Another lesson for ….preparation

I delivered today a 30-min session of a 2-day course.   The session was designed by me and was about Business Etiquette.   It is consisted of mostly activities rather than lectures, which is quite unconventional as compared to other sessions delivered by other speakers in this same course.   I knew that I need to re-arrange the room in order to make space for the activities, and I thus arrive 30 mins earlier.

Always always… unexpected things happened – there are fewer flipcharts than I asked.   And when the hotel waiters helped me to move the table, a few glasses broke into pieces!!    The room setting was just in place right before the participants came back from lunch.  Overall, the session was OK (in fact, I believe my session is one of those leaving them stickest memory)

The learning for me is AGAIN…. Always leave more time for preparation if you want to appear

Difference between Great and Good facilitators

‘Both deliver excellent learning experience, but a great facilitator will know exactly what he / she does well.’ This quote is from an experienced facilitator in our organisation.

It is so true. Knowing exactly what you do well help you repeat your success. Ideally, you can do it by having someone observing your facilitation and giving you detailed feedback in form of time log. You will have such luxury sometimes when you are under a TTT process and watched by a master trainer. But such chance is rare. The alternative is to observe your own delivery, whilst you are doing it. What I am doing now is always to have a notebook on a dedicated space which I can easily reach though I am facilitating. I will scribble quickly when I notice something I have done well. It could be a quote, example, link, analogy or the way I explained an activity. Not easy…. but trying…

iPod – a great music-tool at class

I said in my previous post that I personally find music very helpful to enhance learning. I use my iPod nano.

I prefer playing MP3 rather than from CD in class because I can play many different songs with change for another CD. And I prefer iPod rather than other MP3 player or straight from the laptop. I used to play it from my laptop, but the trouble is that I cannot manage the music as I have my slide on!! I can however do so with the iPod. In addition, compared to other MP3 player, I can control my iPod nano very easily, most of time by just one click!! Such feature is absolutely necessary when you are in the class, since there are already so many things for you to attend to.

One additional plus – you can use iPod as a back up (to your laptop) to play your slides. Very simple – just save your slides as JPEG files and transfer to your iPod. Of course, you will need a iPod AV connection kit, which is available in the Apple store. I learnt this from presentationzen.com.

Flipchart… a visual to record group memory

If you asked for my personal choice of an icon to represent Mumbai, I would choose the cab there. Its yellow-black colour is very eye-catching. More than that, I was particularly drawn to the fact that they are all old FIAT!! I believe they were all born a few decades ago!!! Another amazing fact is that their meters are not outside of the car!!

Enough…. back to the topic. Flipchart and marker pens are like icon for facilitators / trainers. One of its uses is to visualise a group’s ideas. With this purpose in mind, I learnt something new from the workshop last week how to do better.

Machine-gun inputs – What if there are lots of ideas coming from different people. You try to think in order to summarise with key bullet points, but there are just too many. A easy solution is to first take down whatever is said. After all inputs are “shot” out, summarise them on another flipchart. (Of course, you need more than one flipchart stand for that.)

Mumbling input – What if you try to record idea from someone who mumble? Lot of ideas (or no main idea), no structure….. in what he / she said. They are the kind of person who is developing his / her only whist he / she is speaking. A rather natural reaction is to put your own words for him / her on the flipchart, hopefully to summarise. A better way is to ask ‘thanks for your input, could you please help by giving 3 words to put on the flipchart?’ Well, if the participant cannot even handle this, just suggest a few words yourself (try your best) and say ‘can I summarise your input by XXX?’

There are some other things to watch out for, which I learnt in the past:

No yellow / orange / green marker pen – They just cannot see it!!

Don’t settle for sub-standard marker pens- I always bring mine, even if I travel to another city.

BIG font – People are used to write for themselves to see, but it is not enough if you are a facilitator – you need to write for the others to see. If you are not sure, do check it by standing at the back of the room before the class starts.

Write it slooooowly – You will easily feel that time passes too slowly when you are writing on the flipchart in front of the participants. You may even find yourself scribble. Practise, practise and practise to write more slowly.

