Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Delivering a better presentation / training course. No. 14. Keep a course diary.

This is the fourteenth in a series of posts where I plan to discuss my ideas, tips and best practices for delivering a great presentation / training course. Keep a course diary.

Can you remember the last time that you were in a training room and a delegate called you over with a problem? Was it something unusual? Did you have a faint recollection of having seen  a similar error before? Did you then spend several minutes trying to rediscover the solution?

Did you ever come up with / hear a brilliant analogy or anecdote to illustrate a point? Did you ever try to use it again? Did it come out right this time or did you miss some of the detail?

Wait. That's the name of my autobiography right there. "Phil Stirpe - Analogies and Anecdotes". I might need a chin shot on the sleeve. I'll register it later. Don't you dare steal it or I'll tell my mum.

With so many subjects, technologies, demos, tools etc. it can be difficult to remember everything. Particularly as you get older.

Not only am I losing brain cells at an alarming rate, just imagine how many facts I have stored away? Assume I learn 5 technology and training related things a day (and I think that is on the low side).

If I guestimate the number of work days to be around 235 per year, then over 25 years I must have stored away at least 29375 technology and training related facts. That's a lot.

So that's the pub maths over with.

When I write a course, I start a diary. It is set out by day and lists the topics that I intend to cover, the demos that I plan to deliver and my approximate timings.

During the first couple of teaches of the course, I update the diary with the actual timings and any issues that were discovered with the material or software (both of which I correct immediately). I also make a note of any mistakes made by the delegates and the errors that were caused. Furthermore, I make a note of the solution.

I share this diary along with my recordings with other trainers as part of my Train the Trainer materials.

In this way, I can be sure that they have a good understanding of the timing and flow of the course along with the typical errors encountered by the delegates.

I also make a note of any unusual questions as well as those that were more common. That way, other trainers can be ready with their answers.

So what is the benefit of a diary for me?

Remember I mentioned earlier that it can be quite difficult to keep everything in your head?

When I was a boy, I used watch a television programme called Joe 90. Just before he went on a mission, Joe would sit in a special chair situated in a giant egg whisk thing which spun around accompanied by flashing lights and cool funky (for the 60's) music.

In a very short time, he absorbed all of the information (names, places, diagrams, floor plans etc.) that he needed to complete his mission.

Just before I begin a training session, I quickly speed read my diary entries for that session. It only takes a minute or two and I'm good to go.

I can also take another look as the delegates begin their exercise so that I am ready with solutions to problems that they haven't encountered yet. Furthermore I can also warn them of the most common mistakes such as placing a database connection string in the wrong web.config file of their ASPNET MVC3 project (there are two you know!) before they start the lab.

Imagine how relieved the delegates will be if you (cool as a cucumber) stroll over to their machine and straight away identify the error? How smart are you? Careful though, not too cocky!


So. Tip # 14? Keep a course diary.


And if you are feeling nostalgic for high tech 60's egg whisks. Here you go.

See you soon

Phil Stirpé
"I don't do average!"

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