Friday, 19 September 2008

Make Your Information Come Alive

When it comes to learning new information or skills, one of the things that any learner benefits from is knowing that people like them have already been there and done that.

Your learners need to connect with your expertise during any learning event. One of the easiest ways of doing this is to use names and personalities to create mini stories that help illustrate how other people (like your learners) have used your expertise in your own life.

In order to protect the innocent, I would recommend having a composite character who you name and talk about.

If your audience tends to be mainly female, then use a girl or woman's name, such as Agnes, or Amelia or Annie.
If your audience tends to be mainly male, then use a boy or man's name, such as Arthur, or Adam or

After you have decided on a suitable name, then flesh that character out - with an age, a business, a lifestyle that relates to your ideal learners.

If you tend to talk to retired people about financial planning, then use a 65-75 year old character called Agnes or Ethel who is worried about how she will manage if her arthritis gets any worse.

If you talk to young people about career choices, then use a hip-hop boy called Dizzle who would like to emulate his hero (say 50 cent) and go into the music bizness.

Then use this character throughout your seminar or workshop. You can use them to introduce each new section - at the start the character has a similar problem to the group you are teaching. As you tackle and resolve each issue, then your character moves on and is curious about what comes next. At the end, you can finish the story with what happens next. To make that ending really powerful, if you can then show a photograph of the real Dizzle or real Ethel and give a little more information on how successful their lives have been, that would be fantastic.

There are two main reasons to use a named character:
1) It is far more personable - your learners will feel like they can relate to someone with a name, a background, with the same problems or issues as their own. By showing how that character has benefited, they can see how your topic will transform their own lives.

2) A character can be used to introduce subtle humour into your event. For instance, if your event is around business finances and you wish to illustrate a calculation of your hourly rate, you may introduce a character named Ms P Hilton, who wants to earn one million pounds/ dollars a year, but only wants to work 20 hours a month, 10 months of the year. How much does she need to charge to do so?

So think about your area of expertise.
What sort of character will be most similiar to your ideal learners, those who attend your training events?
What name would they have? How old would they be? Where would they live? What problems might they be facing? What story might they follow from where they are now to where they want to be?

If you have some real case studies, then feel free to borrow from these, whilst protecting the personal information of your clients or customers.

So bring your topic or expertise come to life using real characters, real people, real stories to really connect with the people listening to your information. Capture the journey in a simple story and you have a powerful tool to help people remember and help inspire them to use your information to transform their own lives.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Let's Start at the Very Beginning...

If we are on a mission to design and deliver fantastic and awesome training, then we need to design every step to inspire and engage our learners.

So think about it - what is their very first experience with your learning event, be it a workshop, presentation or seminar?

In many instances, you first chance to inspire your learners is with the invitation you send, or any advertising you do.

So you could just send out a blanket email, giving the time and place of your event.
But is that really creative? Does that really say to them: "This event is going to be different"?

Here are some ideas of ways in which you could make that first impression really stand out:
1) Send out personalised invitations, with handwritten names, by snail mail, that look like an invitation to a wedding or a party. Give your event a sense of occasion or fun.
2) If you have an event for people who work together, why not put up some posters that hint at what is to come, before anyone is even invited. For example for a session on Work/ Life Balance, you could print out posters of different aspects of Work and Life and ask people to choose which are most important to them.
3) Send out a small item that is related to your event - a photograph, a map, or a quotation perhaps. Before an event on creativity, you could send out a large brightly coloured paperclip, with the words "can you think of a thousands uses for this?" on a piece of paper. That will get people thinking and curious about it.
4) Use a quotation or cartoon to associate your event with fun or laughter - why not use Dilbert cartoon strips to get people talking about great leadership or bureaucracy for example?
5) Use a powerful, emotive poster. The "Your Country Needs You" poster would work well in a number of different circumstances. If you are running an event on Health and Safety, you could use a photograph of a spanner falling over the head of someone and point to the person below with the words "She/He needs you".

Think about your next event or workshop.
How could you do something different in the way you both advertise and invite people to your event?
What prop or item could you send them by post that is related to your topic?
What could you ask them to bring to the event, which would get them thinking or curious about what will happen?

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Do Something That Scares You

This week I had the serene pleasure of spending some time in Wales in a cottage with some friends. There were no modern conveniences: no mobile signal, no phone, no tv, no WiFi, no laptop. Just a stream, a swing, a lovely lush garden, stunning scenery, a few sheep and the luxury of complete peace and quiet.

On our last day, I had been paddling in the stream, toying with the idea of having a swim. This was my last chance, yet I was reluctant. I kept telling myself that paddling was fine, was enough.

I went inside to dry off and something inside me snapped back. I couldn't shake off a feeling of disappointment in my gut. I knew that if I didn't do it now, I would miss my chance. Suddenly all my lovely logical reasons for not swimming were just not enough. The scales tipped in favour of going in.

So I dashed up to my room, put on my swimming cossie and dashed out again (before I changed my mind).

My friends were just coming in, having paddled like me, perhaps wanting to swim but not having the courage or needing some encouragement.

As I launched myself down the grassy bank, I shouted "turn around, we are going in"....

I kept up my momentum, throwing down my towel and wading in as fast as the current and pebbles would let me until I just sank down, drenching myself from head to frozen toes.

As I lept into the water, I gave the reason for my madness - a phrase I knew: "they say you should do one thing every day that scares you. This is mine....(yeee hah)!!!"

We let the water flow over our bodies, as our goose bumps rose in miniature peaks over our skin. We splashed and played like children. We all laughed and screamed at the cold. It shook us to our bones. And it was utterly magical - a sensation I can still feel on my skin as I smile in remembrance.

What things are there in your life that you are putting off?
What are you waiting until the right time to do?
What are you going to do when you are (fit, slim, old, rich) enough?

Why are you really not doing it already?

Go on - live a little.
In fact - live a lot.

You can live a life full of reasons and excuses (like nearly everyone else), or you can have a life full of life and stories and magical experiences.

Which would you like?