Learning in Mumbai

I am attending a Trainer training in Mumbai these few. I am extremely glad that I can attend this. (I would hate myself to death if I could not go because of the visa issue which arised at last minute.) The training offers me learning which I long want to have, and which I find hardly to get. These include in-depth discussion of basic tools in facilitation e.g. ice-breakers, ground rule. I not only can learn from the others’ experience and thought, but also allow myself to reflect on what I have been doing – good or bad. Most importantly, the 2 master facilitators – Mark and Sarah – are great!! They live what they deliver!! My role model!!

There are so many about my learning from this event which I want to share. And I will do it in the coming few posts. A quick pre-view – No surprise!! one of my major learning is preparation. And in particular, an good analogy of preparation. Like the iceberg, what the participants observe about you is just the tip of the iceberg, and there are a lot of preparation which they do not see i.e. underneath the water. As what the master facilitators shared, you will need over 2 days to prepare for 1-day program!!

More (learning) to come!!

How rigid should the course design be?

Since start, I have facilitated over 10 different courses. Most of the course design were developed by the others. Some course are relatively more rigidly designed e.g. SPIN – all activities are written in details in the facilitation guide, which can specify which slide to show when you go through a certain point. In addition, the TTT process is very thorough. It takes a few days and goes through almost each activity. On the other hand, there are course designs which are very flexible. TTT process is brief and the instructor guide is rather rough indeed e.g. only 1 day for a 3-day program. Time is just enough to walk through the activities, but not available at all to go through the content.

I like the former better. I believe that it is important for the participants to receive consistent messages for one single course despite using different trainers. Of course, it takes more time to develop such a course. In particular, it takes time to write a good instructor guide. It not only has to be easy to understand, but also easy to follow. It would be a challenge for the trainer to refer to the guide, slides and may be his-own note on spot in the class!! And more importantly, such courses have to stay long enough e.g. 3 years in order to be fine-tuned (and there should be course design resources to fine-tune courses). I would say this is probably the reason why SPIN is so thoroughly designed.

“Sorry, I don’t quite understand what you want us to do”

This picture was taken during the dessert safarai trip in Dubai last November. The trip turned out to be much more exciting (and tough!!) than I expected. Before the trip, I was expecting those kind of gentle safarai where you ‘cruise’ within a jungle and see some animals. But it was actually like sitting in a driving test for the Toyota Land Cruiser 4×4!! Well, despite all the ‘bumpy’ moments, the trip was nice – enjoying the sunset in the middle of the dessert was definitely a new experience to me!!

So much about the safarai – let me share with you some of my facilitation learnings in Dubai. I was in Dubai to deliver a SPIN class. I looked forward very much to this trip since it was the first I deliver a class outside Asia. And it did turn out to be an excellent learning experience for myself (and hopefully for the participants as well!) Let me tell you more.

There are a lot of activities in SPIN class (something which I like the class a lot), and of course I need to give lot of instructions. To my surprise, I received lot of puzzled faces and questions asking for clarification – much more than I expected. Whilst it was partly owing to the different accents, it was also partly because of clarity of my instruction.

I have been thinking that I was clear in telling. In the past, I have received various feedbacks that relative to the others I am structured, slow and sensitive enough to pass clear message. In the training context, for example, I believed that my instructions for class activities were clear enough. But I realised that I should do it better. The Dubai experience told me that I was sometimes too quick and brief in giving my instructions. I believe I did not realise such area for improvement before because my participants in Asia were more reserved in ‘challenging’ me.

Working under confusing instructions is frustrating. Remember the last time when you were a participant e.g. when the instructor said ‘We will now have a small group activity. Now form yourself into small groups with 3 people each.’ People then were left with silence. You will feel embarassed cos if you choose someone, you do not know whether they like it or not. And more importantly, it means you abandon someone else, especially those originially sitting next to you. Normally, what happened at the end was that the small groups composed those sitting next to each other.

Now, I always tell myself the following when I give instruction:

Specific – You really have to. Take the previous example, instead of forming the groups themselves, you better do a ‘1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3…’ or ‘month of birth’ kind of team allocation. In addition, you will tell each group where they will conduct their small group activities e.g. the small table over there!!

