Training that Clicks – Episode 9

In this episode, Beth talks with guest Hannah Brown about her new book, Training that Clicks: Virtual Design Playbook, which is about designing and facilitating virtual learning. Hannah helps us remember to use technology to our advantage and think both about our participants’ experience and how we need to show up as facilitators in virtual spaces.

Beth and Hannah also explore:

  • the different people involved in learning and development and how their needs vary
  • focusing on desired performance or behaviour changes in learners
  • finding a good tech host to support virtual training
  • extending participants’ learning before and after virtual sessions
  • engaging learners who may show up as “resistors”

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Podcast cover art by Emily Johnston of Artio Design Co.
Podcast production services by Mary Chan of Organized Sound Productions

Show Transcript

[Upbeat music playing]

[Show intro]
Beth
Welcome, to Facilitating on Purpose, where we explore ideas together about designing and facilitating learning. Join me to get inspired on your journey to becoming and being a great facilitator wherever you work. I’m your host, Beth Cougler Blom.

[Episode intro]
Beth
Hello, thank you so much for being here. This is Episode 9 and in this episode I interview Hannah Brown. Hannah is a Learning Strategist and a Design Consultant and she and I met a couple of years ago online. We’ve never actually met in person yet, but I’ve followed her career for the last couple of years. And I was so excited to see a little while ago that Hannah was writing a book. And her focus of the book is about virtual facilitation. And now she’s published it! So I’m really excited to bring our conversation to you today. The book is called Training that Clicks. And while the book – and our conversation – is ostensibly about virtual facilitation, as I looked back and kind of revisited the conversation that we had after we recorded it, I realized that a lot of what we talked about was actually applicable to all modes of learning, not just virtual learning. But of course we do get into all sorts of great tips for you about virtual facilitation. We talk about being participatory, we talk about the affordances that technology gives us, we talk about how to find the tech host – someone that can help us facilitate – in virtual spaces. So there’s lots of great things here that come out of Hannah’s book but [laughs] just from the field in general as we riff with each other about learning design for virtual facilitation and basically for all design and facilitation in all modes. I hope you enjoy the show.

Beth Cougler Blom
Hannah, thank you so much for being here. I’m really excited to have our conversation today about virtual training. It’s great to have you here.

Hannah Brown
It’s wonderful to be here. Thanks, Beth, for having me.

Beth
Now, knowing that you have all of this experience in virtual training or virtual facilitation, I wanted to start with asking you first, what is that you’re getting out of that field right now or that type of work? Where is the joy for you in virtual training?

Hannah
It’s when the light bulb goes off. And we’ve been living and learning and working in a virtual or an online space now for so long that I think a lot of people feel like they’ve maybe figured it out. And so for me, the excitement and the passion comes in when I can meet with a group of people – usually designers or facilitators in the learning space – and they realize, oh, there is something else different or oh, I hadn’t thought…that they still have those aha moments where they realize they could do it even better than maybe what they currently are doing.

Beth
That’s a really exciting piece for people, isn’t it? That there are things that they will always be able to unlock because you’ve shown them or they’ve seen it somewhere else and they think, okay, how can I integrate this into what I’m doing? That is really exciting.

Hannah
I think the piece with that, too, is people made the switch, and they figured it out. And so, “figured out” meaning I can do this online and this is how I use Teams or Zoom or whatever the platform is. And once they figured, there was a big learning curve, and once they figured that out, then that’s kind of how I do it now. And so whether you’re an independent person, or even if you work in a learning and development team, it’s really easy to get stuck with, this is how I do it. And it’s difficult sometimes to pull out and to realize just other innovative and creative ways of engaging people online or presenting or teaching content. So that’s part of that aha moment, too, that people learn a lot at the beginning, and then you kind of settle into that learning. And then we sometimes forget that there’s still more that we could learn.

Beth
I think they do forget, and they maybe haven’t yet seen examples that we want them to see. I mean, do you feel that there are still people kind of doing training badly out there virtually still? [laughs]

Hannah
Yeah, absolutely. So when I was talking about the people who figured it out, I was thinking of learning and development professionals. So that’s, that’s where they work, whether they’re facilitators or designers or trainers. The pocket where I see the most opportunity still is in folks who end up training others or designing programs or teaching or facilitating others, and they don’t have that learning and development background. So they might be content experts, they might be subject matter experts, they might be coming from within the business, but they don’t necessarily know how to take what’s in their head and what they know almost instinctually and figure out how can I present that to others so they can learn from that? And not just learn but be able to do something with that learning. So how can can they move it from, you know, passive lecture style maybe to actually having engaging activities where people can apply what they’re learning and see a change in their performance ultimately?

