Tag Archives: professional development

How to Use a Video Challenge in Training

What’s the first thing you think when you see yourself on video? (Be honest!) It’s generally not a positive experience and that’s why so many professionals shirk from using video as a way to promote themselves and their businesses. It’s expensive to hire a video production company to make you look good, so why bother?

Video can be a great way to get the word out about your business. It’s also showing you as a human being, someone who’s approachable and relatable. Most social media platforms favor video, too, so it can help boost your visibility online. Who wouldn’t want to have more visibility for their business?

The problems arise when you try to figure out how to use video without hiring the production company or buying the fancy equipment. Most of us have the tools in our pockets, yet we fail to understand how we can use them to our advantage. I was in that situation last year. I wanted to learn how to create videos that looked decent but didn’t cost much but my time and effort (no money in the budget for the production company!). I learned about Niamh Arthur’s 30 day video challenge and decided to take the plunge. I knew I needed to learn the techniques before I could adapt and teach them for my audience of real estate agents.

Once I learned how to use my smartphone and laptop to create some decent videos, I started creating “quick tips” for consumption by agents and anyone else interested in learning the practice of real estate sales. These videos serve to teach aspects of a real estate business and to demonstrate that it’s not so difficult to make great-looking and -sounding videos with minimal equipment and skill.

How can you get independent contractors (in this case, real estate agents) to use video for their businesses so they capture more prospects and clients? I decided to use a video challenge to teach the techniques and get them used to creating video.

My first task was to decide how long this challenge would be. Considering the sometimes short attention spans of my audience and the demands on their time that a real estate business makes, I decided make the challenge three weeks long and have the agents record 15 videos. This allows for “catch up” time on the weekends when there would be no videos to record if the participant had recorded the weekday videos. There was no requirement to record each day. Instead, participants could record as many videos on a given day as they needed to to catch up to the group if they were behind.

Next, I had to decide the topics for each of the videos. Most days, the participants had to record a video that was relevant to their businesses. However, it is important to have several topics that are more general (tell about yourself, what’s one thing you can’t live without for your business, etc.). These topics are designed to get participants talking on camera instead of worrying about saying the right thing to a potential client. I devised a topic list and a schedule to organize the challenge in a meaningful way.

With the topics developed, it was time to record the prompt videos. Each day, participants would get an e-mail with a link to the video for the day. These videos were posted as “unlisted” on my YouTube channel so that only those with the link would be able to view them. I considered how to record the videos and decided to “batch” record them. In other words, I prepared my topics, made notes, set up my equipment in an office, and recorded all 15 prompt videos, three “weekend edition” videos, and introductory and conclusion videos in one day. Two of the videos required additional screen-capture video and editing because they taught the fine points of posting video on YouTube and Facebook, and creating playlists. One video was shot outdoors to demonstrate how moving your location can spike interest. Because I recorded them in one day, I changed tops and accessories to give the illusion that they were recorded on different days.

With recording out of the way, the next steps focussed on completing any editing, posting the videos to a YouTube “unlisted” playlist, and creating the e-mail campaign in my CRM to have the instructional e-mails delivered on schedule. Participants were given instructions in each e-mail about how to post their videos and to watch other participants’ videos and give feedback. I created a closed Facebook group where participants could post the YouTube links and watch each others’ videos.

One important step not to forget is to promote the challenge to potential participants. I used video here, too. I created a video to explain what the challenge was and how it could help an agent’s business to learn how to create videos. I shared that video through e-mail, company newsletter, and my Facebook business page. Agents were prompted to pre-register for the challenge, but they could join at any time as long as they understood they would have to record several videos to catch up with the rest of the group.

It’s important to remain flexible with people who are participating in this type of activity for their own benefit. There were no assessments and no consequences for not completing the challenge. I did have a benefit to completing the challenge to help convince participants to complete and post all 15 videos. I held a live webinar that was open only to those who completed the challenge by a certain date. During the webinar, I taught additional techniques and gave away prizes such as smartphone tripods and clip-on microphones. The webinar was recorded and made available to the participants who couldn’t attend it live.

Once you have created the challenge prompt videos, campaign e-mails, and Facebook group, you can present the challenge multiple times to different groups. The key is promoting the challenge to attract the most participants possible. In very large challenges, the participants are placed in smaller groups to facilitate feedback and camaraderie. My group was small, so all were able to watch each other’s videos and provide feedback.

