Category Archives: Training

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.

 

Life In The New Normal

Some days are better than others in this “new normal.” I create my daily list of things to accomplish and work through them with little difficulty. I’m inspired, creative, and enthusiastic. The sun shines, cool breezes waft through my window, the dog takes naps during my phone calls and online training sessions, and I’m working as efficiently and effectively as I can. Life is good.

Rewind that blissful video to two weeks ago. It was a day full of activity and positive outcomes. And then I tripped on the sidewalk in front of my house and began a period of lost days and head pain. What I thought was a simple tumble turned out to be a concussion. I can’t remember hitting my head, but I did.

When your daily activity is reduced to lying around and trying not to upset the delicate balance of head and stomach, you spend a lot of time thinking about what matters and how to get back to some semblance of normality. I pushed myself to get on Zoom calls and participate in a team meeting, but my body revolted. Back to bed! it said quite emphatically.

During this time of enforced rest, I had to cancel a class I was supposed to deliver online. I realized that there was no way I could deliver a three-hour continuing education class without incident. It’s one thing to fight through a normal headache to do your job. I’ve done it and managed well enough. It’s an entirely different situation to try to ignore a head injury and give students the kind of training they deserve. I missed the income, for sure, but I’m glad to have recognized that I was in no condition to be an effective speaker or trainer.

As time from the injury has passed, I am recovering my ability to make to-do lists and accomplish the tasks on those lists. I feel a real loss of time, though. Yes, I have days when all I want to do it go on vacation where I can escape the mundane. When inactivity is enforced, it’s a different situation altogether. Now, I want those hours and days back when I could have been working toward my goals. I want the joy of accomplishment. When someone asks about this period I want to be able to say I did more than catch up on listening to podcasts and “read” audiobooks. Those kinds of activities don’t necessarily advance my career or business. I feel very unproductive as a result.

I have come to recognize that this drive to always be doing can be dangerous. We get sucked into the idea that only certain activities count and that everything else is fluff. Although I was in pain, I was able to appreciate this enforced inactivity as a time to consider what I want to do with my business and life. I’ve found that I actually enjoy delivering training online. I love to write and produce content people might find helpful. The “new normal” has allowed me the space to consider how to move forward.

I am still recovering and will probably need more time to feel like I did before the injury. Things will get back to “normal” slowly, but surely. It’s hard to wait for that to happen because I have plans and ideas I want to pursue. I guess that’s a good sign that recovery has begun.

Live! And Online

Please, please stop saying “unprecedented” when referring to this global pandemic! It might be a hot mess or crazy times, highly unusual or extraordinary, but please call it something other than unprecedented. We’ve heard that before. Help me to consider the current situation in a different light and you’ll have my attention.

I’ve had to think of my training business in a different way when it became apparent that the pandemic changed how people need to get training. Online training has existed for some time. There are self-paced, digital courses available in many fields. Anyone visiting the “support” or “help” areas on websites for assistance sees many examples of training tools designed to help an end user navigate the steps necessary to do just about anything. These types of training are necessary to provide, but they don’t make up the majority of the type of training I provide.

So what about synchronous training? You know, live, in person training courses that advance a learner to proficiency in a subject or skill. Is it possible to convert that type of training to an online version? I think so. I believe there is the opportunity to engage students in the online space that is not the same as in a classroom, but can still provide a similar experience.

There is also the need to create online versions of static professional development classes. These are often continuing education courses that professionals need because a state regulatory agency recognizes the need to keep licensees updated in their respective fields. The content may not change often, but it does change over time. With no opportunities to meet in a classroom for the foreseeable future, the professional using existing digital offerings depends on classes that are updated infrequently with no opportunity to interact with the instructor or other students.

Classroom training can be converted to online opportunity. What will attract the person who wants to learn the material? In a word: Interaction. A class offered live, online can have a degree of interaction with the instructor and other participants, depending on the platform used to deliver the class. In addition to interaction, current offerings can also deliver up-to-date material.