Beth
Absolutely. And you know, we’re going to talk about your book today, Training that Clicks, and one of the things I really appreciated in your book, was this metaphor – is that the right word? – where you talked about chefs…and you know where I’m going with this.

Hannah
Yeah, I do.

Beth
Tell me about the different roles, I guess, or types of people in the field. Because I thought that was a useful way to say who we’ve got in the learning and development field in particular.

Hannah
So yeah, I would say it’s an analogy. And I’ve been working in this space for several years. And it’s occurred to me that there are different pockets of people who work in learning and development and who develop others. And sometimes they are, I would call them chefs, they work in an organization, or in this case, a restaurant, they prepare meals or training courses, and they serve them to others. And they identify as a learning manager or a learning director, and they’ve gone to school to hone their craft and perfect their skills. And that’s their career path absolutely. If the organization or the restaurant is big enough, they might have sous chefs who are working for them to help get that food or those those programs out the door. But what I’ve realized in the last several years is that those aren’t the only people who design training programs. There’s this whole other group of individuals, and I call them home cooks. And these are the content experts. Maybe they’re in human resources and the bulk of what they do is HR, but they do a bit of training on the side, or maybe they’re part of a system rollout and they need to, all of a sudden, train people on how to use the system. So these are people who find themselves training others, home cooks preparing food for others, but it’s not really the core of what they do. And I find that home cooks and chefs are looking for different things. So the chefs, I like to nerd out with them on needs analysis and evaluation and things like that, but the home cooks don’t care about that. They just want to know, how can I get this meal on the table as fast as I can? Yes, I want it to be tasty. Yes, I want it to be, shall I say, nutrient dense, so there’s lots of rich learning in there. But they don’t want to become experts in learning and development, they just want to kind of get in and get out and be as efficient and engaging as possible in the end with their programs.

Beth
Absolutely. It’s making me think of the conversation I had once about learning outcomes with a certain client who really did not want to have a conversation about learning outcomes. And I started to think, okay, learning outcomes are not a hill I’m gonna die on in conversation with a client. You know, in the background, I like them. [Laughs] I think they’re super foundational. And so I’m going to do the things I need to do as a learning designer to make sure we’re designing to outcomes. But, you know, I think I was talking to one of those home cooks that you’re referring to. They don’t they just want to kind of get into the, the juice of the program itself, not necessarily all the background stuff that we designers, you know, want to and need to think about.

Hannah
Yeah, for sure. Well, and I think too, about different types of objectives, and that different people or different groups care about them. So the learning objectives is what we really care about as designers and facilitators and trainers. You know, in this course, you will learn and ideally, they all start with with verbs so they’re observable, and that’s what we care about. But I would reckon that the home cook that you were speaking with, didn’t care about those, but probably would care about what I call the performance outcome. So what is, great that this person is taking this course, but what can they do with what they learn? So what’s the performance change that they can expect to have personally, or if it’s a manager sending somebody, what’s the change in behaviour that I can get to expect? How’s it going to help them in their job? And so that’s a different type of objective, and different people care about that. The participant and the manager care about that. As designers we do as well, but it’s a different audience that we’re maybe writing those for. And then the third piece is the business objective, and that’s what the organization cares about. And that’s okay, great that people learn something, great that it changes their performance. But how does that help me with some of my key metrics that I’m tracking across the organization?

Beth
I won’t get into the whole conversation about objectives and outcomes, and how we use these terms a little differently in the field, because I can appreciate your, you know, you’ve laid it out really clearly in the book. And yet, I think you’re using learning objectives for what I would call learning outcomes in the way you’re writing them. You know? And I don’t think either is correct or wrong. It’s just that we kind of know what we’re talking about. You know, there’s something that we need to do to write them in such a way that it’s not like, well, here’s what you’re going to learn in this session. It’s the change we’re looking for, isn’t it, because of the session, or by the end of the session, or two months after the session or whatever. So yeah, there’s pieces there. And then there’s the overarching business outcome that you’re referring to as well. And sometimes I think about that as purpose. So there’s all these little semantics and words differences, but I think we’re going towards the same ends, aren’t we, in the words that we use?

