Creating Workshops – 5 Questions to Create Workshops for Visibility and Impact

I will be presenting a 30-minute, information-packed community call for the SkillPreneur Alliance called “Creating Workshops – 5 Questions to Create Workshops for Visibility and Impact.” It’s free and all are welcome. Join me on Monday, July 9, 2012 from 1-1:30 pm Pacific Time. For more information or to register go to

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New Video – “Six Powerful Strategies…”

I had a wonderful experience presenting a 60-minute webinar on June 15th called “Six Powerful Strategies to Create High-Impact Training.”  Some of the information I shared in that webinar was fairly standard within the training world (but IMPORTANT reminders). A few of the strategies were, in my humble opinion, unique and have a huge potential to transform run-of-the-mill training programs into high-impact learning experiences.

Three of the key learning strategies that I taught were:

  • Start the design process with Outcomes, not Content. This one isn’t all that unique, but it is difficult for most of us to do because we want to rush through the design process. Of course, when we rush, we miss a golden opportunity to identify desired outcomes that then allow us to make strategic decisions that ultimately benefit the learners and the organization.
  • Vary the level of Productive Tension that the learners experience during the training program. This strategy is all about strategically shifting the learners’ energy levels for the purpose of maintaining their interest. This is one of those strategies you don’t hear much about when we talk about instructional design and training, but it’s a biggie!
  • Follow the natural learning cycle when designing and sequencing activities. This is another strategy that isn’t mentioned often, but it really makes sense. That is, when you pay attention to the needs of your learners and you strategically sequence a set of activities that is in alignment with how they learn, you are making the learning process more powerful (and easier) for them.
If you want to learn more about the above strategies and be introduced to the other three strategies, I invite you to watch my two-part video series where I talk in-depth about each of the six strategies. It’s totally free and, if you have an interest in designing training, it will be worth your while. Just click on the image below.
If you have any questions, you can reach me through my website at Enjoy!
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What Is the Best Entry Point for Creating a Course?

Which Door Leads to Innovation?

There are many doors through which you can enter an instructional design project. Two of the most contrasting doors are “content” and “outcomes.” They are contrasting because they can lead you to such different places.

I’d venture to say that most courses are approached through the “content” door. The design process begins with the question, “What information do we need to teach people?”

Unless the designer is very aware and consciously creative, the course can easily end up being a lot of lecture, reading, discussion, and probably some quizzes. That may be fine, but it’s not particularly innovative or interesting, and it won’t necessarily create an experience that will stick in the minds of the learners.

What if, instead, we entered through the “outcomes” door? What if we asked ourselves a question like, “What impact do we want our learners to have (on the organization, in the workplace, on their families, or on their lives)?” Followed by, “What is it that we want our learners to be able to do after they attend the training to enable them to have that impact?” And what if we follow up those questions with taking some time to visualize the audience “doing” those activities – actually engaging in the behaviors that are needed to achieve the outcomes you are focusing on?

Sure, the “outcomes” question requires more imagination and may even be challenging to visualize, but it naturally opens up a world of possibilities and a world of creativity. It gets us to think about actions, behaviors, activities, and performance. It creates a 3-D world that gets us to visualize real-world success, rather than having us get trapped in the 1-D world of content. Just try visualizing success when all you have is the course content on your mind. Now that’s REALLY hard to do.

Approaching instructional design through the “outcomes” door inspires innovation. Of course, there are many more things we can do to bring innovation to learning, but this is a GREAT place to start.

If you want more ideas about creating high-impact training, join me on June 15th webinar from 11 am – noon Pacific Time for a webinar on “Six Powerful Strategies to Create High-Impact Training.”

Photo courtesy of Microsoft clipart.

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Using Text in Instruction

Instructional Designers (training professionals who focus on designing and developing effective learning) wear many different hats in order to create the end product. One of those hats is “materials designer.” As instructional designers we need to make sure the  materials that the trainer and participants will be using are well-designed — organized, readable, usable, and inviting.