Here are five strategies I’ve used to convert my classroom-based classes to the online environment:

  • Change the presentation to fit the online environment: You may need more or less words on the slide, depending on how you normally construct your presentations. Consider using different kinds of graphics to illustrate your points. You might want to use video and animation to break up the monotony of the slide deck.
  • Use breakout rooms: Consider using a platform that gives you the ability to assign participants to breakout rooms where they can discuss topics in small groups. Give them questions or topics to discuss in a handout (either send it to them prior to the class and/or let them download it from the platform). Have one person report out of the group when the participants reconvene.
  • Step up their participation: Use polls to solicit answers to questions or feedback. Use techniques such as “Write this down,” “Raise your hand if . . . ,” “wave if you . . . ,” “Write in the chat box . . . .” Take people off mute if they have questions or comments. If you’re asking them to give feedback in the chat or questions features of the platform, read them and respond. You have to be intentional about involving people online because you won’t be able to judge their reactions to what you’re saying as you would in the classroom.
  • Use your webcam: Yes, it’s disconcerting to think that the participants are seeing you but you are probably not seeing them. Talk to the camera and imagine you’re speaking to one (or more). Use gestures. Be animated. Don’t just read the slides!
  • Give them a break: Depending on the length of the class, consider working in a break. Most people can’t sit and pay attention for more than 90 minutes. If your class is an hour in length, there’s probably no need for a break.

All of these adaptations require work. Reevaluate the content of the class. What is essential? What is fluff? Make a meaningful experience for your participants. Give them a reason to be there with you for a live online class. Make it an extraordinary experience.

What is this feeling?

For those of us who are self-employed, Covid-19 could be a blessing or a curse. I see many entrepreneurs and small business owners pivoting and making changes to bring their businesses to people in other, chiefly online, ways. Necessity is the mother of invention, right? I see the announcements popping up on social media. There are webinars and calls, e-books and videos. But what about those of us who are just starting our businesses? It’s time to do a lot of “business development,” right? In other words, work to find future rather than now opportunities.

I can embrace that idea and have been trying to make contacts and set appointments for that future date when I’ll be able to hold in-person training classes. I am well-versed at presenting webinars and have done a few recently. Unfortunately, webinars haven’t been replacing my other offerings. This means a loss of income in the short term.

I surprised myself one morning this week by writing the following in my journal: “I think I am grieving for what might have been if this pandemic had not taken hold. It has caused me to consider if I really made the right choice. I feel like I don’t want to go back to where I was, but I don’t see a way forward from where I am now.” If you’re just starting a business when the pandemic hit, your opportunities probably dried up. You are mourning for what might have been. This grief is real. I realized that when, serendipitously, a Twitter notification popped up on my phone that lead me down a social media rabbit hole.

In the process of surveying my Twitter newsfeed I saw a friend’s post where she shared an article from the Harvard Business Review, “That Discomfort You’re Feeling is Grief.” In this article, the author interviews David Kessler who co-wrote On Grief and Grieving: Finding the Meaning of Grief Through the Five Stages of Loss with Elisabeth Kübler-Ross. Kessler pinpointed what I and others are feeling right now: “Anticipatory grief is that feeling we get about what the future holds when we’re uncertain.” My mind races forward three months, six months. I see my nascent business failing and then extinct before it really had a chance to get off the ground. “Anticipatory grief is the mind going to the future and imagining the worst.”

What is the antidote to this grief? According to Kessler, it’s staying grounded in the present. What can you do now, today to remind yourself that you’re o.k.? In our communities, it can be practicing social distancing. For ourselves, it can be practicing mindfulness of our breath, our physical space, or just washing our hands and staying as healthy as possible.

This article was enlightening and sobering at the same time. Yes, I can give myself permission to focus on the present. I still need a way to earn a living and keep food in the refrigerator. I try to pitch my online offerings to people in a position to hire me. I feel sales-y and somehow inconsiderate. I find myself talking too much on these calls. I know this is the kiss of death (I teach sales skills after all!), but I can’t seem to stop myself. Focussing on what I can do today to advance my business has turned into frustration.