Hannah
Yeah, absolutely. And can I also just point out that you and I are nerding out here on the semantics of learning and development. So clearly, we’re chefs, if we go back to my analogy, and if a home cook is listening to it at this point, their eyes are glazing over. And they’re like, I don’t care about all that. How do I just make a course so people will listen and turn their cameras on when we’re meeting in Zoom or something? So yes, yeah, absolutely we can nerd out about terminology and all the rest of it. It’s all good stuff.

Beth
That’s so funny that you say that, because I actually promised myself I wouldn’t get into that outcomes versus objectives conversation with you! [Laughs] But you know, it is. It’s something that when we get together, we people in the field, you know, sometimes it can go in different directions, right? So let me take us back to something that maybe more the folks who, you know, don’t have formal education in this field would really want to hear us talking about. Okay, so you’ve got a quote in your book, and it says, “learning isn’t listening”. Of course, you know, we do learn through listening, but I think you mean it in a much broader sense. So tell me about that quote, and tell me what it means for how you think people should design, well, learning experiences in general, but virtual learning since that’s what we’re talking about today.

Hannah
Yeah, absolutely. So my bias or my starting point is always, it comes down to performance or behaviours. And so, again, I always think, well, if somebody is going to take a course, they’re going to learn something, but what can they do with that learning? What can they, how can they behave differently or how can they do their job more effectively, or whatever. So if I’m attending a program, and I’m just listening, there’s only so much that I’m going to retain with doing that. And in our courses, the more we can have people move past just listening to actually having conversations about the content and having rich discussions about the content, and even practicing the concepts that I’m hearing about, that moves me from just being a passive consumer where I probably have my video turned off or my audio, I stay on mute because I’m just, you know, I’m treating it like a Netflix where I’m just passively consuming it, to where if I have a course where it’s designed so that I’m pulled in to engage with and participate, I’m going to retain more. And if I can retain more then I’m going to be able to apply more. So “learning isn’t listening” really gets at the core of that. I need to go past just learning something. That that’s just the first step.

Beth
Yeah, that’s a great way to say it that, you know, of course, we’re going to learn something through listening. But we can only sit in a room and listen for the entire period of time or for long periods of time. You know, there’s that kind of ubiquitous, long presentation plus the Q&A is kind of what I’m trying to get people away from in my own work.

Hannah
Absolutely.

Beth
You know, if people weren’t going to do anything else, what are the things that you would want to see them doing in virtual training, that would make it a participatory experience?

Hannah
There’s a few things. I think, when we’re meeting and when we’re learning virtually, technology can feel like such a barrier for us. And it’s this screen that we have, which can so easily feel like we’re missing that personal connection. And that’s true, and yet on the other hand, I also think that technology – that same technology – can be the answer to providing rich experiences. So when I look at helping people move from just, you know, designing programs where people are passively listening – and what that often looks like is PowerPoint slides with lots of text on them that they’re may be reading or maybe paraphrasing. So to move away from that to something that is more engaging, and people can retain and apply it, it’s about looking at, well, what does that technology afford us? So what are the different features that are available to us? So use chat, use polls, use breakout rooms. Give the participants a voice early on in the session as opposed to you talking. And what’s the balance between you talking as the presenter or trainer or facilitator versus the time that participants are actually talking? So those would be a couple things. Use the technology to your advantage, don’t see it just as a barrier, but see it also as the solution. And be really focused on the participants’ experience and how much they’re, how much space you’re creating for them to talk and engage.

Beth
Yes, and you’re reminding me about something else that you said in your book around, if you’re finding it hard, you folks out there, to find time for the participants to practice, you used the word practice, we’re looking for opportunities for practice. If you’re trying to find time for that, maybe we can dial back our speaking and create space in the session for that practice time.

Hannah
So, a really recent example that I’ve had personally, I do some facilitation for another client. It’s their course, and it’s using a completely different platform. It’s not Zoom or anything I had ever experienced before. So I put my hand up and said yes, I’ll facilitate that. Because I’m always on my own learning journey and I wanted to experience this new non-Zoom platform. And it was really interesting, because the way it was set up, I couldn’t see the participants. So for me, as the facilitator, it felt like the technology was a bigger barrier. But I also recognize that the platform was designed for the participants’ experience. So they were put in tables and pods, and they could change their view, if they were looking at each other or looking at the screen, like the shared screen or…like it just had so many other things. And it was four sessions and by the fourth one, I really realized that it was harder for me as a facilitator to facilitate that, because I needed to really boost my energy and, and be kind of more on stage. And I want to use the word entertaining, even though it’s not about entertaining, it’s about facilitating learning. But you need to be more animated, maybe I think, to push past that that technology barrier. But from the participants’ experience they found it really, really rich. And they, I think got more out of that platform in terms of connecting with each other and learning the content and practicing the content because of how it was set up. So yeah, it’s important to think of the participants’ experience.

