I gotta admit, I missed being at ATD ICE in Orlando last week. The L&D community truly is the community in which I feel most at home, and the energy I feel when I’m at an industry conference is unparalleled.
That said, there are other ways to take our skill set and raise the bar on our craft to the next level. In this week’s podcast, I spend a little time talking about why we should constantly be looking to raise our own bar, and several specific ways we can improve even if we can’t get to a big industry event.
Welcome, everyone, to another episode of Train Like You Listen, a weekly podcast about all things learning and development in bite-sized chunks. I’m Brian Washburn, I’m your host, and I’m also the Co-founder of a cool instructional design company called Endurance Learning. I’ll talk a little bit more about that at the end of today’s podcast. But today’s podcast is going to focus on some different ways you might be able to improve both your training design and your delivery skills.
Before I get into that, I do need to mention that today’s podcast is brought to you by Soapbox, which is an online tool that you can use for maybe 5 or 10 minutes, and you can take care of 50 or 60% of the work when it comes to trying to be creative and develop a live, instructor-led, engaging training. Basically, you tell the computer how long is your presentation, how many people are going to attend, whether it’s in-person or virtual, what your learning objectives are, and then Soapbox instantly generates a training plan for you with clusters of training activities that are designed to help you accomplish your learning objectives without you needing to rack your brain and think, “How am I going to engage my learners?” If you want more information, or if you want to try it out for free, go to www.soapboxify.com.
Why Do Learning Professionals Need To Improve?
All right. Now, let’s talk about this idea of us, as learning professionals, continuing to improve. This was something that I’ve been grappling with for decades now. I remember being in the office when I was first starting out my career– and this was before I was even in the world of training- and one of my co-workers opened up an email about a professional development opportunity and turned to the other two of us who were in the office and said, “Why? Why do we need to keep going to these trainings? When is it that we’re going to be good enough?”
It seemed to be a pretty good question. And my guess is that it’s probably a question that many of our colleagues, whether we’re in the training field or not, either ask themselves or simply think about subconsciously. Why? Why do I need to get any better? Why can’t I just be good enough? And let me give a few answers to this, now that I’ve had like decades to think about this.
We’re Not Perfect
One reason is that we’re not perfect, but we can, and I think we should, strive to be more perfect each and every day. So, when I think about it, I mean, who wants to take a learning experience or any experience for that matter and think to themselves, “Boy, I hope the person who put this together was just good enough.”
Whether it’s at a restaurant, you know, I don’t want a chef to be like, “Oh yeah, that’s good enough.” A sporting event. I mean, can you imagine going to sports and watching people and thinking, “I guess they’re playing good enough.” Or using software. Can you imagine trying to navigate something and have the response be, “Well, I mean, it was good enough, right?” Or at an art gallery looking at art that people have been creating since they were in eighth grade. You know, definitely in training programs, any of that stuff, I want to be getting someone’s best effort and I want to see a progression.
New Trends Emerge All the Time
Another reason that good enough probably isn’t where we want to be is that there’s new research and there are new trends that emerge all the time. I hate to admit this, and I’m going to go on record to say it: there was a time when I was a passionate advocate for learning styles. And it’s a good thing that I was perusing a blog one day and I noticed some research that set me straight.
Beyond just correcting things that we may have been doing in error, there’s other research out there about simply how people learn and how we can better meet our learner’s needs. And there’s no way for us to know this all by either going to a class or having just experienced this for a while or reading a book. There’s always something we could be doing better.
There Are Easier Ways to do Things
The final reason I’m going to offer, and this is particularly for the lazy ones among us and I’m definitely in this category. Sometimes there are just easier ways to do things, and if we poke around a little bit, we can find those easier ways. If you take a look at Articulate’s E-Learning Heroes online community, it’s basically a place where people are just begging you to use templates that they’ve already created in order to make your eLearning, not only easier for you to develop, but better. Or, you know, stumbling upon new technologies that can help us automate some things that we’ve been doing, whether that’s helping with an engaging activity or a game in our session. And then there are other software out there that’s either free or low cost that we can use that does the exact same thing, but better and it looks better.
Or maybe we’ll even find something that can help us collect data better or more easily, or send follow-up messaging after a session. So, when we’re out there and we’re poking around and we’re finding out what’s available or what’s possible, sometimes we can even find easier ways to do things. All right.