At the same time, I see announcements of webinar offerings by colleagues and competitors. I watch some of these webinars and marvel at how some trainers ever got someone to agree to let them present. I’m a little jealous and mad at myself at the same time. What am I doing wrong?

As more and more trainers race to put their content online in webinars and videos, the market becomes saturated. The audience for all of these online offerings is getting tapped out. How many webinars can you watch in a day or week before you just start deleting the email announcements or scrolling past the posts in your newsfeed. I call this “webinar fatigue.” It’s fine to watch and listen to people telling us what we should do for a while. Then, it turns into nagging and our attention begins to wane. We long for the connection, the dialogue, after a while, and webinars are not a substitute for human interaction.

The best webinar presenters understand this and work hard to create opportunities for connection while presenting. It helps when the presenter is interacting with the audience via the chat or questions function in the platform. Some platforms, like Zoom, give hosts the ability to put people in “breakout rooms” to interact. Sometimes even participants help each other out and start communicating among themselves in the chat. This aggravates some presenters (it’s disrespectful! they aren’t paying attention!) but I see this as a way to create community, even if it is in the context of an online offering.

I suspect that the number of webinar or online offerings will decrease over time and only those that are truly worthwhile, either because of the topic and/or the presenter, will stick around. I can’t worry about that now, however. I need to let go of what I can’t control and focus on what I can do now, today. If you’d like to talk to me about presenting some training, great. I’d love to connect with you. If you’re tired of training options, connect with me anyway. I’m here to help in any way I can.

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.

On The Frontlines of Online Training

As I sit here in Ohio under a “stay at home” order from the Department of Health, I’m reminded of the Monopoly game and the opportunity to draw the “land in jail” card: “Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. Go directly to jail.” I suspect that a lot of us feel like we just landed in jail without our $200 for passing go. Converting in-person training classes to online training occupies our brains and our work life. Organizations and businesses are scrambling to provide training for their employees to keep them engaged and moving forward when it seems that everyone is stuck in place. It’s no different in the real estate world where I work.

Although real estate services have been determined to be “essential services” in Ohio, many agents are not going on appointments, whether to list properties for sale or lease or to show prospective buyers and renters new homes. We’re living in an era of low inventory, and the current state of affairs has lead to even less properties coming on the market. (There are some people listing their homes for sale, however. People still need to move.)

There’s no better time for a real estate agent to sharpen their skills and work on their business, right? Brokerages and agents who adapt and learn during this time will be in a position to benefit from pent up demand when people reenter the market. Now is the time to ramp up learning opportunities, and remote/online learning can fill the need.

I will confess – I like presenting live, online training sessions. There is the challenge of engaging participants despite the distance. In most cases, I can’t hear or see them. How do I know that what I’m teaching is learned? This is the major difference between online and in-person training, and it scares most trainers who are accustomed to judging a student’s acquisition of the material by their immediate feedback, whether that feedback comes in the form of body language, questions asked, or passing a test. In the online classroom of webinars and meetings, we use other tools to judge students’ understanding of the material.

Trainers can still ask questions of the webinar participants to gauge their comprehension of the material. I have participants write responses in the chat box at regular intervals. I also have them respond to requests for input such as: “What topics do people look for on a real estate website?” The primary goal of this is to get the participants thinking about the kind of content they might provide to consumers on their individual websites, but this also serves as a group exercise to foster a kind of esprit de corps among the participants.

Polls give the trainer the ability to judge whether the participants have absorbed the material being taught and/or set the stage for what’s to come. I like to run polls to determine first where participants are in their understanding of the material I’m about to present. I can get reactions to a statement or have them indicate opinions. Polls can also help me determine if the material I taught “landed” with the participants. I have to always keep in mind what my purpose is when I construct the poll.

