Monday, 18 June 2012

Delivering a better presentation / training course. No. 15. Get your facts straight.

This is the fifteenth in a series of posts where I plan to discuss my ideas, tips and best practices for delivering a great presentation / training course. Get your facts straight.

It takes a lot of time to 'learn' a course.

Let's say that you are a Subject Matter Expert - SME. You know your stuff right?

How much stuff is that exactly?

After a while it gets to be a lot of stuff.

Take me as an example. There was a time when I was a C guy. Then it was C and C++. Then it was C, C++ and Visual Basic. Then it was C, C++, Visual Basic, .NET.

Before you know it, the blog post morphs in to an alternative 'Court of King Caractacus'.  Did I ever tell you that I'd seen Rolf Harris perform live at the Sydney Opera House? Superb!

So let's assume that I know several languages. That still leaves ASPNET Webforms, ASPNET MVC, Silverlight, Visual Studio, Expression Studio, Windows Communication Foundation - WCF, Windows Presentation Foundation - WPF, SQL Server, Windows 8 Metro application development and a couple of others that I might be called upon to deliver training on at short notice.

For each of these topics, we at QA Training have a number of courses to offer. Some of them are authored in house by one of our SME's, and the rest are supplied by vendors such as Microsoft.

When a course is released in 'my space' then I take some time out to learn it and in time I will then begin delivering it.

The problem is that no sooner have you learned the course that some aspects of it are out of date.

It is important that you the trainer are up to date. At least as far as the material is concerned for the course that you are delivering.

So if I know that I am to deliver a course that I haven't delivered for a while, I spend a little time the week before double checking certain facts.

I now I am not talking about re-reading the entire course. Although if you are that rusty then perhaps you should? Most of the content will still be correct. E.g. screen shots, or descriptions of tasks etc.

The areas to concentrate on are things like best practices, statistics and links.

A lot of courses will round up a chapter with a list of best practices which always go down well. Times change though and what was considered a best practice at the time the course was written might no longer be the case. Where statistics are quoted, they too might be out of date. As for links? You can pretty much guarantee that several of the hyperlinks referenced in a course will no longer be valid.

It is these things that I quickly focus on. I make sure that my facts are up to date and where the links provided are no longer valid, I find suitable alternatives.

I recall a period where I was delivering a lot of Silverlight courses on behalf of Microsoft for early adopters  and would show delegates various prescribed example applications. Not a week went by where at least one of the links ceased to work. I would have to repeatedly go in search of an alternative that would demonstrate the equivalent feature.

Here is an example of someone who got it spectacularly wrong:

Last week, my wife and I attended a special Parents Evening hosted by my son's college (Burnley College) designed to help first year students to determine and select their university choices for next year - 2013 (they will need to apply this autumn).

The purpose of the evening was to deliver two (count them, two) messages. The first was to reassure parents and students that the tuition fees will not need to be paid up front and we were told about the terms for paying back the 'loans'. I am pretty sure they stressed that the debt was 'written off after thirty years' at least ten times. So far so good.

The second and just as important (if not more so) was guidance on how to decide what course(s) to apply for. Very few students in the room had firm ideas about where they wanted to go and so this part of the evening was very important. They were advised (in the presentations and attractive glossy hand outs) that 'the best thing for them to do' would be to use the Stamford Test on the UCAS website. As this test would ask the student a series of questions and then make a number of recommendations.

With the list of courses on offer thus narrowed from fifty five thousand to approximately twenty, the task of narrowing the choices down to one or two would be much easier.

Two different presenters (one was the Vice Principal) repeatedly mentioned the Stamford Test and how students were 'strongly urged' to attempt it a 'couple of times' in order to draw up a short list.

So the message was very clear. So clear in fact that we gave it a try today.

What a shame that it NO LONGER EXISTS!

In fact, the Stamford Test was removed from the UCAS web site in November 2011!

Burnley College spent a lot of money preparing this once per year event. There were information packs, three presentations and lots of nice biscuits. Approximately 300 people made the effort to attend what was perhaps the most important evening of the year from the perspective of their child's further education prospects. And Burnley College couldn't take the effort to check one of the two key pieces of information that they wished to impart.

As Terry Thomas would have said. "What an absolute shower!".

And we are certainly Not Satisfied!


So. Tip # 15? Get your facts straight.

See you soon

Phil Stirpé
"I don't do average!"


No comments:

Post a Comment