saw people I’ve trained walk across the stage to receive recognition for their production last year. It’s gratifying as a trainer to see people who attended your classes and did what you told them to do receive recognition. (Perhaps I’m living  vicariously through those award winners.) The experience caused me to consider whether awards and training have anything to do with one another (beyond the proud moment).

Most of the award winners, if asked, will not cite their training as the reason for their success. Why is that?

I regularly teach real estate agents about the behaviors and activity they need to perform in order to reach their goal(s). For some people, the external measurement is what propels them to do the work needed to realize their goals. The goal is embodied in the external recognition of their work. I understand this very well. I used a sales award to focus my activity as a new real estate agent. When I achieved that goal, I knew I had also achieved my financial and business goals. They went hand in hand. With no prior experience in sales, the training I received played an important role in my achievements.

Training can help people understand their motivations and clarify their goals. Certifications and designations may be the end result of completing a training program that will ultimately lead participants to more business, advancement in their careers, and/or some particular recognition. Perhaps the content of the training serves to give them an advantage. Just by knowing something may give the participant the ability to do their work more efficiently or effectively.

Award IllustrationIn real estate specifically, we train agents to become better at what they do by teaching them the skills and behaviors necessary for a successful career. We don’t usually encourage agents to make an award their goal, but rather treat it as a by-product of the activity the agent must perform to achieve their goals. Most times we trainers don’t even discuss awards in the context of a class.

Goals can be different for different people. This is especially true in sales professions. Some may have a monetary amount as their goal (I need to earn X this year) and others may decide their goal should be an experience or object (a cruise for the family or a new car). It’s helpful to understand the people in the training class to determine whether using award levels as goals would be a significant enough reward for the students. There may be some for whom this is a positive benchmark for their activity.

I’ve been focussing on large, annual goals here. There’s a place for more immediate measurements of activity and achieving interim goals. If you’re teaching the same group of people over a span of weeks or months, wouldn’t it make sense to recognize them for achieving weekly or monthly goals? I think it does. The hope is that by setting small, weekly or monthly goals, the students will focus on taking the steps needed each day to achieve them. We teach our students an important lesson by doing this. We give them the tools to succeed in whatever they choose to do.

Awards ceremonies are fun, exciting events. They don’t tell us a lot about what it took for those receiving the awards to achieve the award. I think it’s training’s job to help our students be able to analyze their activity and measure their progress toward their goal. The award at the end is icing on the cake. The satisfaction from seeing my students pick up their awards comes from knowing that I did what I could to help them get to this point. Congratulations to all!

Just Another Day

I have to admit it, I’ve been in a funk for a few days. It didn’t help that I spent too much time preparing for a training opportunity for which I didn’t have an agreement in place. Shame on me. I went into teaching this week with a bruised ego and a desire to prove to myself that yes, I can do it. So I was very ready to help a group of people tackle the intricacies of several technology tools for their real estate businesses. After all, I really like teaching tech!

I came home after the second of two full days of training tired and somewhat satisfied that I achieved my goals. The students picked up some tips, learned how to use the tools, and generally seemed happy with the class. Some even told me it was the best class they had attended so far (kudos to me!). I, however, have to acknowledge that I am also a bit dissatisfied, not with my performance, but with the ways we introduce people to a new profession.

It all starts with expectations. I don’t think anyone decides to spend money to fulfill the requirements for a real estate license (or any other profession that takes preparation and passing a test for entry) with the knowledge of the things it takes to be successful. That knowledge is acquired by learning on the job and the kind of training I do. Unfortunately, managers and companies that hire people to fill roles that require more training need to explain what candidates can expect to do as they start their careers. Too often, recruiters spend far too much time extolling the benefits of the work rather than explaining the work itself.

In most fields today, technology plays in important role in the day-to-day work of the business.  Most jobs utilize some form of technology tool, even if it’s only email. I see people coming into real estate who can’t distinguish between an email address and a website address. Because real estate agents often communicate with prospects and clients via email and use their websites for lead generation, this is an important distinction. I can explain the difference and I can teach someone what to type, but eventually, they have to learn and stop making the mistake. 

