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If you feel like people really connect with and act on the messages youdeliver, stop reading. This isn’t for you. If you feel that you would benefit from techniques make strong connections with your audience to inspire and make important changes, you should be exploring the techniques shared by our keynote speaker for Day 2:  Nancy Duarte, author of Resonate. LS2011 Day 2 kicked off with a keynote from Nancy Duarte presenting on the topic of resonating with your audience. The image above is sourced from a video on Duarte’s YouTube Channel . It shows how many grains of sand move in response to different noise frequencies. My colleague  Sumeet Moghe tweeted a nice summary about the link between the video the concept of resonating “when little bits of sand move together it’s beautiful. when your audience moves together it’s beautiful too“. [blockquote type=”blockquote_line” align=”left”]To succeed as a presenter, the audience must latch onto the idea, and spread it when leaving the room.[/blockquote]To succeed as a presenter, the audience must latch onto the idea, and spread it when leaving the room. This is why obessing over your audience and understanding what will resonate with them is critical to effective communication.  So much of today’s communications are both visual and centered around persuading others. Yet, few presentations actually resonate with their audience-especially with web presentations content engagement trails behind checking email.  The art of resonating is actually as old as oral culture itself. Inherently, we are storytellers. It is hard-wired into the human experience. Yet, over time, as we progressed through oral to written cultures and through the industrial age to the information age, storytelling seems to have become a lost art. Nancy has posted a wonderful video about engaging through stories. The more that engaging storytelling techniques can be infused into your presention, the more likely you can make it resonate with your audience. Use storytelling technqieus to move your presentation along the spectrum from Exhaustive Detailed Reporting toward Dramatic Storytelling. This reminds me of a maxim that was shared with me some time ago “Data proves, but stories sell“. If you look at any Presidential address over the last two decades, facts are presented, but very specific, individual stories of impact are employed to make the sale. Making an effective presentation that resonates with the audience is a critical skill in today’s world, but where is this really being taught? The art of resonating with an audience is the art of storytelling, and these are skills that can be built. Duarte shared resources and techniques: [list style=”arrow” color=”blue”]
  • Stories have a likable hero (this can be the audience) who encounters challenges, and emerges from the experience transformed in some manner. See Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey.
  • Storytelling is about creating a dynamic tension between a current state and future “bliss” state. The change must be signficant to be meaningful.
  • Stories have a beginning, middle, and end with turning points between each of these “acts”. See Freytag’s Dramatic Structure .
[/list] Duarte presented a detailed analysis of two speaches: Steve Job’s iPhone unveiling. and Dr. Martin Luthor King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream”. Nancy showed a graphical mapping of the dynamic tension between current state and “the new bliss” for each speech.  Another layer of detail for the Job’s speech showed physical reactions (clapping, laughing, cheering). King’s speech mapped specific visual language techniques used (metaphors, cultural and political references, etc.). It is in this analysis that one can truly see the science behind the storytelling.  This analysis technique can and should be applied on the construction end of a speech. Duarte’s YouTube channel has a video of the analysis of these speeches . A shortlist of takeaways from the analysis: [list style=”arrow” color=”blue”]
  • Tension is created by shifting between “what is” (current state), and “what could be” (the new bliss). Both speeches move the audience between these two contrasting states to engage the audience.
  • A “Burst/Pause” technique between with what is/could be, creates repitition of key points to solidify the message (and, as we learned Medina’s keynote from Day 1, repetition key to making it memorable).
  • Short phrases that change from what is vs what can be are generally the most quotable and memorable.content
  • Every presentation needs a STAR moment: Something They’ll Always remember.
  • Metaphor (visual words) can be more powerful than slides because the audience member can create the vision specific to his/her experience.
  • An audience must get emotionally attached to story for it to resonate. That requires real risk from the presenter to put themselves out there and show real challenges. If the audience has the same idea, and it has an attached emotion, it will be supported.
[/list] This writeup of the Duare keynote certainly won’t resonate with it’s readers as the LS2011 presentation did with the audience. I hope I have spread the word to those who could not attend: there are techniques you can learn and employ to drastically improve the impact your messages. Seek them out from the Duarte YouTube channel and the book Resonate.
2 Once you download the slides Nick Floro made available for his session on Designing for mLearning: What You Need to Know to Get Started, there isn’t really much more that I can add to the presentation except to clarify a select few items by adding just a little bit of additional context. Nobody can miss the fact that mobile is a game changer. More people own cell phones than toothbrushes. However, despite the fact that cellphones are almost universal, the development platform is not standard. The core concept of “develop once and push everywhere” presents some difficulties for mobile. Only a small portion of the market is smartphones. There are several operating systems and differences in capabilities between versions. There are also significant differences in screensize and resolution. Pixels, aspect ratio and screen orientation are some of the most simple yet challenging factors in developing an appropriate mLearning experience. One size does not fit all. For the eLearning industry (and web development in general) Flash has been an almost uncontested development platform that could address most of these challenges. But the jury is still out on Flash and translation utilities like Wallaby and what ultimately functions as expected on mobile devices. Nick did share that HTML5, Javascript, CSS3, JQuery, and Ajax are the development tools that will produce the most widely applicable functions for mobile devices. There are a wealth of resources available in Nick’s presentation such as wireframe utilities to sketch out your mobile design idea (my favorite is the  iPhone GUI PSD file at  He also mentioned