Beth
You know, yeah, you’re creating this great experience for participants, but you’re having to get over something in your own mind or your own skills around the facilitation side because of this new platform. So it’s, I always find these are sort of interesting and useful things as a designer of learning. Like when we experience the frustration of a new technology, or it’s like you’re going to this foreign land, right? You have no idea where things are and you’re lost and you know, you kind of in some ways you sort of hate it a little bit because it’s not like the other places you’ve been or I don’t know, trying to use my own analogy here. It sounds like you were successfully able to kind of get over the hump of that and really see how it was benefitting your learners.

Hannah
Yeah, absolutely. And I think it’s important to push ourselves out of our comfort zone. So like I was talking earlier how learning development professionals and others made the switch from in person to virtual because we all had to. We kind of figured out, okay, this is how I’m going to do it. And then we get comfortable in that spot and we stay there. And then we forget about finding new ways of doing things and we stop pushing ourselves to be more creative. So that was an opportunity for me to push myself outside of my comfort zone a little bit, and extend my own learning and my own learning journey with how can we make sure that these virtual learning experiences can be as engaging and as impactful as possible for folks?

Beth
You’ve also talked about getting support, in that getting to know the technology or using the technology, using the producer role, or I would call it sometimes a tech host, you know, doesn’t matter what we call it, but that extra person that we can really rely on for support. Can you say more about that, and how you might find a good person to support you as a producer?

Hannah
Yeah, for sure. So let me first share an analogy, and I share this in the book. I like to think of the role of a producer and a facilitator as picturing a hop on hop off bus in London. Like one of those double decker buses. And so the producer is the person driving the bus. And they’re focused on the technology and making sure that we can get from A to B and if there’s a detour because the technology is not working, they can take a new route and that’s absolutely what they’re focused on. And as the facilitator, I’m at the top of the bus with the microphone in my hand. And my focus is on the people on the bus, the participants, and making sure that they’re taking in and learning what they need. So I’m pointing out Big Ben or London Bridge, or whatever it is, and engaging with them and answering questions. So it is possible to do both, it’s just a lot more difficult. And, to your point, I think there’s different types of producers as well. So I think there’s someone who’s more of a host, so somebody who comes in and maybe helps just at the beginning. And if your organization is such that you don’t have funding or you don’t have a technical…like a producer role, then you could pull in a colleague to do that first part of the session. Because usually if technology is going to trip people up, it’ll be in that first 15 minutes of logging in, and using some technology for the first time. So there’s that host role, then there’s a technical producer, which is the driver of the bus, and then there’s what I would call a co-facilitator. So somebody who also knows the content, and then you can just spell each other off. So if it’s a longer program, you don’t have to listen to one voice maybe all the time. So that’s part of of my thoughts on that. You also asked about how do you find that person? I think when looking for a producer to work with you, I think there’s a couple of traits, or characteristics, that I would look for. One is somebody who’s curious. Because whatever platform you’re using, whether it’s Zoom or Teams or Google Meets, or whatever, it’s always changing. So somebody who’s curious and who’s staying on top of those technology changes is really helpful. Because it means then that I don’t have to be maybe as on top of things. So maybe that’s a little bit of laziness or relying on other people’s strengths or partnerships. The other thing I find with my producer that I work with is, I really appreciate his calm demeanor. And I always think of facilitating as a duck sitting on, gliding across a lake. And it’s so smooth and moving, you know, effortlessly, but underneath their little feet are paddling frantically away. And so that’s what I think of, and having a producer to help, somebody else who’s calm, can help keep that that smooth glide across the top of the water. So somebody who’s curious and knows about the technology, somebody who’s calm and kind of unflappable if the technology is going to fail, and can be kind of step in if your system needs to reboot or whatever happens. So those are a couple of characteristics that I would look for.