There’s a lot of thought that needs to go into creating training materials, including:

  • What font to use
  • How large to make the text
  • Where to place the text
  • What graphic images and visuals to include
  • Where to place the images and visuals
  • What colors to use
  • How much text (and how little text) to place on a page
  • …and so on…

The decision-making process is probably more “art” than “science,” but there are some solid ground rules to follow when creating materials. I came across an article written for the e-learning community that touches on six of these rules AND can easily apply to electronic and paper-based materials. To read the article, go to: e-Learning Coach.

Use the e-Learning Coach’s suggestions as a place to start, and allow your creativity and your sense of artistry to inform your final decisions.


Have you registered for my upcoming complimentary webinar, “Six Powerful Strategies to Create High-Impact Training?” It’s on Wednesday, June 15th from 11 am – noon Pacific Time. For details, go to Six Strategies.




Posted in Corporate Training, Design Tips, Graphic Design, Information Design, Training Materials | 2 Comments

Six Powerful Strategies to Create High-Impact Training

High-impact training not only deeply engages trainees and has them using their new knowledge and skills well beyond the confines of the training event, but it also has a positive organizational impact, including:

  • Increased profitability
  • Reduced expenses
  • Enhanced performance and productivity
  • Greater workforce retention
  • Greater employee confidence
  • Improved relationships and communication

So, what’s the secret behind creating high-impact training? It’s “high-octane” design!

High-octane design includes six core strategies:

  1. Outcomes that generate alignment while designing the training program
  2. Content that is organized, relevant, and memorable
  3. Tension that is motivating and productive
  4. Activities that engage, inform, and build skills
  5. Natural Learning Cycle that leverages how people learn
  6. Environment that fosters learning and on-the-job application

Just imagine that you design your next training program (workshop, teleclass, webinar, self-study-program, or even a presentation) with those high-octane strategies.

Just image that your training starts with clear and distinct outcomes.

And imagine that those outcomes inspire the content you include and the activities you facilitate.

And imagine that you include an optimal level of tension – actually, what I call “productive tension” – and incorporate the natural learning cycle so that the learning experience feels organic and natural to everyone.

Then imagine that the learning environment AND the workplace environment encourage and foster learning is engaging and effective, and supports the transfer of the classroom experience to the workplace.

What would be different? What becomes possible? What kind of impact will you have?

If you implement JUST ONE of the strategies, your training efforts are sure to take off. Now imagine implementing all six!

Join Paul Plamondon on June 15 from 11 am – noon (Pacific Time) for a  complimentary webinar that will give you even more insights about these six high-octane strategies for creating high-impact training and enhancing workplace productivity, profitability, and retention. For details, go to…
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Learning Happens Even When Training Doesn’t

We can’t help ourselves – learning happens no matter what. It’s a natural part of being human.

We are in a constant state of learning, changing, adapting, assimilating, experiencing, remembering, and accessing and using previously acquired information and skills. Even when we are asleep, our unconscious minds and dream states teach us something, whether or not we recall the details. Our brains, nervous systems, and entire bodies are miraculous structures that can make learning easy and automatic.

If you watch a child over time, you can see the learning that goes on. It occurs at warp speed and it goes deep. We can be shocked by what our children learn though, especially when we did not intend for them to learn something – like that “adult” word or how to manipulate situations.

As we age, the nature and focus of our learning shifts and the speed at which we learn slows. But we keep on learning.

This concept is highly relevant to the workplace. Many companies – whether small or large – do NOT provide their employees with the appropriate structures and opportunities to learn efficiently or effectively.  Just look at New Employee Orientation programs – they tend to be an avalanche of detailed rules, procedures, and processes that are intended to inform new employees, but usually just overwhelm them. The people who put together these types of “trainings,” seem to hope that some of the information will stick or, perhaps, they are trying to meet a minimum standard of notification that’s required for regulatory or compliance reasons. The truth is – that’s neither effective nor welcoming.