Because I can get very absorbed in presenting the material, I schedule breaks in the flow of the topic to solicit questions from the participants. Depending on the ease of use of the webinar platform you use and the size of the audience, questions can be written in a chat or questions box or microphones taken off mute for participants to speak. These are brief “check ins” for me as the presenter to make sure I keep participants’ attention and to help me assess what I need to repeat in the course of the training.

Some online training platforms such as GoToWebinar and Zoom let the organizer attach surveys to the webinar that can launch at the completion of the webinar or the next day. I ask participants to rate me as an instructor, tell me what topics they were glad we covered and which ones they would like more instruction on. I also give an opportunity for participants to contribute topics for future trainings.

I know I’m not a perfect trainer online just as I make mistakes in the classroom. I’ve learned to speak online so that participants get the message though. And right now, I’m glad I’ve honed this skill so that I can continue to train even if I can’t stand in front of a group of real estate agents personally.

You Are What You Learn

“I am always ready to learn although I do not always like being taught.” Winston Churchill

Once upon a time, I thought that my students were like empty vessels, waiting for me to pour needed information into them. When they were full of whatever I poured into them, they would be able to do something, speak intelligently, or act upon the information. I was new to teaching adults, just able to drink legally myself, and scared out of my mind that I would say or do something wrong in front of my class. Many of my students were older than I.

My favorite classroom activities involved drills and simple games. I honestly didn’t know any better, and this is what I was taught to do with the students. They were learning a foreign language and needed the repetition. Never mind no one understood how to use what they were saying. That would be a lesson for a different day, in a different class. So, I kept repeating the verb conjugations and sentence structure. They did learn something, I’m sure. My students tested highest on the department exams. I knew what to teach them.

Fast forward several years to a different place and a different subject. There is nothing to drill these students on. They are more skeptical about the validity of what I’m presenting than those students learning a foreign language. I had to find new techniques and skills to reach these students. I had to understand that they do not always like being taught. For this group, learning how to must lead to application.

It makes sense to me that I have evolved in my teaching as I’ve grown older and observed how others teach. I couldn’t depend on the way I was teaching people over time. I had to accept that my students are not in class for me to fill them up with information that they should process on their own, outside of class. What I teach needs to be relevant and compelling. They want to learn, but they don’t like being taught.

This might seem evident, but I know instructors and trainers who are still simply lecturing to students and don’t seem to care whether what they say resonates with the them. They read slides from a PowerPoint presentation, droning on about whatever with little regard for the learners they are charged with teaching. If adult students and professionals are constantly told they know less than they thought they did, they will not respond to the message. Eventually the only people left in these classes will be the instructors and the few people who absolutely need to take the class on that day at that time. Adults vote with their feet.

LearningI choose to focus on application of skills and ideas. We discuss, we practice, we wrestle with the topic until we (notice it’s not or they) work together to learn and become better at what we do. Each time I step in front of a group of people with the charge to teach or train, I need to be better at what I do than the last time. This is how I approach the privilege of being a trainer. I help people achieve something they want or need through my instruction.

I am most certainly a different teacher/trainer today than I was at the start of my career. I believe this is due to one small question that I ask myself when I get ready to teach: Why is this important? More specifically: Why is this topic/skill/tool important for the students in my class today? If I can answer that question, then I know that I can confidently stand in front of the group and lead them through the syllabus for that session. Asking the question does not absolve me from presenting the material in an entertaining and relevant manner. It does not mean I can just tell stories or read from PowerPoint slides. I have to engage my learners.

My students may be ready to learn, but they don’t like to be taught.

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.

Technology Training Options

My favorite go-to source for “how to” instructions is YouTube. When I need to learn how to do something on my computer, phone, or tablet, I open up YouTube and type “how do I .  . . ” into the search box and at least one of the results usually gives me what I want to know. I can watch a video and dissect the steps needed to perform the action necessary at the time. I’m not the only person who does this, but I do know many whom a video on YouTube does not help. They need something more than watching a video, alone. They need an instructor and a class.