Ray Jimenez, PhD presented a case study for session 411 during the Learning Solutions conference. What he demonstrated was a very strong design which clearly integrates business objectives and job performance metrics with formal and informal development interventions.

Alerts to managers for variances in key performance metrics

The core is a performance tracking tool. Key business performance metrics that drive business results are identified and tracked (daily). Variances between target levels and actual performance levels alert managers to lagging performance areas.  Managers investigate to decide what action(s) should be taken. So, it is a support tool to focus managers on performance areas that may require their attention.

A learning plan for scheduled, assigned training

Another section of the dashboard is a Leaning and Development plan. This is used for key assigned trainings, like onboarding, or compliance and licencing training. These items can be scheduled and tracked as key learning metrics which need to be maintained in the business. As with other performance metrics, the learning metrics can be clearly understood at a glance, and trigger alerts where necessary.

Strong coaching tools to address performance variances

Another section of the dashboard is specifically dedicated to coaching interventions to respond to performance variances. For example, if a salesperson begins to lag in a specific performance metric (number of outgoing calls), the manager is able to select one or more coaching interventions to assist the employee in closing the gap. These performance-triggered interventions are tracked separately from the Learning and Development plan (which is a bit more vanilla and not specifically tied to on-the-job performance). Ray shared that the interventions available to the managers to coach their employees are: [list style=”arrow” color=”blue”]
  • Pre-defined: each performance metric tracked has a set of support materials recommended to the manager as potential resources to help address the issue
  • Searchable: in addition to formal training resources recommended to the manager, a searchable wiki houses a wealth of community-authored solutions (many times, stories and tips submitted by employees)
  • Easily deployed: any item found in a Google-like search can be bookmarked, assigned, or send the URL to the employee via email
  • Rated: a rating system evaluates the training interventions (the rating system is also utilized as a relevancy “audit” to evaluate content at a systems level)
[/list] [blockquote type=”blockquote_quotes” align=”right”]Most training is curriculum- or subject- based, but not performance-based.[/blockquote]Ray made a very clear statement about the general problem with learning designs today when he noted that most training is curriculum- or subject- based, but not performance-based. It is canned content for certain skills sets, but not optimized for responding to real time needs of learners while they are on the job. It is almost never designed as a direct remediation resource to be deployed in response to a measured performance issue.

The worlds is getting smaller, time shorter; how about training?

Jay had one slide in his presentation that looked at “Big ID” (tradtional) and Micro (instant, simple, affordable). Micro content, micro-sharing, micro-coaching, micro-analysis, micro-feedback, micro-conversations… It reminded me of Ken Blanchard’s One Minute Manager. It seems that traditional training hasn’t been right-sized for today’s business world. Despite Eliot Maise describing himself as a nanolearner, most systems don’t provide managers tools to have laser-beam focus on specific performance issues and targeted solutions to address it in an optimized fashion, quickly and efficiently. This isn’t about training; it’s about operational efficiency. Providing managers almost instant clarity on performance items and line-of-site resources to address them with no-filler, quick-hit solutions is a tremendous value to the business. Ray offers several resources on the subject, like 3 Minute Games.