I gave positive feedback as often as possible and corrected glaring mistakes as gently as I could. Most participants got the hang of recording their videos within a few days and went on to create useful videos in the course of the challenge. I specifically designed several of the prompts to be topics they could use for their businesses immediately, if they chose to do so.

A video challenge can give learners a hands-on approach to learning how to create and use video for their businesses. Success is measured not by the quality of each video, but by the progression of the acquisition of skills and the completion of the challenge.

Three Ways to Use Video in Training

Everybody seems to be on the video bandwagon these days – or are they? While it is generally accepted that video is a great marketing tool, training professionals are reluctant to use self-produced video in informal or formal training situations. Maybe they think they aren’t photogenic or don’t really know if their video will work they way they want it to. Whatever the excuse, there are just as many reasons to use video for training – and not just in your LMS.

I started using screen-capture video several years ago to give real estate agents demonstrations of how to use various technology tools as a way to bridge the gap between in-person training and live webinars. Since then, my video repertoire has increased, and I use video in three distinct ways to enhance learning.

For technology training, screen-capture video is very helpful. I use Camtasia to record and produce my videos; however, there are other programs that you can use. If you have a Mac, you have built-in screen-capture video recording capability and iMovie to edit the video. Length of video depends, but generally I try to keep these to less than five minutes. It’s difficult to absorb complex actions in longer videos and be able to duplicate those actions if the video runs too long. I produce the video and add zoom in, callouts, and other animations to draw attention to important functions.

When I first started producing screen-capture videos, I scripted everything and tried to record them in one take. Sometimes I was successful, but often I had to rerecord multiple times to get it “just right.” I take a different approach now. Since I’m going to edit the video anyway, I simply pause, count out loud, and pick up where I need to. This makes it easy for me to cut the mistakes and find the correct spot to continue.

About a year and a half ago, I decided I needed to learn to make videos of myself talking. At first, I was apprehensive (who would want to look at me talking?), but I realized that this could be an effective way to communicate material to a wider audience than those who show up for live training. I happened to stumble upon a video challenge run by Niamh Arthur of Light It Up Marketing. I took the 30-day challenge, created 22 videos in 30 days and learned how to create my own videos using the equipment I already had: a smartphone, computer, and me.

Since that initial challenge (I did it again in the spring of 2018), I have acquired a smartphone tripod and another microphone, but essentially the process has remained the same. I created a list of topics that I wanted to present. I choose a topic from the list and give it some thought. I find a place to record. This could be somewhere outdoors or indoors, but always with sufficient sunlight (I don’t use artificial light except when absolutely necessary). I set up my smartphone and record. Most of my videos are done in one take, sometimes two. I worry less about messing up the words than being authentic and speaking to my audience. The only editing I do is to trim the beginning and the end of the video to cut any unwanted motion.

What kinds of topics do I record in these videos? I focus on anything that might relate to real estate agents’ business: sales skills such as prospecting, presentations, business planning, working with buyers and sellers, and time management. These videos are typically two to three minutes in length. I labeled them “Real Estate Quick Tips” and share them via social media and e-mail.

The third type of video I use is that which is recorded in live, in-person training sessions. When learning skills such as negotiations, contract presentation, and client interviews, it’s often helpful for a salesperson to see what he/she looks like and says. We do role play in classes, and to add another layer to role playing, I have agents form groups of three: one person plays the agent, one person plays the client, and the third person records the role play on their smartphone or tablet.

The recording is shared immediately as the third person gives feedback to the agent. This may be difficult for the agent to watch, but very instructive. There is no judgement – all participants must take their turn and be recorded and receive feedback. The videos are shared with the participants and it is up to them to keep or discard them. I credit David Knox for this technique which he labeled “iPractice.”

One thing to keep in mind is that video assets, when shared on social media, can live on long after the initial training has occurred. I include a call to action on my quick tip videos to prompt people to subscribe to my YouTube channel and give them the ability to sign up for the playlist at the end of the video. I also share videos on my Facebook Business page for increased visibility. The screen-capture videos are also posted to our company intranet site for easy reference, and I have used videos to create online classes for agents to take on demand. One video can easily be used in three places to lengthen the life of the training. (Videos recorded in training for the purpose of feedback are never shared online and serve only to help participants develop their skills.)