Beth
That’s nice to hear. And I think I’ve used that same duck across the water sort of example, you know, in my own groups. And when I teach facilitators about facilitation, then sometimes I show them kind of the little frenetic pieces, you know, of that paddling under the water because I want them to know that there are usually things going on in the background that we don’t tend to let participants see. And I think that second person, whoever it is, you know, a co-facilitator or a host, could really help us, you know, keep the I’m going to mix my metaphors here, keep the ship, aright. Is that a word?

Hannah
Afloat?

Beth
Yeah, keep the ship afloat. Yeah, absolutely. Humanity comes to mind as well for something I might look for in that person. You said “unflappable”. I think that, you know, let’s say I’m making an error, I forgot something. And I want them to just say, kind of just break in and say, “Oh, hey, Beth, you know, can we do this first?” “Oh, yes. Thank you for reminding me!” You know, just kind of a human approach to oh, like I missed something tiny and they were fine to jump in and it’s all good. You know, I don’t have to get upset about that because they’re just a person helping me along and we’re real people in, you know, in the virtual space here.

Hannah
Absolutely. And so my approach too with working with with my producer is, he’s not a person kind of silent behind the scenes. He’s very much there and I introduce him, I give him a voice at the beginning of the session. I call on him. And if I have a question that I, somebody asks that I don’t under, I don’t know the answer. I’m like, “Paul, do you have any insights on that?” And so I see it very much as a partnership, and we have different roles that complement each other. And together, what we can do is make a more positive experience for our learners.

Beth
More cooks in the kitchen. This is going to be full of metaphors, this particular episode isn’t it?

Hannah
Yeah.

Beth
I’d like to take us back to the design stage, just briefly, because one of the things that you said in your book was around using managers. So let’s say in a business context, we have our learners who might be employees of the organization or various organizations or whatnot. But you were talking about using managers to enhance the learning experience that you’re creating. And I thought, yeah, that’s not something I tend to really think about a lot. I think we actually do, you and I probably design for different types of organizations, you know, how you can kind of, you know, some of us can go more towards corporate and some can go more towards nonprofits, and you know, whatever. So we, of course, we have natural differences in the kinds of things that we do. Can you say more about how we can broaden our designs through using managers and other people like that?

Hannah
Yeah, tapping into managers and other supports is part of a bigger philosophy that I have maybe which, which becomes really important with virtual training. So if I can step back a little bit further for a minute and then get to your specific question. So with virtual training, time is compressed. So if we’re going to meet in person, we could meet for a day or even half a day, and that’s totally fine in terms of attention spans and energy levels and things like that. But meeting virtual for a half day let alone a full day, is painful. And so that’s where technology makes difficult. But also technology allows us to compress time. So typically well designed training programs would be an hour and a half, two hours, maybe tops with a break in there. So because we’re compressing things, one of the ways we can do that is by looking, how can we extend the learning beyond that session? So what can we do before the session and what can we do after the session, even if it’s a one time kind of event. If it’s multiple sessions, then it’s what can we do in between to support that learning? So, there’s things we can do in terms of introducing concepts and models and have people do things before they come in. So that time facilitated together, is really focused on that discussing and that practicing as opposed to just listening and consuming. Tying in the managers into that process is a great way of also extending that learning. So having them be engaged before the participant comes into the program sets the stage for what’s expected. What are you looking for out of this program? What am I looking for, as your manager? And it really ties back into what we were talking about around the performance outcome. So what’s the change in behaviour or the change in performance that we’re each hoping for with you going into this program? And it doesn’t have to be really involved, but as the facilitator or the designer, it’s reaching out to that manager and giving them you know…take 30 minutes to meet with your employee who’s coming into this program and here’s three questions to talk about. So it doesn’t have to be overly orchestrated, but just something to plant that seed. And then likewise after, following up with that manager and setting the stage for the participant to say, have a conversation with your manager afterwards. And to give them some, again, maybe it’s three questions or five questions around what did they learn? What are they going to apply? What are going to be their challenges in changing their performance and changing how they approach this, so that their manager can step in and help?