The work/learning connection

There are many in the industry who have spoken out against LMS systems and traditional training designs because real learning occurs as employees perform work. Although you can attend a sales seminar or take an online course on Flash Actionscript, you really don’t know how to truly apply and refine these skills until you perform the tasks in real-world environments. Yes, experience is still the best teacher. Worse- specifically in the case of the LMS- too often the training environment is significantly disjointed from the work environment. If employees want to improve their work skills, should they have to disconnect from the natural workscapes and project spaces to “go to training” so it can be tracked, or is there some way to embed learning in the natural activity streams of work (and, if needed, track it- preferably “invisibly”)? Ray’s model seems to hold a lot of promise. There is clear alignment between performance aspects of work being the trigger for learning. And, it seems it specifically separates out the formal learning plan for necessary tracking, but also offers informal tools that can be used in workscapes or assigned and tracked where a more formal coaching arrangement is necessary.

Empowering and supporting managers

The system alerts, but does not make decisions. It empowers managers to make the right decisions by providing information and resources. I have seen systems that assume too much and auto-assign training based on business metrics. Invariably, this causes mis-assignment that a manager can more intelligently filter. A great example is when a sales representative does not hit call volume metrics because s/he worked on active contracts and closing deals that more strongly correlate to business success (actual sales dollars).  Managers can see that grey area. Systems, no matter how well they can cross reference data, cannot always get these nuances. Not only should managers be making the decisions of whether or not to intervene, they should be aware of their employees’ struggles and accept their role as the employee’s mentor. Managers often avoid aspects of the mentoring role because they are knowledgeable in the business, but not in developing people (i.e. managers promoted based on high individual contribution, not their ability to manage others). Without resources to identify problems and coach, managers lose significant and valuable time on these tasks, and may elect to work on management tasks they feel are more immediately relevant and achievable. A metrics-performance-learning driven system provides managers with initial information to focus their attention for further investigation, and provides resources for quick resolution if an intervention is required.

What one idea can you apply?

At the end of his session, Ray asked “what one idea can you apply?”  Certainly, his system took the coordination of many teams: business operations, IT, and training. Many of us won’t the opportunity, time, or resources to develop a system that is this interconnected. However, I left with a few take aways that perhaps would help in using components of this design for your business: [list style=”arrow” color=”blue”]
  • Can you identify the key operational performance metrics defined and tracked for your business (I assure you, they exist)? Can you gain access to the reporting system or an exported data feed?
  • Can alerts for variances against target levels be created (or alternatively- can you create a simple spreadsheet template and instructions for managers to plug in numbers to highlight variances as a decision support tool)?
  • Can you develop appropriate “response training” resources (short, focused, accessible, deployable) to address gaps for each of the key performance metrics?
  • Can a “coaching system” be set up so managers can find and assign resources most appropriate to assist their employees in addressing performance gaps (if not systemically, maybe a spreadsheet or webpage showing the map of developed resources for each of the performance areas, or keywords to use in searches)?
  • Can you leverage community-based authoring tools like a wiki, and rating tools (or “like” buttons) to create a wealth of resources “from the field”? (Ray’s shared stories about how simple tips shared by employees became some of the most powerful tools managers could use: i.e.  ‘this is how I blew this sale’ or ‘100% of my clients said they would show to the meeting, but only 50% did’)
[/list] It was a great case study to walk through to show how far learning systems design can go to stop being a support process for the business to being a central part of the measured business performance results.

After presenting my session at Learning Solutions 2011, I attended “Creating Engaging Learning Designs” with Joseph Fournier of Amerigroup. Most of his presentation was fairly straightforward advice that we all should be following already: [list style=”arrow” color=”blue”]
  • Close the distance between the instructor and the learner.
  • Get learners involved early and often.
  • Focus on true needs of the learner.
  • Keep it short and sweet (I loved his discussion on this topic: “and that’s all I am going to say about that”).
[/list] [blockquote type=”blockquote_quotes” align=”right”]Change the conversation. We aren’t a cost center. We are a collaborative business partner.[/blockquote]Most of the presentation were tips such as these that most of us have learned, but often lose sight of during the flurry of activity in our work. It serves as a good reminder. Joe did say something that resonated with me, and I hope every learning and development professional in the industry. We need to change the conversation. We aren’t a cost center. We are a collaborative business partner.  I believe many in the industry agree, but are not acting on it nor are they engaging in changing the dialog.

Pay attention to the in-between spaces

Another keen insight Joe offered was to pay attention to the in-between spaces which is where learning happens. There are many in-between spaces in learning design. Scaffolding. Conceptual to application. Transfer of learning to the workplace (if you separate the environments instead of embed the work as learning and learning as work). Transfer support is often missed in design. Business process improvement often yields improvement by focusing on the whitespace between processes. Joe’s advice applies this same concept in a learning context for improved learning designs.

