Tag Archives: education and training

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.

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.

 

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.

Thoughts On Work And Life

What a strange place we’re in! It is as if we are collectively holding our breath as we wait for something new – or maybe the other shoe to drop. We fear getting sick but seemed resigned to what seems like the inevitable. We take precautions and stay away from others. We live in our restricted and restrictive spaces, connected through our computers and smartphones. How long can we continue to talk to disembodied voices or pictures with sound before we forget what it’s like to be in the presence of others?

We make jokes about dressing from the waist up for video conferencing, and it’s a funny thought to wear sweat pants with a dress shirt and jacket. To me, it’s a physical representation of our disjointed lives. We’re at home and we’re at work. We are searching for a new normal in the midst of “stay at home” and social distancing.”

Many have the ability to work from home and manage the job and family in the same place. Of course, other issues arise when the family competes for space and internet bandwidth. Others do not have this luxury. They work in grocery stores, pharmacies, and warehouses. These workers still need child care and transportation. I worry that the “new normal” for these people has added more stress to what was already a difficult juggling act.

What I think this situation may force us to realize is how much we view ourselves from the perspective of our jobs and professions. “What do you do?” has become “What are you” in the work world. Without a specific place to embody that role, what are we? People who worked remotely prior to the pandemic may have already answered this question. For women, and especially mothers who work outside the home, having a clear line between who we are at home and who we are at work was helpful. What do you do when the workplace is home? I don’t have children at home now and it’s still difficult to get my husband to respect my work space and time.

But is who we are defined by others or the space we inhabit? Our individual identities are our own making. If we allow others to define who we are or identify our roles and the places in which we perform those roles as what we are, then we relinquish our autonomy. Why does this matter now? I see people running to redefine their lives because the pandemic has stripped them of their identity as they defined it.

Fear has taken hold of the world. Yes, we will get through this, but at what cost to our psyches? I realize that we, as humans, have the ability to reinvent ourselves many times over during our lives. If we are forced to reinvent ourselves because of an outside/external situation, why do we do it? Because we feel we can learn something new and grow or because one door was closed to us and we are forced to open another one?

I am just beginning to formulate tentative answers to these questions. I feel compelled to provide opportunities to people if they want to learn something new, but I also find myself in the same situation as someone trying to launch a new business. Should I pivot and do something different? What can I offer people to help them get through this?

I worry that our sense of community has been seriously injured also. I mourn the loss of the in-person training sessions I offer because they provide me with a community of learners. Together we approach the material and discover its meaning and/or application. Those learners may be present on the other end of a webinar, but it’s not quite the same as being face-to-face in a room. I do what I can to create connection and participation in live, online training sessions. Analytics are sometimes my only resource to determine if they felt connected and interested.

I hope that we can learn to live together again when we emerge from this pandemic. I think the scars of this disease on our communities will take a long time to fade. My task seems simple, yet profound: to bring people together in communities of learning. In doing this, I play my part in our collective healing.

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.

What’s So Funny?

Professors who used corny jokes in my college days were considered at best quirky and most often just plain silly. We rolled our eyes at the jokes and thought they were crazy. They got me to pay attention, though, and herein lies the wonder of humor in the classroom: People are more likely to sit up and listen to what you’re saying if they like you or at least chuckle at your silly jokes. Humor enhances learning, especially when the humor is perceived to be relevant to the lesson being presented.

There have been many studies done on this topic. Some of them are anecdotal (this is what people told me) and some are more analytical (results of questionnaires or surveys). The basic question the studies seek to answer is: Why does humor help people learn? The consensus seems be that humor, when used appropriately, can have several benefits from helping students retain information to an increase in interest in learning and a decrease in anxiety and stress when dealing with difficult material.

One interesting study looked at the pros and cons of using humor in college classrooms. It became clear to the author from the answers to survey questions collected that humor done well improves students’ learning, retention, and attitudes toward the subject matter being taught. Humor that falls flat or is even inappropriate lessens the likelihood that students will understand the material or pay attention. Humor, when done well, is a positive reinforcement of the subject matter being taught and a way for instructors to help students learn.

