From Face to face to Virtual Training / Workshop Delivery

I have spoken to a number of companies recently with the following issue.  They have delivered training and workshops face to face and now being asked to deliver the materials virtually.  They are under pressure to simply place materials into a virtual delivery platform and get the job done.

I do not recommend this simplistic approach.  The danger is that without considering the delivery medium, and preparing the trainer for virtual delivery, the output will not be robust in quality.  Some suggestions, when converting and delivering:

  1. Break up virtual sessions into meaningful chunks. A typical 9:00-12:00 delivery should become: Session 1: 9:00-10:00 (then have a ten-minute break). Session 2: 10:10-11:00 etc.   If you put yourself in the shoes of the attendee, then they can only remain concentrated for a short period, so break the sessions down.
  2. For each session, plan the materials into the three D’s: Deliver, Discuss, Do.
    1. Deliver: The presenter delivers materials but ensure that this is not monologue delivery. It is hard to do continuously and is not engaging.
    2. Wherever possible, discuss. Engage attendees with discussion points; use Socratic techniques to elicit answers (What do you think is happening here?  What issues could this present?)
    3. Do. Get attendees to work together on some key learning point.  Most virtual platforms have some kind of collaboration zone, where attendees can be broken into groups to work and apply the materials to some issue.  A form of virtual flip-chart.
  3. Start on time and always end on time. Ensure that you do not have too much materials, and only enough for the time selected.  If you go over your time limit, your attendees, will start zoning out.  I use the formula of one slide equates to three minutes of delivery.
  4. Make the materials as visual as you can. Avoid death by bullet point.
  5. To assist in getting the attendee to focus on key learning points, start highlighting key lines, draw concepts using the available annotation tools.
  6. Use Video to deliver alongside any materials. Attendees may or may not use their video but use yours.  You will find this hard, if you are not use to it, but keep looking into the camera and smile.  Encourage attendees to use their video.  Some brave sole may put theirs on, and in turn others may follow.  Now when you want to ensure a learning point has been understood, you can see it in their faces, and not ask them to click unmute and say they do.  Video helps to create better engagement.

For those are delivering, some suggestions:

  1. Make sure your room is very well lit. You may need additional lighting, especially when delivering from home.
  2. Dress appropriately, depending on your audience.
  3. Make sure that the view behind you is “neutral” look to ensure that there are no distractions for the attendee. Microsoft Teams has a great blur feature that focuses on the presenter and not the background.
  4. A good headphone is worthy investment. This will ensure good audio.  Additionally, a good webcam will ensure that the picture is clear.
  5. Test all equipment out before starting. Do not log in ten minutes before.  Test the systems, the materials, the activities well in advance.
  6. Ensure you have plenty of water near to you. Keep hydrated throughout your delivery.
  7. If you are delivering from home, consider all external sounds. If your window open?  What happens when there is a delivery during delivery?
  8. If you normally use wifi, connect your machine to your internet hub using a good ethernet cable.
  9. When you start your session. A good opening is essential.   Tell them what to expect in terms of the materials and the learning points.   This is your hook.  Once hooked, now walk attendees through the system you are using so that they now the basics of how to speak, contribute to chat etc.
  10. Keep your phone on silent and preferably away from you, so that you have no distractions when delivering.

When I initially delivered virtually it was new and challenging.   It is the norm now for me, but has taken time to shape the way I deliver and develop the necessary techniques to create a successful event.

Customer Services – An Approach to Teamwork and Effective Communication

call-center-2537390_640When we consider the topic of customer services, we often think of organisations in a for profit world that are keen to impress their clients to extend their relationships.  The same ethos applies in a not for profit organization.

Often large organizations have many employees that never interact with their end “customers or clients”, but in fact deal mostly with their internal colleagues.  Whenever an individual creates an output that is used as an input by someone else, whether they are internal or external, they should be considered as a customer.

 By developing a customer centric approach, and ultimately creating a customer centric culture, the end benefits are clear.  You attain:

  • Teamwork by breaking the silo mentality
  • Communications that is enhanced by seeking feedback
  • Outputs are of value add in the eyes of our customers

A customer centric alignment focuses at the heart its customer and then everything we do is to manage the expectations of the customer.  When we make promises and then do not deliver, the customer does not forget.  A key component is on problem solving.  Consider why has the problem occurred and what can we do to prevent it from reoccurring.  This can only be achieved by working with the customer, showing you care and working with fellow colleagues to develop a customer orientated culture.

“Creating a customer orientated culture needs changes in behaviours and mind-sets.  Sweat the small things: following up on issues, being proactive, openly communicate and seek feedback.  When you add all the small things up, you develop real change.”


Making Virtual Meetings Work

I had a rare type of day recently.  I spent the entire day today in meetings today. Something I rarely do, but was able to meet people from across not only the UK but across Europe and all from the comfort of my office.  These meetings were using SKYPE and we had video on, which always helps.

We have all had conference calls where they often seem to be a waste of time, eloquently captured in:

In one organization I worked in, they created an app.  When the virtual meeting started they punched in the internal hour rate of each participant and as the meeting rolled on, it showed to all, the cost to the company of that meeting, and the meeting host would ask at the end of the meeting if the meeting had been productive.  How many meetings in your company would you class as being productive?

