What I’m going to take into 2014


By Len Horridge from The Skills Exchange

Happy New Year, of course… so, another year over, as John Lennon sang. You learn a lot in a year. So, what did we learn in 2013?

Glossophobia rules
Last year was a fun one and this year is interesting as it will mean making a Father of the Bride speech for me. As somebody who stands up training 3-5 days a week, this holds no great fear (and I’ve been Best Man five times) but it’s interesting to know that this strikes fear into so many people. Glossophobia it’s called, apparently, (go on, Google it) and it is just one of those irrational fears that people have, like cotton wool, fish and semi-colons. More of which later.

It’s amazing, when we look back over 2013, what we have trained people in. Much of which are what we would call “the basics”. Analysing training needs we have skills, knowledge and attitude (as well you know) and we spend most our time training skills, mostly, but that impacts on attitude (as well you know). But it’s amazing how much attitude is really what we impact on.

Semi-colons are cool
Though last year (and into this) knowledge is coming high. One key area is “business writing”, which covers a multitude of sins but most often boils down to grammar. Grammar, such an old fashioned concept, bizarrely has an impact on attitude; once you know “the rules” you (literally) gain in confidence to write more better. (Yes, the “literally” and “more better” things are jokes. Grammar jokes. We couldn’t make them without knowing “the rules.” If you don’t, you may not find this funny.) The idea of giving people the “basics” seems to be almost forgotten now but once you get the basics you can build from there.

The basics are, erm, basic
Depends on what the basics are mind. Some basics aren’t as basic as you may think.

In business writing, for example, knowing grammar and what a sentence is, how to avoid confusing writing and how to write clearly is key to success and confidence. But clear writing isn’t what people always do; for example:

“The council’s Train To Gain programmes has been well received within the Isle of Wight council with recent pilot with leisure staff leading to the future expectation of this would be to have this project open to all departments of the council and have people directly referred through self-referral and the PDR cycle.”

Honest, that’s real stuff. Well, unreal, really. As is:

“Please browse the site to see our full range of services, we can remain customer focused and goal-directed, innovate and be an inside out organisation which facilitates sticky web-readiness transforming turnkey eyeballs to brand 24/365 paradigms with benchmark turnkey channels implementing viral e-services and dot-com action-items while we take that action item off-line and raise a red flag and remember to touch base…”

Two “simple” examples, and that is without venturing into the wonderful world of insurance jargon, so bedazzled by obfuscation (yes, it’s a word) that it’s almost an art form in itself. But (and you should never start a sentence with “but”) when people are shown what to do and how to do it, they really do take this and fly. High.

Like speech making.

The enthusiasm that somebody showed when they finally realised how to use a semi-colon was wonderful

Who likes making speeches?
People hate making speeches (“The mind is a wonderful thing, starts working the moment you are born and stops as soon as you stand up to make a speech”) almost as much as broad generalisations but most of this is in the mind. Most audiences, and the audience is really what people fear, are really willing anyone making a speech or presentation to succeed, as it would be embarrassing if they failed in front of them. They are on your side.

Structuring and delivering a speech/presentation isn’t brain surgery (only brain surgery is), but we still see some horrendous presentations/speeches (reading a slide, monotone, reading from notes, dull, too long, inappropriate jokes). Errors that are so easy to correct with a little bit of input.

And when we work with people it truly is amazing that people want to learn and take to learning so easily and quickly, once given the correct input and encouragement.

The enthusiasm that somebody showed when they finally realised how to use a semi-colon was wonderful (see we got there in the end), though it kind of saddened us that this hadn’t happened at school (well, it might have, in defence of teachers).

The glow of a newly found or remembered skill in a delegate is reward for all the “hard work” we trainers put in.

ILT is the preferred route
The ability for people to make excellent speeches without notes with a bit of training/coaching is humbling. People just have so much talent, if you look for it. And unearth it.

It shows us that complicated, high tech, high level training is sometimes not what is required. Never forget that if the basics aren’t there, they can’t be built upon.

Despite all the talk of “blended learning” (and we do have book out on Speech Making, just released!), ILT still is the learning route of choice. It’s Instructor Led Training, of course. The kick-start to real learning and application.

Training isn’t a one-off: it’s a continuous process
And every day’s a day at school. And never try to teach  pig to whistle, it wastes your time and annoys the pig.

We’ve been lucky in 2013, we’ve had no pigs. But we’ve learned loads. And we’ll keep learning in 2014. We hope you will too. Happy 2014.


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Training Design & Delivery of topics such as Customer Service, Note Taking, Business Writing, Presentation Skills, All Management/Team Leader areas, Sales, Sales Management, all tailored and run in-house for your personal requirements. Also, coaching and mentoring.

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