Ways to Keep Improving
So, how do we keep improving? Now the inspiration for today’s podcast actually came from all the posts that I was seeing over the last week where colleagues were at the Association for Talent Development’s Annual International Conference and Expo. Now, prior to COVID, this is one of the largest conferences that I have ever attended – tons of attendees, tons of workshops, tons of other activities.
Become an ATD Member
And if you’re listening to this and your job responsibilities include developing or delivering training, and you’re not a member of the Association for Talent Development, I highly recommend you get a membership. ATD is the professional association for all of us, for the training and talent development professionals. And even if you don’t plan to attend one of their conferences, or if you don’t have the budget to attend one of the big conferences, they have lots of other resources, whether that is becoming active in a local chapter or the monthly magazine that comes with your national membership, TD Magazine. They have a constantly updated blog, they have lots of books, they have webinars, other resources that are all part of your membership.
Attend a Webinar With Your Team
Now, I didn’t attend this year’s conference and you don’t have to. There are other ways to connect in person with other people who also develop and deliver training. Just last week, three of my teammates and I participated in a webinar that was hosted by our local ATD Chapter on games and gamification. We didn’t even have to leave our home offices. We just attended this, and then we’re going to kind of discuss how are we going to use some of those concepts in our work. If you’re able to sign up for and attend a webinar with some of the other people on your team, then you can use that as a common experience and as a springboard into your own conversations inside your organization.
Read a Book Together With Your Team
Another common professional development opportunity that my entire team is going through right now is that we’re all reading Cathy Moore’s book on instructional design called Map It. Again, it’s fine to read a book on your own, but by reading this book together as a team, we can take advantage of social learning because other team members are going to find key nuggets that I’m not going to pick up on as I read through this.
Our discussions also will hold us accountable for how we’re going to actually use what we’re learning in the book and adjust our behaviors accordingly. We’re not just reading and thinking, “Oh, that’s interesting.” We’re actually having conversations and we’re figuring out how do we actually change our behaviors. And in having those conversations, we’re actually kind of holding ourselves accountable as well.
Listen to Some New Podcasts
Now, if you’re listening to this and you’re thinking to yourself, “I don’t have the budget to travel to one of those big conferences. I don’t have co-workers to pull together to attend a webinar or read a book and then discuss it afterwards. And I’m not sure that I want to join a professional association. What else you got, Brian?”
All right. So, how about listening to some different podcasts? You’re listening to this one, right? So, podcasts do offer you the opportunity to listen to other professionals in the field, authors, thought leaders, people who commonly present at conferences, and you can listen on your own time and on your own terms. You can listen to it at work, you can listen to it in the car, while you’re walking the dog, while you exercise.
A few learning podcasts that you might want to check out and I’m going to steer you towards include If You Ask Betty and that’s from Betty Dannewitz, the Share Whatcha Learned podcast, which is Amy Petricek, and the IDIODC podcast, which is actually a live program that runs way too early on the west coast on Wednesday mornings. But you can check it out either live or you can check it out on Apple Music. And IDIODC stands for Instructional Designers In Offices Drinking Coffee, and that’s run by domiKNOW. All three of those podcasts offer different lenses, and they generally feature different guests. So, if you really want to listen to something other than Train Like You Listen, you might be well-served to listen to all three of those.
Striving to Be Better: In Summary
In sum, as learning professionals, we really should set the example of how and why everyone should be striving to be better every day. If you have the budget, getting to a conference can be a great way to be exposed to all sorts of new ideas in both sessions and the conversations that you’re going to have with other attendees, whether that is in the session or in the hallway or over a meal. If a conference isn’t in the cards for you, then grab some co-workers and find a way to learn together or expand your podcast playlist.
That’s all I got for you this week. Thank you for listening. If you have someone who might find today’s topic on why and how we can and should continue to hone our craft, if you think that’s important, please do pass the link on to your colleagues. If you want to make sure that you’re notified of a new podcast when it’s hot off the press, go ahead and subscribe on Apple or Spotify or wherever you listen to your podcasts.
Even better would be if you give this a review. It’ll take you just a minute, it would mean a ton to me. That’s how other people will find out about this podcast. If you’re interested in learning more about a broad range of learning and development strategies, you can pick up my book What’s Your Formula? Combine Learning Elements for Impactful Training at www.amazon.com. If you need an extra hand in what it is that you’re doing when it comes to learning programs, go ahead and reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and maybe Endurance Learning might be able to help you out. Until next time, happy training everyone.
This week’s podcast is sponsored by Soapbox. Sign up today for a free demo below.