Beth
It’s so brilliant, because, you know, what’s one of the complaints, if you will, that people have about short workshops of any kind, whether they’re in person or virtual, is that the employee or whoever it is, goes back to the workplace, and nothing ever changes. Isn’t that what we’ve always heard, right? It’s kind of sits on the shelf, or they completely forget the learning that they may have taken in that particular day. And I know actually, just as an aside, you have this whole great thing in your book about, you know, the difference between short term memory and long term memory and you’ve got great tips to kind of drive learning into long term memory. But it’s thinking of more than just that one learning experience, isn’t it, these kinds of tips that you’re giving. The other thing you talked about was the drip feed. You know, and so you just said about, there are things that we can do with the learners before, and we can, you know, have the manager involved, but what about after? Tell us about the drip feed, because that’s also something that probably a lot of people miss.

Hannah
It sounds very sophisticated but it can be, if I deconstruct it, it can be fairly straightforward. So it’s thinking of, maybe what are the five concepts or the five topics that were covered in the course. And then what kind of email reminders can I send? Email or instant message or whatever platform you’re using in your organization. What kind of little nudges can you provide after the fact so that what they’ve learned is being reinforced? And you can do things like, you know, remember when and so it’s a recalling something that you learned. So it’s bringing that to the forefront of the memory again. It could be, you know, did you know? It could be expanding on something that they learned in the program. And the most effective is a question to have them think about and apply what they’ve learned. So the first two are about reinforcing the message. The second is about having them go back into their memory closet and pull out, oh right, this is what I learned. Here’s how I experienced it, here’s how I feel, here’s how I can use it. And maybe there’s an example of a scenario or something so I can think about how I could apply that as well. So the drip feed is really just what’s the sequence of follow ups that you want to provide? And what are they focused on? And how are you going to provide those to your participants, but then also to the manager where it makes sense?

Beth
Yeah, so you’re helping us think about, I don’t know what words you used in the book, but the before, the during, and the after, of designing a learning experience, aren’t you? That it’s not just throw a slide deck together, you know, for the two hour session or whatever it is. It’s much, much broader than that, isn’t it? And if we can all just keep remembering before, during and after, maybe that’s going to help us.

Hannah
Yeah, absolutely. And before, during and after is…and I remember in the book, trying to figure out how I could write this so it wouldn’t get feel too complicated. But before, during and after is what do I need to do as the designer before, during, and facilitator during and after the session? What does the participant need to be doing before, during, and after? So for the participant, maybe there’s an article that they need to read or a reflective question they need to think about so that when they come into the session, they already have a situation in mind that they can apply. And what does the participant need to do after? And then again, going back to that manager, what does the manager need to do to prepare? How can they support them in the program and how can they support their employee afterwards? So yeah, so there’s three time zones and three different people. But it’s an important thing. And it’s all in the chapter, the importance of practice, which really is moving the design and the training from just people passively listening to be able to apply and retain and change their performance.

Beth
Probably in that very same section, you said, “participants need to take ownership of their learning”. And, you know, you’re just, you know, talking about that more. I think that’s also so powerful for people because we could come in, especially if we’re newer to designing and facilitation, we might think, oh, it’s all on us. You know, we’re the ones that have to do this thing, whatever this training experience is. But that’s not true, is it? You know, there are other people who have responsibilities. And you’re saying the manager and you’re saying the learners. Can you say more about that role, or that responsibility of a participant to take charge of their own learning?

Hannah
What’s going through my mind is I’m imagining somebody listening to this and thinking, yeah, but sometimes I have somebody show up, and they don’t even want to be there and they have to come because their manager told them! So you also get the resistors in there, or the people who think, oh this is two hours off work, I’m just gonna sit here and relax. So yes, it is the participant’s responsibility, and they need to take ownership of their own learning. I just want to recognize that sometimes it’s a really steep uphill battle to do so because depending on how the course is set up, or structured, or if it’s mandated, you can get any number of participants in the program. And I guess I go back to, how is this course going to help them? So what I call performance outcomes, or you call objectives or whatever, so really being clear about how will this help them in their job? Because if you can define how it’s going to make their life easier, they’ll be more inclined to sit up and pay attention, at least for the first bit before they decide to check out. And if you’re engaging in that first bit, then hopefully, you can hook them in and have them stay for the entire time. So yeah, it’s a difficult conundrum to figure out for sure.

Beth
Thanks for helping me remember that because I’m in the happy circumstance of all of my learners actually always choose to be in my sessions [laughs], because I teach people who are learning how to facilitate so they’re usually not voluntold to be there. But thank you for helping me to remember [laughs] that not everybody, sadly, comes to learning experiences because they were super motivated to be there. And so yeah, those are some great tips to, I don’t know, try to win them over. But it’s that why piece isn’t it? It’s the, if we can be really clear about you know, why this is going to be relevant and meaningful to them and make the design…you know create the design that way then hopefully we’re…well might not always win, but yeah, hopefully we’ll bring them along a little bit, those resistors.