It’s the lack of understanding these kinds of fundamentals that perplex me. I’m not going to blame age. I know plenty of older people who are very adept at using technology for business and pleasure. I usually hear one of the students in my technology classes announce to me before we start that “I’m not good with technology.” When I hear that, I could think “oh no, here we go again,” but instead I ask what that person means by “I’m not good with technology.” The more I know, the more I can anticipate problems and try to adapt my teaching. I give the person admitting difficulties credit for understanding their weaknesses. It doesn’t absolve us from setting proper expectations coming into the profession or introductory training.

Whose responsibility is it to ensure the newcomers into our profession are able to master the tools they need to carry out their jobs? The responsibility falls on the trainers and the students alike. I find nothing wrong with telling adults that they need to practice and learn what I teach them. I don’t give out grades; their business will show how well they learn and put what they learn into practice. I am a resource person and a motivator. I help them understand how to do something, what to do in different situations, and most importantly, why it should be done. I expect the student to connect the dots.

I want students to have a good experience in training. It can be difficult for them and me if expectations are not set coming into training and students are deficient in basic skills. I will continue to be patient and help those who lag behind others in the class. At some point, though, it will be painful to struggle to catch up. I worry that the pain will outlast the benefits of practicing an exciting, new profession and cause someone to reconsider after spending time and money to get this far. That’s not fair to the newcomer.

Got Ethics?

As a way to boost milk consumption, the California Milk Processor Board began to use the tagline “Got Milk?” You may have seen the commercials on TV, the billboards, or the ads in magazines. The use of the line spread across the country as celebrities posed the question with milk mustaches. Suddenly it was cool to drink milk (and show your milk mustache). The refrigerator staple that people pour on cereal and drink with chocolate chip cookies is a common thing people can buy and consume. But what about ethics? Are ethics something you can acquire and use when needed or desired? Do we need to teach people ethics? And what about industry-specific business ethics?

Ethics, at its simplest, is a system of moral behavior. We often think of ethics as standards of behavior – what people should or should not do in the context of a situation. Everyone operates by some code of ethics whether they recognize it or not. Religions and philosophies provide us with standards of behavior such as the Ten Commandments or the Golden Rule, for example. Ethics has to do with social standards, whereas morals refer to a person’s ideas of what is right or wrong. In this context, teaching ethics makes perfect sense. We are not prescribing a person’s moral character in ethics; rather, we look to teach behaviors that align with the type of ethics the individual should adhere to.

Many states require real estate licensees to take an ethics continuing education course as part of license renewal requirements. In Ohio, this law is called the “Canons of Ethics.” These laws are the legal standard by which someone can obtain and retain a real estate license. Any licensee who is also a Realtor® (a member of the National Association of Realtors®) must fulfill an ethics education requirement periodically as well. The Realtor® Code of Ethics dates back to 1913 and is updated annually to reflect changes in the profession. So the idea of teaching ethics to this profession’s members is not foreign. 

Nevertheless, it begs the question, how do you teach someone to be ethical? Is it possible to tell if someone “got ethics”?

To teach ethics is sometimes challenging because the consequences for not teaching it well can be high (think of a practitioner losing their ability to earn a living). Rarely does someone tell me that they think it’s silly to have to sit through the class. Students do challenge particular points or ideas, but they don’t dispute the need to learn them. What is most difficult is the how – how do we help people understand what they should do and convince them to do it?

I like to use case studies or scenarios to help students understand what they need to do to meet the ethical standards set forth by law and their industry. Case studies give students the opportunity to place themselves in the situation and consider what they would do. Sometimes their responses are incorrect when asked what they would do in that situation. This is a learning opportunity. We address why the response is wrong and how to remedy the behavior. As the class progresses, students learn the standards of ethical behavior they need to abide by to maintain their profession.

This material can be extremely dry and boring – unfortunately. I’ve sat through enough ethics classes as a student to know how it should not be taught. I find it best to approach the topic with humility and humor. If I can get students to laugh at the silly things the agents in my case studies say or do, it helps to make the point. It also becomes easier to understand the difference between incorrect and correct behaviors. Humor can help get your point across.

Each scenario comes down to one specific question: What would you do? I have found that most people want to do the right thing, but they may not know what it means in that specific situation. Sometimes it’s easy to follow the crowd and perpetuate bad practices because “everyone does it.” Just like your mother told you as a child, it’s not a good defense to do something just because everyone else is doing it. We have ethics to help us remember that there are better ways to act.