Another example – You want them to learn from their previous experience with good and bad presenters around them. Some instructors will say ‘Now, in your group, share with each other your experience with good and bad presenters’. A better instruction would be ‘Now, in your group, each of you will tell the others one good presenter and one bad presenter you have met. After telling the others about the occasion, tell also the others what the presenters have done or not done which make him / her a good / bad presenter’

Show them the sample deliverables – Even for simple exercise. Say, for the presentation exercise above, assuming that you want them to present group learning after small group discussion. Some instructors will say as well ‘…. after your sharing in the group, I will ask you to present with the bigger group.’ For a better instruction, you will draw on a flipchart the sample output you expected e.g. dividing the flipchart into 2 columns, for good and bad behavior respectively, and you will write an example under ‘good behavior’ e.g. eye contact. You will also say ‘this flipchart will be what you come up with at the end of your group discussion so that you can use as visual aid to present your sharing to the bigger group.’ And you will remind by saying ‘I however do not expect a laundry list of DO and DONT. Please thus do first tell the others your real experience, and then add on the flipchart about what the presenter has done / not done’.

Written instruction – Always help even for simple activities. For example, you run an energizer asking them to draw 4 consecutive straight lines to join 9 dots. Do write on the flipchart ‘4 consecutive straight lines’, cos there is always someone who did not listen to you as they are thinking about something else… their work, their kids, their dinner… or as they are ‘recovering ‘from lunch!!

Slowwwww – It also means you need to repeat it. If you feel that the participants are not listening enough, you should even ask someone to repeat your instruction!!! Telling slowing is especially when you are delivering outside your own countries – not everyone can follow your accent easily!!

So, thanks to the participants in Dubai which told me more about my instruction-giving capability. (And I did love the participants – very participative, lovely and friendly. I was a bit worried about outspoken participants in the beginning but it did turn to be a great experience. I even slightly thought of working there!!!). And my another learning is that facilitating in other countries will help you to sharpen your facilitation skills!!! It is like sports – you will know more about your strength and weakness as you play with different players!!

“What I hear, I forget. What I see, I remember. What I do, I understand”

I conducted an one-day influencing skills course last week. The course is new to me and it contains a kind of communication model which is new to me as well. Before (and even during!!) the course, I have been thinking hard the best way for the participants to ‘absorb’ the model. I hate those training, or presentation, which you will forget 100% shortly after you attend it. It is a waste of time to the facilitator, participants and the company.

Well, the model is not complicated (the people-type kind of model). It will take less than 30 mins if you choose just to tell. In the end, what I did include:

Telling;
Showing Visual – PPT;
Developing together – using a white board to develop the model with them line by line, word by word. And keeping the white board as anchor for following discussion;
Examples – especially on people around the participants. What can be more interesting to find out how to influence your boss better!! (well… in fact.. the answer should be their spouses!!… but these are not common figure);
Personal stories – people just like to hear stories, especially the real one. It also got me closer to them as well;
Asking questions – instead of telling them the different perspectives of the model e.g. how each style makes decision, I asked them to guess and tell the big group.

What was the most interesting is however an activity which I came up with on that day (I got to adopt something other than the original design to that particular group of participants). Well, it is not something new – in fact, I have done similar activity in another course. The important point is that this one day experience in struggling for the best delivery method helped realise the power of DOING.

Here is what I asked them to do – assign them into their own styles, assign a task, sell things to another style group, and rate the performance for each other at the end. In short, I learn the followings via facilitating this activity about the power of DOING:

Compel to think and review the learning – No one escapes. In fact, they will not choose to escape, assuming that you make it fun for them to DO the underlying task;
Contrast for them to observe – Whilst one group was selling, the others benefited from it as watching the role play. Of course, the facilitator got to ask the right questions (yes, not telling) to extract the learning points for them;
Fun – I always believe that fun is the integral part of learning. Not only for child, but also for adult.. in fact, I wonder fun is even more important for adult to learn;

So….. “What I hear, I forget. What I see, I remember. What I do, I understand”