Sure, employees learn something, but what? That they won’t be getting very good training at this company? That the company is rule-oriented and unfriendly? That employees will need to sort through that avalanche of information to find the nuggets that are relevant to them? That their jobs are going to be boring?

See the problem? People are ALWAYS learning…even the unintended information.

What if we had a way to bring a little bit of strategy to the learning experience and tip the scales from unintentional learning to strategic learning? Logic alone says that it would be worth it.

What if companies provided training that was strategically designed to teach new information and skills instead of relying on random experiences to be the guide?

What if training programs had buy-in from managers and supervisors, who spent time with their employees before the training and after the training to help bring the new knowledge and skills to the work environment?

What if managers and supervisors brought more intention and structure to on-the-job training so that the learning experience was logical and progressed through well-designed stages instead of relying on whatever random situations occurred?

All of this is possible with instructional design. Instructional design brings intentionality, strategy, thought, and care to the learning process. It’s the thoughtful and strategic development of information, activities, materials, and other instructional tools to increase the likelihood that learning happens as close as possible to the way you’d like it to happen.

It’s what Custom Training Design does. Check us out at

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Learning and Forgetting Curves: Best Practices for Creating High-Impact, High-ROI Training

I just viewed an incredibly insightful video by Dr. Will Thalheimer, PhD, who studies,  researches, and teaches best practices in training and development, learning, and instructional design. It’s a “must see” if you have any interest in creating or facilitating training that has real impact.

Dr. Will reminds us of the importance of not only providing quality, memorable information during training, but the importance of developing activities that help learners remember that information (and the new skills that go with it) and supporting learners after the training is over. He points out that helping learners remember and supporting their post-training application are two of the biggest un-tapped opportunities for improving the impact and return on investment of workplace training programs.

Dr. Will’s message closely aligns with my design philosophy. Having done this work for over 10 years, I have found that most corporations are not interested in creating post-training support. It’s unfortunate, because learning is minimized when it’s not properly supported. Check out Dr. Will’s video for more insights.

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Don’t Load Them Up with Information

Thank you to the following site for the photo:

Have you ever been to a meeting, workshop, or seminar where you felt overwhelmed with the amount of information that was coming at you? Who hasn’t, right? After all, the standard operating procedure of our educational system in the U.S. (and many other countries) is to inundate students with as much information as possible, and hope that some of it sticks.

Neither inundation nor hope, however, are effective strategies for high-impact learning.

In the mid 1990s when I became an Operations Manager at a bank, I attended my first regional meeting for all Operations Managers. I can still sense that unnerving feeling of being overwhelmed as our Regional Manager rattled on for half the day about new procedures, new requirements, new regulations, and so on. I was definitely experiencing information overload, along with some unpleasant feelings of incompetence.

In contrast, the more experienced Operations Managers were were taking it all in. They were comprehending the information. They didn’t struggle with overload like I did. Why is that? It’s because they had prior experience and knowledge for leveraging their comprehension of the new information. I had limited prior knowledge; my “operational” muscles were still forming and they couldn’t carry the load of information that was coming at me.

Fortunately, as the months and years went on, I became more experienced and capable, and the regional meetings got easier and easier.

The tipping point for the amount of information a person can reasonably comprehend and retain is much lower than most of us expect. Think of it this way – would you want to take a sip of water from a fire hose? Sure – you might quench your thirst, but you may also drown. What good is that?

The amount of new information a person is able to process is called “cognitive load.” In simple terms, cognitive load is like a person’s ability to carry a heavy object. The person who has built up the right muscles or knows how to use leverage effectively or knows how to arrange the items to maximize balance, is naturally able to handle a larger load than others. The same is true for learning and processing new information. The audience’s prior experience with the information, ability to leverage their existing knowledge, and their ability to organize new information plays a huge role in their ability to comprehend and retain new information.