Hannah
Yep. I think the other thing we can do if we have resistors in our midst…like I think of compliance training, and so many organizations have annual compliance, any money laundering, privacy and security and whatever, and it can be really dry. And so maybe it’s harder to find the “what’s in it for me” as a learner and positioning that to them. But what we can do is maybe appeal to their broader sense of connection with their organization. And so starting off with a really powerful story, and you know, even if it’s privacy and security pull out a…and there’s probably always a recent one about some kind of security breach and how that impacted the organization or how that impacted the organization’s customers or members, or whatever. And so starting with some kind of a story that really paints the picture of why this is important kind of on a bigger scale beyond just you is another way of hooking somebody in early at the beginning so that they may be more receptive to learning.

Beth
I so agree, and, you know, you said dry topics, that’s, that’s often something that we hear from those home cooks that we were speaking of before or other people. They’ll say, oh, this topic is really dry. And I actually was attending a few months ago, a workshop in the community, not about anything that I do just sort of for a personal reason. And the person stood up and said, “This is going to be a very, very long day.” And I just died inside as a, you know, as a learning designer, you know, sitting in what really was an audience in that case, you know, for this learning event. So, you know, people might think that their content is dry, but I often see it as my job or our job to really work with them and say, I don’t think the content is dry. It’s the way we’re approaching it in the design and the facilitation of the learning experience. What do you say to that?

Hannah
Yeah, absolutely. And I’m glad you said design and facilitation, because it is both. That it’s how do I design and create the space so people can have a voice early on, so there can be a story early on that they can relate to, so they can draw on their own experiences. So you know, that’s kind of just great learning design. And then if, if it’s virtual, how can we use the technology to engage with them early on? So that’s all part of the design, but it’s also about the facilitation. And I know, that’s where your sweet spot really is. You know, I’m thinking about my own experience. This is a while ago, but I was attending, it wasn’t even a training course, like it wasn’t even supposed to be interactive, but it was like a webinar or presentation. It was on Google Analytics. So depending on who’s listening, some of you might find that really, really engaging, and others not. I would have fallen into the it’s not so engaging. But the person facilitating was riveting. She was high energy, she was enthusiastic. There was lots of chat going through, and she was responding to it. She was using people’s names, she was so engaging. And so to your point, it took what might have been seen as a dry topic, in this instance, not because of the design, but because of her facilitation, she turned it into something that was really lively and engaging. And people could really come away with having learned something.

Beth
It’s a nice example, and it makes me think of what you said earlier around, you know, entertaining, and it’s, you know, so we kind of walked the line, don’t we, that we want to be energetic, we want to look like we’re having fun facilitating the session. But it isn’t a performance, we aren’t there to entertain. But there is a little bit of that, isn’t there, to you know, if we’re not excited about being there and excited about the topic, then how can we ask participants to be excited about it, too?

Hannah
Absolutely. I agree. The word that I learned probably 15-20 years ago was edutainment. And if you think of a continuum, there’s education on one end, and there’s entertainment on the other. And edutainment is a blend of the two, maybe that’s right in the middle. I think my bias would be a little bit more on the side of education than entertainment. But now that I say that, that’s maybe in person. And I mean, we always want to be focused on the education and the learning side of it. But I think with technology and with virtual, maybe I need to be a little bit more entertaining, so that my passion can come through and so that I can be maybe a lightning rod for other people to get excited and encouraged and engaged with the content.

Beth
Maybe it’s something like you know, performing on the stage that you sometimes have to bump up your, you know, your actions just a little bit more so that people in the back of the room can see it or hear it, hey? [Hannah: Yeah.] So when we’re online, we might have to just do a slight bit more of that. There’s no mirror neurons happening there. There’s a whole other conversation for us to geek out on, we won’t do that now. But yeah, maybe we need to just bring it a little bit more, that excitement, that energy so that it goes through the wires, so to speak in virtual training?

Hannah
Yep, for sure.

Beth
Hannah, is there anything that we missed that you’re really passionate about, that you want to make sure people walk away with around creating amazing virtual training?