Take-away: Simple, adaptable analysis matrix

The last take-away from Joe’s presentation for me was a simple matrix that can be adapt for many uses. Joe uses a 5 Opportunities Framework (shown in the diagram at the top of this post). These are ways the learner can progress through different stages of learning from initially engaging in content to constructing understanding to mastery, refining, and sharing. Then, Joe plots his learning model into on axis of a matrix, and places specific learner properties into the other matrix. For example, he plots his learning model against learners according to the Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument (HBDI) quadrants as shown below: Joe noted how the matrix could use different criteria such as job role, tenure, or other learner demographics that would effectively categorize learners. You don’t have to buy into Joe’s 5 Opportunities Learning model or his use of the HBDI quadrants to see the value of this tool. You can substitute your own learning model-or any key learning success criteria you need to track-into the matrix. For the other matrix, select any categorization schema for learners that would help guide your development. (or did I take Medina’s advice of ‘have learners start improvising off of learning’ too far and completely corrupt what Joe was intending here?) The reason this tool was such a good take-away for me is that I too often see silo-type thinking with training designs. Designers focus on a training design for group A, and follow that design through. Then, they use that baseline and attempt to tweak it for Group B, then C…  The process is inefficient and generally only one group gets it’s core needs addressed. All subsequent development only perform tweaks to the first development offered as a compromise, which only partially fulfills the needs of the other groups. This tool is effective because it is simple to use and can be extended to incorporate your own learning models and learner categories for your analysis purposes.

This tweet from Brent Schlenker of the Elearning Guild is the best summary of the opening keynote for the Learning Solutions 2011 Conference by Dr. Medina. This will be a long blog (blong). After seeing the stream of tweets on the keynote and some live blogs, I felt it would be difficult for anyone who wasn’t at the presentation to connect the dots. The amount of material covered and insights were astounding, as was the presenter himself. I am only certain of two things: [list style=”arrow” color=”blue”]
  • All of us who witnessed his presentation won’t forget it (and he’d be first to tell you that this is a tremendous feat)
  • This blog will attempt to give some detail and context of his keynote, but will hardly do it justice. Take the opportunity to engage in the content he provides (there is much posted online). If you ever have the opportunity to see him speak; take it. He is as engaging and entertaining as he is intelligent and insightful. You will never have so much fun learning so much (okay, maybe Thiagi…)

A little about Dr. John Medina

Dr. Medina is the author of Brain Rules and other books, and contributor to He has forgotten more about how the brain works than most of us could hope to learn in a lifetime. Dr. Medina opened by stating that he was asked to present how brain activity was relevant to elearning, and as far as he could tell only memory and wiring would relate to our field.

First, let’s debunk common brain myths

Dr. Medina noted that our brains are truly designed to solve problems related to surviving while moving.  He quickly dispelled the many prevalent myths about the brain. We don’t use a small percentage of our brain; we use 60-80% of it. That left/right brain stuff? Toss that too. Memory, as it turns out, is not a “unitary phenomenon”. There are 30-40 gadgets of memory in the brain that work together, and it is the cross talk that makes them work.

Learning is mostly about forgetting

[blockquote type=”blockquote_line” align=”left”]Human Learning is actually controlled forgetting[/blockquote] The key point is that memory not fixed at moment of learning. It is repetition that provides the fixture. Thus, human learning is actually controlled forgetting. (This gave me extreme validation. My presentation immediately followed this keynote, which freaked me out, but this insight strongly supported one of my key points which referenced the work of Hermann Ebbinghaus)