If a particular ethical standard no longer applies due to changes in society, then there are processes to get it changed. If it is law, we lobby our lawmakers. If it concerns industry ethics, that industry has a means by which changes are considered and acted upon. When I teach ethics, I point this out as well. Ethics are not stagnant; they are a part of society, and as society changes, so too should the ethics we reference as standards of behavior.

Ethics aren’t foreign. We all have some kind of ethical structure that we work within. My job is to help people understand ethics and how their business practices do or do not comply with the ethical standards they are required to adhere to. In the end, I trust that my students can say that they “got ethics” – with or without a milk mustache.

It’s About The Experience

I love getting surveys in my email about my last Starbucks or Panera visit. Hey, at least they cared enough to solicit my opinion! I almost always fill out the survey. Why? I had a string of less than stellar experiences at a particular branch of a “fast casual” restaurant chain and I let them know it after each visit. I got a response, too. In addition to the expression of gratitude for taking the time to let management know about my experience, they sent me a $25 gift card to encourage me to come back. I could only hope they took my suggestions seriously.

What do these surveys usually ask you about? If you visited a restaurant or coffee shop, you’ll be asked about the quality of the food or beverage you purchased. But look at the questions again. They want to know about your experience, too. How clean was the environment? Was the staff friendly or make an effort to get to know you? How would you rate your overall experience? Surveys like these are a way for the business to determine how successful it is at achieving a good customer experience; one that will keep people coming back for more. It’s not enough to provide good customer service – anyone can do that. The public wants a good experience.

How does this relate to training? Several years ago, I bristled at designating students as “customers.” They should want to be there to learn! Yes, and – they deserve an environment that’s conducive to learning. It’s not enough to put people in a room and tell them something (i.e. a “data dump”). What was a common teaching method twenty or thirty years ago assumes that people will put up with anything to get the content. With the proliferation of ways to get information today (books, websites, YouTube, Wikipedia, etc.), there needs to be a compelling reason for someone to attend your training session besides the topic or the promise of continuing education credit. They are looking for a specific kind of experience in your classroom or webinar that will assist their learning.

In my opinion, the best trainers are those who can teach, entertain, and motivate people. The trainer needs to know the subject matter inside and out. Beyond that, the trainer also needs to be able to use techniques that foster learning and an environment conducive to learning. Let’s explore these three aspects of training:

  • Teach: Teaching is more than imparting information to an audience of people you expect to be sponges. Most of us who teach for a living understand that we need to use different ways to get our message across. We might use a presentation to support a lecture. Other times a demonstration might be in order. We also employ discussion, small group exercises, facilitation, role play and a host of other techniques to help us teach the content to a group. As instructors, we need to determine which ways to present the material we are charged with teaching to students. It’s part of our job to figure out what might work best and use appropriate techniques for the situation.
  • Entertain: Students need to like you before they’ll listen to you and do what you tell them to do. If you’re a likable person and everyone automatically absorbs your lessons, congratulations! Most of us have to work at presenting information in such a way that our students accept the tough lessons we’re trying to impart. When I say “entertain,” I don’t mean perform a song and dance routine. You might use humor to get them to laugh and relax. You might tell stories to elucidate a point. One thing becomes clear, though: The more you can use humor and stories in teaching, the more likely it is that the lesson will “stick.”
  • Motivate: Much of the time, we are looking for people to make changes as a result of our training. It may be something simple as using a different process or procedure. Learners might need to follow a new law or regulation. In my case, I am trying to get people to change their behaviors in their real estate businesses. I want real estate agents to have more conversations with potential buyers and sellers. I want them to be strong presenters and negotiators. I want them to use a technology tool to enhance their businesses. They need to understand laws and regulations and be able to follow them in their daily activity. I can teach them the dialogues and techniques, but if I can’t motivate them to use the dialogues and techniques, students have wasted their time in class. I have to know the “why” for anything I teach. Why is this important? Why does someone need to know this? I constantly ask myself these questions (and more) as I’m training. I often use stories to illustrate my points and motivate students to take action. I gauge acceptance of my words by the expressions I see on students’ faces and adjust accordingly. I know I need to motivate people to make changes they might otherwise not.

Many adult learners would rather do something else than sit in a classroom. My job as their trainer is to make sure that what I teach will be received enthusiastically or at least warmly. I want to motivate them to put their learning into action. I can give them good service or I can give them an experience they’ll remember. I opt for the experience.