“Please… don’t do these” – more

I attended a briefing for new-joiners by the internal HR profession. The briefing is to both to give information and welcome them into the company. In one module, she introduced the company’s compensation and reward arrangement, and somehow she started by asking the audience, ‘Who is satisfied with your current reward package?’. Not surprisingly, the only response from the floor is silence….. and confused faces.

Whilst it is a good idea to use question to arouse interaction, the question itself is obviously bad. Let’s think in more details why:

Non-answerable – well, no one will say in front of the crowd to the HR people that he / she is not or is satisfied with the pay when he / she just joins the organization. The question just cannot arouse interaction;

Undesirable response – The HR profession definitely does not want to have someone answering ‘I am not happy with my pay’, which is possible response (if any response). Not only it is difficult to handle such a response, but also this will just ruin the party.

Creditability dropped – Sophisticated audience will see that this is a bad question. The HR profession’s creditability just dived right after asking this. (She did encounter challenging questions on other areas afterward)

Though it seems quite obvious that questions like this are very counter-productive to the effectiveness in communication, you will see speakers committing such mistakes from time to time. Sometimes, inappropriate words just come out of their months out of their plans. Why? I wonder say:

Preparation – Did you make the effort in advance to know the participants, the objective of the event, or even talk to those who have presented before?

Thinking on your foot – it is about sensing the atmosphere, event themes, and then saying sensible things. Experience counts here. Some just do it worse than the others.

I had a lot of sympathy towards this HR profession, and I tried to help by asking questions who are easy to answer in that session. I am sure that as she does more of this, she will get better.

Interaction – ‘Why need this?’

Interacting with the participants is essential to make your communication essential – no matter whether the communication take places in the training, facilitation or presentation setting. In short, interaction is important since:

Confidence gaining – One way to alleviate your nerviousness is to interact with the participants in the beginning. Most presenters become nervous before the event starts because he / she ‘thinks’ too much about the participants. Questions coming to mind include ‘ Will they ask difficult questions?’, ‘Will they be bored?’, ‘Will they not pay attention to my delivery?’, etc. Interacting with them, experiencing them as human being, feeling that they are OK people helps a great deal to gain confidence!!

WIIFM clarifying – ‘What Is It for Me?’. Preparation before the event is the major way to answer WIIFM for you. Yet, there is always something unexpected when the event really takes place e.g. participants turning out not to be what was described by the organiser. Therefore, on-site interaction like asking question will gather information e.g. participants’ area of interest for you. Equally importantly, it shows to the participants that you care what is important to them!!

Attention retaining – One of the major challenges to you is that adult has only limited attention span – around 20 minutes as indicated by some study. It is not new to you (and me!!) to witness someone playing his / her mobile phone, blackberry, etc under the table!! Keep them involved in action is the best way to keep them ‘awake’!!

I shall spend quite a number of more entries to discuss about interaction.

互动 – ‘为什麽需要它?‘

无论你所处的场合是training, facilitationpresentation,与台下参与者的互动也是有效沟通的重要技巧。 简单来说,互动是重要的原因包括以下:

增加信心 在你的环节开始的时候与台下互动是其中一种减低紧张的方法。大部分的演讲者在开始前也会因为考虑太多关于台下参与者的问题而紧张。例如,他们会问难以回 答的问题吗?他们会觉得闷吗?他们会留意我的演讲吗? 与台下对话,感觉他们,让自己知道他们是OK的,这会大大增大你的信心!

弄清楚WIIFM – ‘What Is It for Me?’关我啥事(对,是必较口语化,但传神!)。 事前的准备是回答WIIFM最主要的做法。但是,总会有些事情是你不能预计的,例如,真正出席的
参与者跟会前提供给你的资料不相符。 所以,当场的互动如提问能让你吸取有用的信息,例如,参与者关心的题目。 同样重要的是,这种互动会让参与者觉得你是关心对他们重要的事情!

保持注意力 作为演讲者,其中一个主要挑战是成人的注意力只能维持很短的时间例:美国海军曾在1970年代研究人类只能连续注意18分钟。参与者在桌下把玩他们的手机,blackberry对我们已不是什麽新鲜的事情。保持他们清醒最好的方法就是让他们参与!


One necessary take-away for the participants

As a trainer, you always want the participants to have take-aways by the time they leave the training room. (And as a great trainer, you will want these take-aways can change the participants’ behaviour as well!!) What is the common take-away which you want the participants to have no matter what training course it is?

My answer is to let the participants feel good about themselves on the training topic. For example, if it is a presentation training, let the participants feel that they have the potential to be a good presentation. In fact, lack of belief on themselves is a major reason why people fail to present well. If it is a SPIN training, let them feel that they could exert good influence on the others.