How short term memory really works

Dr. Medina illustrated the process. He started with declarative memory, something you can declare. This is a basic fact like “the car is red”, “this is the letter A”, or “the phone is on the table”. Here’s what is known about declarative memory: If your brain decides to, it can hold 7 pieces of declarative information for 30 seconds, or it will go away. This IQ independent. (of course, Dr. Medina repeated the message less than 30 seconds later) If the information is repeated within 30 seconds, it goes to the working memory and the rules change. Now you can hold onto this new information for about 2 hours. There are some profound implications for learning design based on these scientific observations. [list style=”arrow” color=”blue”]
  • Start with something interesting so the brain decides it is of value.
  • Load balance for 7 or less pieces of declarative information to be repeated within 30 seconds or it is likely to be forgotten.
  • Even if it makes it into working memory at that point, the information needs to be repeated within two hours or it is likely to be forgotten.
[/list] Dr. Medina made an observation directly related to education. Because of how subjects are typically presented, homework is not review. Homework is actually new learning based on the fact that the content learned earlier is long gone. Long term memory takes a decade to encode [blockquote type=”blockquote_line” align=”right”]It takes a decade to make a memory permanent without corruption in retrieval.[/blockquote] More shocking than these insights was what Dr. Medina shared regarding long term memory. It takes a decade to make a memory permanent without corruption in retrieval. The process is called systems consolidation.  Basically, a memory moves from the hippocampus to the outer surface of the brain (cortex) and back to the hippocampus to be re-routed to another part of the brain for about a decade until it settles into a final “permanent write” place in the outer cortex. This pong game lasts about a decade until the memory finds its permanent home. Thus, when an individual graduates high school, only the memories and learnings from 3rd grade have been systems consolidated- written to long term memory without corruption in retrieval. Here is a great YouTube video of Dr. Medina explaining systems consolidation.

Alternative training design following Brain Rules: Booster Shot Learning

Dr. Medina showed alternative training designs that follow brain rules. This Booster Shot method repeats information at intervals based on what is known to support remembering. Instead of an hour of Subject 1, followed by an hour of Subject 2, then Subject 3, each hour of instruction would cover multiple subjects and repeat and reinforce them throughout the day. At a macro level, subsequent years in school would repeat and reinforce learnings from previous years to support systems consolidation.

All brains are different

After leading us through the workings of memory, Dr. Medina showed us how brain types vary widely. Showed. He shared specific brain mappings that surgeons perform. These maps chart where memories and skills (i.e. language skills) are stored for each individual to help surgeons determine a path to perform the surgery with the minimum adverse impact to the patient. [blockquote type=”blockquote_quotes” align=”right”]What is obvious to you may only be obvious to you[/blockquote]No two are alike or work identically. We could see in these mappings how the same linguistic skills were encoded to different locations and patterns on each patient’s brain. The highly tweeted quote capturing how different each brain is was Dr. Medina’s statement “What is obvious to you may only be obvious to you”. Dr. Medina also spoke of two types of intelligence. Crystallized intelligence which is concerned with fact, and fluid intelligence, which is an individual’s ability to improvise once something is learned. The implication of this on training design is to have learners improvise from what they learn. I equate this to moving from recall, sequencing and other lower-level Bloom’s skills to higher order application and synthesis skills.

Theory of Mind: The ability to connect with others

Dr. Medina concluded his presentation discussing theory of mind. This is an individual’s ability to peer inside someone’s head and understand reward & punishment system there. Women are twice as good at it as men, and autistic people have impaired ability in this area. It is related to empathy and being able to understand and relate to other people. There is a test that can measure ability in this area, an Interpersonal Reactivity Index (IRI) Test. He noted how this ability could be a key indicator for effective teachers. Technology may allow us to measure it effectively to find and keep teachers and mentors who will not not only be selected for their expertise in a subject, but their ability to have insight into their students. Today we live in a world with ever-increasing ability to connect with others. The capabilities of social media allow us to reach and connect with individuals in a manner that was not previously conceivable. Theory of mind, the ability to gain insight into those we interact with, would be a key success factor for any individual. However, it is easy to understand why Dr. Medina would present this as a key skill to be evaluated for this audience of professionals who have committed themselves to the development of others.

In preparation for the Learning Solutions Conference and the launch of my colleague’s Internet Security Awareness Training business, the site will be going through a significant redevelopment in the next few weeks. This upgrade will better serve our short term needs coming up as well as longer term planned actions for Business Critical Learning. Stay tuned for: [list style=”arrow” color=”blue”]
  • A video showing a simple technique to take one good assessment question and extend it to multiple options to create deep question banks (releasing at LS11)
  • Liveblogging from Learning Solutions 2011 (here, but also twitter hashtag #LS2011)
  • The astounding video introducing Internet Security Awareness Training along with the background on this project which uses SCORMCloud
  • A review of Clark Quinn’s “Designing mLearning” (from all my experiences learning from Clark, I know it will be awesome, I just have to read to know exactly why)
  • More on Interzoic’s Accord LMS (Chris Wylie has offered me an advanced tour of some features coming up- he has some great functionality being added to extend this very capable platform)
[/list] Back soon in time to blog for LS11 and offer it in both traditional web and mobile formats.