This is where technology training comes into play. There are essentially two ways to deliver technology training: Demonstration or hands-on training. Demonstration classes can be either live, in-person or online, or on-demand. Hands-on training is always live, in-person training. Both have their place, and they each have pros and cons. Let’s look first at demonstration as a means to deliver tech training.

In a demonstration class, the instructor shows the participants a particular work flow or how to accomplish a task. The participants watch the instructor work through the process while the instructor explains each step. There are at least three positive aspects to delivering tech training by demonstration:

  • Low internet need: Because students are not using internet bandwidth for online tools, this type of class can be helpful when the location may be challenged to make enough wifi available for participants. An instructor can run the class using a wifi hotspot, if needed. Sometimes the best laid plans for hands-on training turn into a demonstration class when the wifi won’t support the number of devices being used in class.
  • Quicker: Because the instructor doesn’t need to start and stop to deal with individual hardware or connectivity issues, a demonstration class can be delivered faster than hands-on training. There should always be time for students’ questions as you demonstrate a tool.
  • Create excitement: When participants see what a tool can do for them when used as intended, they become excited about using it themselves. A demonstration class can cause them to try out the tool where if they had tried it themselves with or without hands-on training, they may have become frustrated and tuned out the instruction.

Hands-on training gives participants the ability to become familiar with using the tool. For some learners, “doing it” is the only way to truly learn how to use technology.
The instructor acts as a leader through a process or task; the student mirror the instructor’s actions to learn how to navigate a new tool or process. Positive aspects of hands-on training include:

  • Learning by doing: As much as we’d like to think people can learn by reading or watching instructional materials, some of our participants prefer to learn something by doing it. For these learners, hands-on instruction is their preferred method.
  • Answer questions: As learners work through a process or task, questions arise that may not have occurred to them watching a demonstration. Hands-on classes give them the ability to ask these questions and the instructor the opportunity to answer and reinforce what has already been presented.
  • Corrections: In hands-on training, instructors can address common usage mistakes on the spot. Nobody’s perfect, and often participants make mistakes that become learning opportunities in class. This can lead to less frustration when participants go back to work and begin to use technology tools on the job.
  • Individual help: If you have additional instructors available to roam the room, you’ll have people to address individual needs quickly and with fewer interruptions for the entire group. This gives participants the security to ask what they perceive to be “stupid questions.” If they feel comfortable, they may learn easier.

Both types of training and advantages and disadvantages, so when should you use demonstration or opt for hands-on training?  First, answer a few questions about the intent or purpose of this class:

  • Is this an overview to familiarize people or an opportunity to try out something?
  • Do you expect people to generally understand what to do or be able to perform tasks?
  • What is the method of delivery? (Online, in person, or recorded?) How will people be able to apply learning if they are watching a webinar, for example?
  • Will you be the only instructor available to work with the group?

When you answer these questions, you’ll find that the method of delivery becomes clear. You might also find that you plan for a two-step process where you might introduce the tool in a demonstration class or webinar and then follow up with hands-on training to take participants through the material you presented in the first class. When creating your lesson plans for either type of training, chart the process based on case studies for ease of presentation. Build in time for questions and getting side-tracked (you know it will happen). Encourage participants to get one-on-one assistance after class by scheduling the time and publishing that you (or another instructor) will be available for personalized help.

Be prepared for class with job aids. You might create printed materials with screenshots and step-by-step instructions. You could use infographics to illustrate the steps needed to work with a tool or perform an action. Perhaps you have created or have access to videos that participants can refer to after class. A web page with links to resources could be part of a follow-up email after the class.

Technology training doesn’t just “happen.” It takes time and consideration to put together the appropriate approach to the material and plan how learners will be introduced to it. Moreover, you will want to place technology training in a larger context of your training program. How will it fit in? How does learning technology tools help people do their jobs? Then, consider how you want to present the material and what will be the next steps when you determine whether to use a demonstration class or hands-on training for technology tools.