How can you use humor with adult learners? It doesn’t really matter if you’re a naturally funny person or not. What counts is appropriate and relevant uses of humor in the learning environment. Humor that makes people uncomfortable or isn’t germane to the subject will fall flat (or even cause students to reject the instructor), but a well-timed joke or story that relates to the material being presented can solidify the point you’re attempting to make. To do this well takes a little practice and a good supply of stories and jokes.

I keep a list of stories and jokes to use in the classroom. For any particular topic, I can usually find something on my list that will help me warm up a classroom or drive my point home. If people truly learn well when you use humor in your lesson, then it makes sense to work this into your lesson. And, if using humor gets you invited back to present again, why not? At the very least, if you can’t be funny, be fun. Laugh at yourself if you make a mistake!

If you are going to used well-timed jokes or stories in a presentation, practice enough to make them succinct and natural. Try out new ideas on colleagues or friends first if you’re in doubt about how something might work in a presentation. If a joke or story falls flat, try to figure out why and don’t use it again in a classroom until you have determined whether it was your delivery or the topic that didn’t work well. Avoid singling out students and centering the joke or story on one person. If you make a reference, be sure it’s something most people will understand (TV references from your childhood may not work!). It’s important to focus on both your delivery and the relevance of the humor you’re using.

Humor can be a wonderful tool in your training/teaching repertoire. Use it well and wisely to help your students like and trust you, understand the material better, and leave the class wanting to come back for more.

 

Distractions

There are distractions around us every day. Trying to conduct a training class with distractions in and around you is challenging.

There’s the property maintenance crew running the lawn mowers outside the window. Or the training class is in the middle of an office thoroughfare with people walking back and forth, having conversations in the process. Then there’s equipment that fails or lack of promised supplies.

These and more present themselves during training, and as trainers, we have to figure out how to keep the class focussed. Sometimes it’s enough to have people work in pairs or small groups and let them complete a task, then bring the group together for discussion.

To have participants in the class who take you off track is most challenging. They come in at least three “flavors.”

  • The grandstander wants all the attention, all the time. This person regularly interrupts the class to ask irrelevant questions, give a lengthy opinion of the topic we already covered, or ask personal questions. The grandstander thrives on questions and comments from other participants and will hold court at the drop of a hat.
  • The sub-trainer feels the need to explain everything covered to participants around him/her. This person wants to demonstrate that he/she knows just as much as the trainer and really doesn’t need to be in the class.
  • The CEO takes calls in the middle of a class and has to run out of the room multiple times to talk, missing pieces of information in class. Upon return, this person asks for clarification of points covered while he/she was out of the room. Everyone experiences a double distraction: once when the person leaves the room (often stumbling over desks and chairs in the process) and again when they return.

There are probably more types of distractions or disruptions that occur during a training class. How can a trainer deal with the frustration that he/she inevitably feels when experiencing such disruptions?

  • Be cool. It sounds easy, but it takes practice. The less likely you are to blow your top in front of a room full of professional development participants, the more likely you’ll get the material across to them in a way that causes it to stick.
  • Smile, nod, and put off the question. Sometimes you have to interrupt the questioner, but if it’s truly something that needs to be taken care of outside of the current session, the participants will be happy you stop this before it takes over the class.
  • Set the stage. Tell participants what you expect when you start the class. If you are o.k. with them leaving the room to take calls, tell them so but warn them not to disrupt others in the process. If you really don’t want people to take calls, tell them to put their phones away and turn them off. One successful technique is to tell participants what to do: Create a voicemail greeting for just that day telling callers when you’ll get back to them and setting up an e-mail out-of-office message that says essentially the same.
  • Let participants help. Use “teach-backs” or other methods to have participants teach each other the material you have presented. This gives them the opportunity to demonstrate competence and to reinforce each other’s learning.

Disruptions and distractions are common in busy places. With a little practice, a trainer can minimize those that come from the participants (and work on moving the training class to a quieter venue!).

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.