How can it be done? Most importantly, it is through the atmosphere you create in the class, as well as the feedback you and the fellow participants give. Firstly, you will create a safe, low-risk environment. That is where FUN comes into place. Atmosphere setting can well be a separate training topic by itself. With such environment, you encourage the participants to attempt some small steps. Then, give them motivational feedback – catch them what they have done right. Not that you only tell the good news and hide the bad ones. But you will focus on the desirable behaviours, and even better let them tell you what they have done right (this helps to reinforce their memory). In short, tell them that it is possible!!

Why ‘feeling good’ is important? It is all about behaviour change. It is like those alcohol rehabilitation group, where the lead would like the group to feel good before the group ends. In short, it is easier for people to change their behaviour if they feel good about it. As we learnt in psychology, positive reinforcement works better than negative ones!!

“What can a presentation class do for the participant?”

How would you answer the above question? Probably the answers will include ‘How to use powerpoint?’, ‘How to manage your body language?’….. If I were to answer this question before this week, I would give the above answers. Essentially, a presentation class is to equip the participants with effective presentation skills. It seems to make perfect sense.

My answer is not the same now. I attend a presentation class these 2 days delivered by Bentley Williams. Whilst the above-mentioned presentation skills are definitely parts of the course purposes, there is an interesting purpose which I have not focused on above – the course is to give confidence to the participant. In short, show them that they can!! In other words, you will have discussion, activities, …. etc in order to help them discover their strength.

I feel quite ashamed that I did not focus on this purpose before in my basic presentation class, because it should be obvious. Why obvious? Here is the logic. What will be a successful presentation class? Simple – the participants deliver better presentation after the class. Then, the question is what stop them from delivering better presentation. For the beginner, the lack of confidence is definitely an obstacle.

How could I miss it?

Apart from feeling ashamed, I find such discovery very inspiring. Not just that I can improve my course in the future, but also that I can use the above logic to review my other class. I should ask myself the question – what is the major factor which stop participants from the desirable behaviour? Instead of the traditional wisdom that a soft skills course should equip the participants with skills, it can be equipe them with a belief like confidence!!

Presenter vs Trainer vs Facilitator

What is the difference among a Presenter, a Trainer and a Facilitator? Here is my thought:

A Presenter is simply the one who is getting some messages across to the ‘other side’. In most of the case, the ‘other side’ consists of more than 1 person. For example, a sales head in a kick-off meeting to the sales is a presenter;

A Trainer is one form of a presenter. The key feature is that the ‘other side’ comes to the occasion with preparation to learn. (Well, there are some presentations which the ‘other side’ is not prepared to learn – sales presentation is an example.) In addition, a trainer is normally more knowledgeable than the ‘other side’ re that topic of the occasion. For example, those who (especially basic) teach accounting skills are trainers

A Facilitator is not the same as presenter or trainer. Unlike a presenter, he / she does not necessarily have any pre-arranged message to get across. Unlike a trainer, he / she does not necessarily know more than the ‘other side’ (you cannot call them audience cos there could be nothing to hear from the facilitator). Still, most trainers have to do some facilitation in their training. A pure facilitator is more there to induce discussion among the ‘other side’, ask a lot of questions to make people think and help to adhere some ground rules (preferably set by the floor). For example, if you are conducting a team effectiveness workshop, you are facilitator. They knows more than you about themselves, and you are there most to make them to think and glue relationship. There is an interesting saying:

‘A trainer brings the participants from unknown to known. A facilitator brings the participants from known to unknown.’

Among all the skills / learnings I have been discussing in this blog, some are only applicable to being a presenter, some for trainer and some for facilitation. For example, a facilitator should ask a lot of questions and use music to control the energy. You cannot readily do so in a sales presentation. I hope the above difference will help you understand the learnings I discuss better.

Music as the powerful energizer

ttcd.jpgYes, the title above sounds obvious. But whether you will really use it or whether you can use it well in the learning environment is another thing. Here is my experience. I used music only a few months after I heard people saying that it is useful for learning. What stopped me are things like hesitation of whether the class will then look cheap, whether participants will be distracted at the end… etc. But today, after using it for a few months, I sincerely believe that it is very useful!!!

Music at the class start makes participants settle in the class more comfortably. Music (e.g. Disco / Hip Hop) charges participants with energy to conduct exercises, and keeps them awake especially after lunch. Music (e.g. soft ones) makes helps participants calm down after activities, and reflect themselves what they learnt from the activities. In addition, music can condition people, and one most useful application is to bring them back on time during break (assuming that they can hear the music in their break area). In particular, music will work well for you if you being to the aural learning style – a piece of music associated with your learning can trigger you to recall the learning more easily.

After all, participants enjoy themselves better with music, simply because people love music in general!!! I am using music all the time in my class. Well, apart from the above, music amuses me during the class as well!!

Most music work, and of course different types of music work better for different purpose. Among all the music I am using, the pieces in the “Tune for Trainers” CD (see the picture) are the best!! You can readily purchase it from Trainer’s Warehouse – a resourceful place to get your training gadget!! In the CD, you will find tailor-made music for class start, lunch, break, etc. In addition, there are a few 1-min long music which is great for you to mark the time during activities.