Video can be a great way to teach adult learners various skills needed for them to do their jobs well. It can also be a great way to promote the efficiency and efficacy of the training department. If you haven’t tried creating video yourself, what’s holding you back? If you have created videos for training purposes, how do you use them?

Good Intentions

I logged into the dashboard and looked at the date of the last post. It’s been six months since I posted on this blog. There were comments on that blog post from November 2016 waiting for my approval, but I have been too preoccupied to even mark them as spam (as they were). At least, until today. The good intentions I had when starting this blog have eaten at me too long. Nothing happens unless you do something. So now it’s time to do something.

Training can be an all-consuming occupation. Besides the time spent delivering training, there’s the research, meetings, phone calls, e-mails, general preparation, and post-event evaluation that take the majority of my time. Actually delivering the training is the tip of the iceberg. When you add coordinating other activities ancillary to my main role, my days (and sometimes evenings and weekends) are full. This sounds like an excuse, but it’s meant as an explanation and a warning.

It’s all too easy to get wrapped up in the day-to-day activities that comprise our occupations. I have been complaining to family members for some time that I feel like my department is losing sight of the “big picture.” We schedule training classes and engage outside trainers willy-nilly as if being busy equals success. We lack the planning and direction that could help us run a focused, intentional program. We are not evaluating the efficacy of our programs. I miss this. I am a “big picture” kind of person. I like having a plan and executing it well.

I also happen to think that just providing training, regardless of the outcome, is more for show than the business outcomes the training is supposed to drive. (Look at all the programs we have! We’re being helpful!) Too often, we confuse offering training opportunities with participants being able to perform as we want or need. Just because they show up doesn’t mean they apply what’s learned.

I have put off returning to this blog for months now thinking that I didn’t have it in me to add anything interesting or consequential. In November I was grateful for the responses I received on my post about gratitude. The post had little to do with training, but the timing felt right (it also helped to have read a similar post on one of my favorite blogs, Spin Sucks). Then the holidays happened, then it was a new year with new programs to launch, and the list goes on. You don’t make art out of good intentions, as Flaubert reminds me.

So, enough with excuses and good intentions. It’s time to get back to a plan and execute, evaluate, and adjust it accordingly. I want to make good art.

Changes

I don’t know who first said it, but my mother was partial to the saying, “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” It was her way of saying that there are some things in life that are constants, no matter what seems to be changing. Change is a given–how we react to it makes all the difference.

When I started teaching, we didn’t use PowerPoint. Transparencies were the height of technology along with a portable cassette player. Although much has changed, there are some constants:

Learners still want information they can use (in life, in their business, etc.). Relevance is important. How you present topics can depend on the audience, but whether they grasp the concepts can depend on how well you relate the information to their situation.

Classrooms are where subjects are taught and learners learn. Today, a classroom may be a place people gather to learn or an online environment, a virtual classroom.

Performance is what we measure to determine how well learners grasp the concepts and skills acquired. In school, performance is often measured by tests and quizzes. In professional development, we look at how well learners put the skills into practice. We might measure sales made or actions taken as a result of training.

Change is inevitable, and I’ve seen many changes in education. Take for example the classroom. Much of my teaching today takes place in a virtual environment through live webinars and video training. The method of delivery influences how skills are taught. I cannot immediately monitor whether my learners are actually acquiring the skill I’m presenting. Instead, I must look at other factors such as feedback on surveys, questions asked, and results.

My learners are less enthused about sitting in a traditional classroom and listening to a lecture today. If they sit in a classroom, it can’t be for too long, and there has to be activity. I try to break up the material into chunks that consist of information presented by me, picture or video representations of the information, and group or partner activities to reinforce the subject matter. Breaks are important, too. Never underestimate the value of a well-timed break in the session!

Virtual classrooms and learning represent one of the biggest changes in education and professional development. Once, we discussed how we would implement “distance learning” with fear and dread. What if they watched a class that was taking place in a different location? What would we do if learners didn’t show up to our classes? How would we assess their progress if we couldn’t see them? Would this be the end of teaching?

The reality is that it takes much skill to devise and deliver effective online learning. What may be the biggest change in education in the past several years has not been the death of the need for instructors and instructional developers.

Even if some things in professional development change, we learn new techniques and adapt our approaches to be able to continue to help people grow in their careers. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Preparation

I recently had the opportunity to teach two courses for a group that was not my usual audience. My experience took me back several years to when I was a master’s student living and studying in Germany.