The next time you put together a presentation, training program, workshop, or any type of learning event, think about the following:

  • How much information is REALLY necessary? What content does your audience NEED to know? What content is NICE for them to know?
  • What can you cut out without losing the integrity of your message?
  • What can you do to simplify complex information – to make it more digestible or less likely they will drown in it?
  • How can you organize the information so that it flows logically and helps your audience move through it without being inundated by it?
  • How can you help your audience leverage their prior knowledge and experience so that they can relate to the new information more easily?
  • How can you include activities and exercises to help them comprehend, practice using, and retain new information?

As trainers and instructional designers, we have an obligation to help our audience have the best learning experience possible. Giving consideration to the amount and complexity of information we provide, how we organize it, how we simplify it, and how we help our audience leverage their existing knowledge all contribute to a positive learning experience.

Posted in Corporate Training, Design Tips, Sustainability | 1 Comment

What Does YOUR CEO Think about Training?

I came across a blog post summarizing a research study that addresses what CEOs think about training. I know from personal experience that WHAT a CEO thinks about training has a huge impact on HOW training is delivered inside an organization.

If you work inside an organization, you consult with organizations, or you just want to know what’s going on in organizations, it’s an insightful view. Read it at:

Your Training Department – What Your CEO Really Thinks.

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Sustaining Training

Most organizations view training as a singular event: people attend…people learn…people go back to their regular activities and, hopefully, use what they’ve learned. Rarely is there follow-up training, support, accountability, coaching, mentoring, or other activities that  sustain the training beyond the classroom. Most organizations seem to rely on hope.

This may not be a big problem when the purpose of the training is to teach core technical skills that are crucial to the trainee’s day-to-day work. In this case, the employee’s job success is directly tied to learning AND using the necessary skills, which implicitly motivates the trainee and the trainee’s manager to sustain the training.

But, it can be an enormous money- and time-wasting problem when the training is not connected to core job skills or if the training is focused on “soft” skills. (soft skills = non-technical skills that generally relate to personal attributes, attitude, communication, and emotional intelligence. For example, a technical skill is how to use computer software efficiently; a “soft skill” is how to give an employee constructive feedback.)

Sustaining training can be challenging and complicated. It requires a proactive strategy, commitment, time, and ongoing effort on the parts of the trainee and the trainee’s manager. If the manager is not invested in sustaining the training, then it probably won’t happen. But if the manager is given the proper resources and support, and is held accountable for sustaining the training by his or her supervisor, then the likelihood of sustainability increases dramatically.

The payoff for all of this effort is huge! Imagine an organization in which the employees are similarly trained and in alignment about how to interact with each other, and everything is humming along like a well-oiled machine. Employees feel satisfied, retention rates go up, turnover rates go down, and productivity goes up. That’s what will happen when effective training is properly sustained.

What does sustainability look like? Of course, it depends on a lot of factors, but here are some ways to make training sustainable:

  • Create an organizational culture that values and reinforces sustainability. This starts at the top of the organizational ladder and cascades down to all levels.
  • Provide sustainability tools that managers and employees can access and use. For example, give trainees a reference card that outlines the key parts of what they learned AND teach them how to use it while in training. Or, offer employees a self-coaching guide that they can use to do self-assessments and skill-checks while on the job. Additionally, give managers a coaching guide so that they can check-in with their employees and coach them on the skills they learned while in training.
  • Provide follow-up training opportunities. Offer mini-training sessions that focus on micro skills that will deepen the learning and create opportunities to refine the skill set that was taught during the original training.
  • Post updates on the company’s intranet, newsletter, or email distribution lists. These updates could be best practices, success tips, or additional information that reinforce the original training.

In the absence of sustainability practices and tools (and an organizational culture that values sustainability), sustaining training can be so challenging and complex that it’s usually avoided. Unfortunately, training without sustainability is a waste of time, money, and resources.

What is one thing you do in your organization to sustain training?

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