Written by Dan Cook
I attended, and participated in (that’s important), a webinar this morning on why most technical (and other) training programs often fail. They don’t take the listener, or “user,” into account.
Eileen Forrester, founder and CEO of the Forrester Leadership Group, was the guest speaker. A former product manager and trainer at the CMMI Institute (Carnegie Mellon University), she’s dedicated much of her career to figuring out why some trainings work and others fail. Her conclusion: Too often, presenters stand in front of their audience, waving at projected slideshow images and droning on as eyelids and ears slowly (or quickly) close.
It’s time to overthrow the tyranny of these self-centered, visionless presenters, she said. Likening the relationship to that between the arrogant, authoritarian physician and the compliant patient, she said audience members need to rise and demand more lively, varied presentations so that they can actually absorb what’s being hurled at them.
True to form, Forrester didn’t just do a text/slide dump, but engaged throughout the hour-long webinar with her moderator, Philip Lew (CEO, XBOsoft) and members of the virtual audience. Among her tidbits: The information offered in the first 10 minutes of any training session is what most “users” retain, so why not introduce the presenter at the end and put all the most important data at the beginning. Another tidbit: Every time a presenter uses a different method for presenting (like switching from describing trends to using case studies to teach), the 10-minute-clock is reset.
Lew had a practical piece of advice as well. He said he always gets a good night’s sleep before attending such a session and sits in the front row so he can focus on the speaker. That got him through college without having to do a lot of studying because he retained what he heard in the lectures.
Eileen is just one of a glittering group of software quality professionals who will be speaking and holding workshops Oct. 12-14 in Portland at the annual Pacific Northwest Software Quality Conference. She promised to describe in more detail the influence her study of people in extreme poverty have had on her training theories. Don’t want to miss that one.