Hannah
I think one last thought, and this goes back to the beginning of the pandemic. And I had so many conversations with consultants who worked independently and all of a sudden their business completely dried up and they had been doing everything in person. Like, oh my goodness, like how do I survive in this virtual world? And even clients, same thing, all the programs that they offered, they couldn’t do any more. And, maybe I’m a glass half full person, but I felt then and it’s certainly been reinforced now that there’s almost anything that you can do virtually in terms of a learning design and a training program. So I have a program that I run, Design for a Digital Age, and it helps people design for virtual delivery. Design and facilitate. And I had one usually people attend it in their leadership or feedback are kind of those soft skills or however you want to call them. And this gentleman was from an ergonomics company, and his program because I say work on a program in the course so that you’re not just listening passively, but you’re applying it and learning it. So they all had a project, of course, that they had to design. And his was how do I lift heavy boxes properly? And so getting that physical movement, which you would think would be incredibly hard to do to teach that through Zoom or virtually, and it is more difficult. But in taking the course, he was so creative in the end with different ways, and we brainstormed how to move the camera and how people could submit activities and videos to be critiqued and things like that. So that example just really solidified it for me that there’s so much that you can do virtually. And you can do it in an engaging way, where again, people aren’t just listening and being passive, but they’re able to apply what they learn and can make a difference. So if you think…if you’re listening, and you think, Oh, I have this topic, I don’t think I could do it on Zoom, then I would challenge and say, yeah, you probably can.

Beth
That’s nice. It’s a great hopeful, positive message. And I totally agree. Challenge accepted is kind of what I want to say to that too, right? Well, we can do this.

Hannah
Perfect.

Beth
I want to ask you one last question. And that is, what does it mean to you to facilitate on purpose?

Hannah
I think to facilitate on purpose for me is to be really intentional about the audience that I’m serving. So who are the participants in the room, virtually or literally or figuratively? And what do they need in that moment? And how can I draw on my experience with maybe the content or the subject matter, or my experience with kind of group dynamics and sensing the energy or the issues in the room to help them move through and either learn what they need to help them do their job better or facilitate isn’t always about teaching, it might be facilitating a process. So how can I facilitate to help them move through that decision making process or strategic planning or whatever it is that they’re doing? Yeah, so I think it’s really being in service to the people in the room and leaving my ego at the door and making it all about them.

Beth
Thank you so much. Those are nice things to leave us with to think about. If we just thought about ego sometimes a little more we would be more in service of the group, wouldn’t we? Yeah. Thanks for helping us think about that.

Hannah
Yeah.

Beth
Hannah, it’s been a pleasure. I feel like we could keep talking [Yeah], for you know, so much longer and maybe we’ll have future conversations. But thank you so much for having this one with me today.

Hannah
Yeah, for sure. Thanks for having me.

 

[Upbeat music playing]

[Episode outro]
Beth
I really enjoyed my conversation with Hannah and I think you should go get her book if you haven’t already. It’s called Training that Clicks: a Virtual Design Playbook. And if you don’t have my book either I think these two books would make a dynamic duo for your bookshelf. So go get Training that Clicks and then go get Design to Engage: How to Create and Facilitate a Great Learning Experience For Any Group and give yourself maybe a little gift today in professional development with these two resources. In the next episode, I interview Jan Keck. Jan is an experience designer, a facilitator, a trainer. He has done a TedX talk. I discovered Jan a couple of years ago, I suppose during the pandemic. Somehow I stumbled across his very, very creative posts and workshops in virtual spaces about facilitating deep connection in virtual spaces and all sorts of other creative and innovative topics in the field of facilitation. So, in the next episode I ask Jan a lot about how to foster deep connection with groups, and I actually take the opportunity to ask him some questions from his own set of Connection Cards that I bought a year or two ago. And I haven’t had a chance to use them yet because I haven’t really facilitated a lot in person even now, but I put Jan on the hot spot and asked him some of his own Connection Cards. And it was lovely to see where his answers went in how to deepen connection with groups. So join Jan and I in the next episode of Facilitating on Purpose.

[Show outro]
Beth
Thank you for listening to Facilitating on Purpose. If you were inspired by something in this episode, please share it with a friend or a colleague to help them expand their facilitation practice too. To find the show notes, give me feedback, or submit ideas for future episodes visit facilitatingonpurpose.com. Special thanks to Mary Chan at Organized Sound Productions for producing this episode. Happy facilitating!

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