Friday, October 26, 2012

Crossover Extravaganza: Let Me Entertain You!

I promise that a squirrel overlord has not captured Bad Shakespeare. (Although this could totally happen one day. Seriously, he shouldn’t tempt them.) He’s just over on the Island of Misfit Toys, sharing a little Bad Shakespeare awesomeness. I’m Erin Garland and usually I’m the Misfit Toy. Or the Island. Or something. We thought it’d be fun to mix things up a bit and switch blogs this week. I promise he’ll be back next week – same bat time, same bat channel.

Michael and I go way back. In fact, we’re old enough that we’re allowed to use the phrase “back in the day” without immediately being punched in the face. (For the record, you have to be over 25 to use that phrase.) Anyway, we were in the theatre department back in the day. Theatre nerds are the best nerds ever.

I manage staff professional development for an educational technology company. I’ve been with this company forever and have had more job titles than I care to count. Some people would say that being a trainer has absolutely nothing to do with what I studied in college (theatre arts management – for real) and I should be doing something more creative with my life. Well, those people are insane and have clearly never trained a high school counselor let alone their colleagues on anything. Training is 10% teaching and 80% entertainment. Ultimately, I spend my days making people comfortable with the technology they have to use. Basically, I make technology into a kitten - something cute and fuzzy that a person can cuddle with.

But what I really do most days is tell stories. Some might say that I tell very specific stories that involve exaggeration or slightly skewed versions of reality (some would call that lying – those people are lazy and not creative at all) but I like to think about more like painting a picture that is appealing to just the people in the room. I like to use humor and 80s movies to make what I teach/train more interesting. I like to reward my students/colleagues/clients with praise and compliments and stickers. I like to bake cupcakes/cookies/pecan pie bars on Fridays.

Regardless of the praise and stickers, most of the time what I would really like to say is “Stop saying crazy things and asking insane questions.” For real, what is so hard about being normal in a training situation? When did it become okay for a group of professionals to play an online game when I’m trying to train them on how to do something that will help make their work lives better? I think it comes back to entertainment. Learning is hard so we’d rather be entertained.

Learning should be fun and engaging. So often when I conduct trainings the session starts off with “this is going to be terrible” or ends with “I thought this would be so much worse.” I’m never quite sure to respond. I’m pretty certain that saying something along the lines of “I’m glad that I met your expectation of mediocrity. At least I didn’t make anyone cry” would not be taken well by anyone.

I’ve decided that I’m going to use the following to gauge whether I’m successful in my work:
  1. How many times did we laugh? Laughing is a way to personally connect with one another and an important part of learning is making those connections.
  2. Did anyone share a personal story that we can relate to what we’re discussing? If a person can take one thing they’ve learned and apply it to something in their daily life (a pain point, something they can't/don't currently do) then they day has been well spent.
  3. Has anyone told me one new thing they learned today? It doesn’t matter what it is as long as it’s new and they can apply it to their work.
I’ve just completed training the largest class of new hires my division has had in a long time. It’s been a very, very long seven days. My connection of career exploration to Lloyd Dobler’s “I don’t want to buy, sell or process anything” speech did not go as well as I would have liked. (Why don’t people find this as amusing as me? Has the world gone mad?) However, we’ve laughed a lot and the pieces seem to be coming together for everyone. So we’ll consider that a win. And of course, there were cupcakes on Friday. And you know cupcakes make everything better even if it’s not Rex Manning Day.

Thanks for indulging in our little experiment. I hope to see you on the Island of Misfit Toys ( real soon. 

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