Practical Support for the Changing World at Work 
Linda F. Willing
P.O. Box 148
Grand Lake, CO
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Training Tip Archives

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December 2004 

Teaching Decision Making  When helping others learn how to make good decisions, you must create a safe and clear framework for letting them practice. Captain D. Michael Abrashoff of the USS Benfold used the following criteria: Could the decision a) kill someone, b) injure someone, c) waste taxpayers' money, or d) damage the ship. If so, he as the captain needed to be involved in the decision making process. If not, he encouraged all members of the crew to try to solve problems for themselves.  

Source: It's Your Ship: Management Techniques from the Best Damn Ship in the Navy by D. Michael Abrashoff.  

November 2004 

Beyond Basics  Drilling on basic skills is great, but can sometimes be too much of a good thing. To maintain certifications and basic competencies, certain essential training goals must be met, but even within these requirements, training can go to the next step. Yes, it's good to do routine hose drills, but if everyone is highly proficient at a required level, don't bore people to death by doing the same thing over and over. Add variety and real world challenges to basic drills, and you'll see interest and skill levels go up.

October 2004

Gone Fishing  Some instructors try to encourage class participation by fishing for specific answers to questions they pose. In some cases they will state a sentence with one word missing, that the audience is supposed to fill in. But this can be a dangerous teaching style. If the class gets the answer wrong, it causes embarrassment and confusion. It can also be tedious to be led in this way toward a specific outcome, rather than allowed to think more freely. Fishing for answers can be effective at times, but use the technique carefully, and very sparingly.

September 2004

Early Release  Never underestimate how long a class or lecture will take. If you have a presentation that you believe will take 45 minutes to deliver, schedule at least an hour of time. If you don't need the extra time to make up for delays or questions, you can dismiss the group early. People love to get out from class earlier than expected, but get very upset when having to stay late. Establish expectations accordingly.  

August 2004

Watch Your Time  When preparing a presentation, remember that what takes you 15 minutes to deliver during your rehearsals will take significantly longer to deliver in real time. There are always delays, interruptions and other factors which make the available time less than what you expect. Plan ahead by adding about 20% onto the time you think your presentation will take, and you will avoid having to rush through to finish.  


July 2004

Leave Them Alone  After basic skills are taught, it is often a good idea to let people practice on their own as they gain expertise. When an instructor is always looking over someone's shoulder, that person can become more concerned with not making a mistake rather than really learning something new. As with new pilots, confidence and mastery come through soloing.

June 2004

State Your Goals  At the beginning of every training session, it is a good idea to explicitly state the goals for the class. This gives participants a sense of what to expect and what the overall themes of the class will be. Once the goals are stated, it is critical that they be met. Always do a final check that the course content and the goals are consistent. If necessary, revise the goals to match the actual content of the class.

May 2004

Extra Handout Material  It is fine to include more handout material than you actually have time to deal with directly in class. Background articles and references or additional "homework" activities are often valuable. However, if you have a class outline, you should finish it during the allotted class time. If extra material is included, you should briefly explain its content and purpose, even if you don't go over it in detail.

April 2004

Credit Your Sources  Whenever using information that has been taken from another source, always cite that source in your presentation and your materials. It is especially important to do this on printed handout materials. The reason for this is two-fold: it is unethical to take credit for someone else's work, and you also want to give your students the opportunity to follow up directly with the source if they want more information.

March 2004

Watch Your Language  Some presenters try to appear knowledgeable by using words that are not really familiar to them. The use of obscure terms or complex words may come across as awkward or confusing at best, but even worse is when a presenter uses these words in inappropriate ways. Then an instructor just looks foolish, and the effect undermines other real value in the class. It is always best to stick with clear, simple language that feels natural to you as a speaker and which your audience will readily understand.

February 2004

The Perfect Slide 2  More tips for good slide presentations:

  • Don't read from the slides on the screen.
  • Do not stand in front of the screen at any time.
  • Consider investing in a remote wireless mouse that can be used from any position in the room.
  • Use cue slides to trigger class discussion or other activities.
  • Alternate between slides, video, and class activities and discussion. Never keep the lights low for an entire class.
  • Use your slides to enhance your presentation, not as the essence of it.

January 2004

The Perfect Slide Consider these general rules when creating slides for computer presentations:

  • Use dark backgrounds when there will be light in the room (most cases); light backgrounds when the room will be mostly dark.
  • Avoid overly complex or cute design templates.
  • Abbreviate key points for bullets: don't write out every word you say on the slide.
  • Use clear fonts in contrasting colors to the background.
  • Use no more than 3-4 bullet points per slide.
  • Make slide transitions simple and consistent.  
More slide tips next month.  



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