One of my professors asked me to assist him with his introductory literature seminar. I would meet with a small group outside of class to discuss the works we were reading and their projects. I could handle that and I enthusiastically agreed. I went to work reading everything the students would read and all the secondary literature before the semester began. I wanted to be prepared for any questions that might arise in my group. I also devised a structure for our meetings so that we would be sure to cover all of the material we needed to consider.

A few weeks into the course, the professor had to go out of town. Instead of canceling class, he asked me to take over for him. Here I was, the American teaching German students German literature. As I stood in front of 100+ students that day, I worked hard to not let my nervousness show. What got me through the class was the confidence that I knew the material. I had prepared well, having read everything necessary for the class and outlined how we would approach the day’s topic. If anything, I probably over-prepared.

Preparing to teach cannot be dismissed. It is perceived as a time-wasting activity for those who like to stand up in front of a group and just talk. You know these types: Well-meaning, experienced professionals who want to impart their knowledge on the group. The results of their “teaching” are, at best, an out-pouring of information without structure or intention. Sometimes, these are subject matter experts we have engaged to train employees or agents. Just because someone knows their field does not mean they can teach it to others.

I took it upon myself to become a subject matter expert in order to provide agents with relevant training in an area I knew little about. I immersed myself in the topic and read widely to gain knowledge. Then, I started using the tools I would teach about. I prepared myself to teach others the “why” and “how to” by engaging in the practices I wanted them to use.

Just knowing how to do something and why is not enough if you want to instill the desire in others to further their careers by adopting a practice. Planning and preparation for a course includes consideration of how learners learn, the techniques to use when teaching the material, and how to structure your time with learners.  While preparing for my recent teaching experience, I spent time organizing my material and finding new examples to reinforce my words. I took my outline for the course and checked the timing. I devised activities for the group so that I wouldn’t be the only one speaking for three hours.

When you prepare well, the butterflies you feel getting ready for the class only serve to help you be the enthusiastic teacher your students deserve. Preparation gives you the confidence to step in front of the group, ready to help them master the material.

Convention Time

Fall is the season for conventions in the real estate world. The busy summer selling season is winding down and salespeople and brokers have time to spend on meetings, education sessions, and visits to the trade fair. So, let’s put on a convention!

At my company, we tossed around the idea of having a mini-convention for a couple years, then got brave and decided to do it this year. The planning began months ago with visits to potential venues and calls to speakers regarding availability. When we finally settled on a date and reserved the facility, the real work began.

Finding speakers to present interesting, timely, and relevant material to our agents was not difficult. Finding speakers who were available on the date we needed them proved to be quite tough. Once we were able to determine who was available, we signed agreements as quickly as possible to secure the speakers for our date.

Then came the next question: Do we offer continuing education credit for the sessions, or not? Agents need to provide proof of a certain number of hours of continuing education credit each time they renew their licenses. By offering CE credit for the convention sessions, we provide an opportunity for the agent to get information and CE credit, and we give ourselves a marketing opportunity. Continuing education gives agents an added reason for attending the sessions when the need to know isn’t enough.

Promotion started about a month in advance of the convention. Registrations trickled in slowly, and we began to doubt what we were doing. Why weren’t they signing up to attend? Were we totally off the mark with our topics? We should have calmed down and waited patiently. Real estate agents are notorious for deciding at the last minute to register for anything. The registrations began to pour in about 10 days before the initial deadline, and continued to appear for a few days after that date (registration was kept open, but capped).

How can we measure success of such an event? The immediate feedback gives us a good idea of participants’ feelings about the day: Whether they liked the facility, thought the food was good, had a good time talking with friends and colleagues, and heard some good speakers. This is the “smile sheet” that tells us what their impressions of the event were. By all accounts, we got high marks for a good event.

The long term effect of the convention will be whether those in attendance apply anything they learned at the sessions they attended. We might be able to measure satisfaction with the event shortly after the event, but assessing the impact of the day will be a longer-term process. We’ll need to look at the attendees’ implementation of techniques and tools to increase their businesses as well as their production over a period of time to be able to determine if what they gained at the convention will have an effect.

Putting on a convention, even a one-day convention is a lot of work, but it is also immensely satisfying to see learners excited to try something new that they learned in just one day.