The reason why so many meetings do not work regardless of them being face-to-face or virtual is a lack of ground rules.  We have ground rules for all other aspects of our work, so why not for running meetings?  I came across a good quote along the lines of, “to buy a stapler we need all sorts of approvals and justifications, before purchase, yet anyone can call a meeting with no accountability, and waste a lot of company money”.  We need meeting ground rules.

There are two types of meeting that should be considered:

  1. The collaboration meeting:
    • The assumption being that everyone is going to contribute.
  2. The for information meeting:
    • The assumption being that we are there to listen, and may or may not be expected to contribution.

Let me focus on 1. the collaboration meeting and consider some ground rules.  There are many blogs and articles on managing meetings, but let me focus on a few key items:

  • Meeting duration. I always try to arrange a maximum meeting time of one hour. There will be times when longer is required, so be sensible and deliver one hour, have a small break then continue.
  • Number of attendees. If everyone is there to contribute then limit the number of attendees.  Say no more than seven.
  • Agenda.  We all know we need an Agenda and that it should be circulated ahead of time, but often I find issues:
    • Over ambition; too many points to consider and if anyone has a point to discuss it messes with the Agenda items
    • Not sticking to the Agenda.  We set out to talk about the following…., but end up talking about something completely different.
    • If the meeting length is an hour and we have a maximum of seven participants then stick to a maximum of four agenda items.
    • A great technique to use when someone goes “rogue” on the Agenda is to park the issue.  Acknowledge that it is of importance, but the meeting leader, should set the item aside to discuss at a later date.  Since the other participants came to discuss the agreed Agenda, then let’s not waste their time.
  • Time. Start and end the meeting on time.  Waiting for late arrivals is always counter productive.  If we always accommodate them, then either we master the art of speaking quicker within the remaining meeting time, or simply drop an agenda item!
  • Using tools.  More and more meetings are becoming virtual and tools over and beyond the telephone are available.  Become familiar with the technology and use the capabilities. For example, you could use a desktop conferencing tool such as Webex, SKYPE for business etc.  In this domain, we could:
    • Use the video capability – people will pay more attention to the meeting
    • Share desktops.  You could share the Agenda and then type the meeting minutes as you proceed.  This creates a visually more interactive mode of communications for participants.
    • Use the chat feature, it will add more opportunities to capture thoughts and ideas. It’s also a great way of reminding everyone to mute their mic when not talking.
    • Enhance the experience and consider using the poll features or the like / dislike option.
  • Make ground rules the norm. Telling individuals to follow rules does not work.  You need to continually tell them!
    • Share your ground rules in the meeting joining instructions.
    • When participants join the meeting show your ground rules at the start and walk them through them.
    • Stick to the ground rules.  They will make meetings more effective, if you stick to them.

Make virtual meetings work for you!



Effective Elevator Pitch

We have all seen some TV program where someone has to deliver a message to an audience to gain some investment (Dragon’s Den / Shark Tank).

Some deliveries look terrible and some are amazing but do not underestimate the art of saying a lot, in limited time; convincing and influencing others; delivering in a fluid coherent manner.

These skills are not limited to TV, but are evident day-to-day in work.  In Dan Pink’s book: “To Sell is Human – The Surprising Truth About Persuading, Convincing and Influencing Others”, he states, “People are now spending 40 percent of their time at work engaged in non-selling – persuading, influencing and convincing others that don’t involve anyone making a purchase.  We are devoting twenty-four minutes of every hour to moving others”. So convincing others, is becoming a key activity on a daily basis.

Living in a world shaped by attention span deficiency (meaning we do not have a lot of time to listen to a convincing argument) the art of saying a lot in a short time is a key skill for many to develop so here are my four steps for an effective elevator pitch.  Why an elevator pitch?  Imagine, you get into a lift with your boss, and you are going together to floor seven, which takes say three minutes.  How could you convince your boss on some position / idea you have within that short period of time?

Elevator pitchIdentify what you want to achieve

At this step, think about the bigger picture and view the problem holistically. Make sure that you identify the key messages to be delivered during your pitch.  Identify what messages you want to present and re-enforce, but equally what not to dwell on.  This requires a disciplined approach but ensures that the message remains highly focussed.

Understand your target.  Focus on solving the needs of the target audience.  Your pitch should not solve your problems alone, but should identify how you are going to solve problems from other people’s.

Consider what aspects of your pitch will interest the audience.  They all have their individual areas of interest and you need to identify how you can meet all their needs.

Be prepared.  Gather all the materials and evidence that you need to support your message.  Make sure that you do your research and come prepared.  You may need to talk to other and  can only be done in advance of the pitch to support step 1 of the process.

Practice.  Nothing prepares you for delivering an effective elevator pitch, than practicing.  The act of getting the message delivered in a short period of time is not an easy task and takes careful consideration and masterful delivery and aim to get your message across in a short period of time – aim for four minutes.  Questions and answers are additional, but the focus is not on the length of the delivery, but the quality of the message.

  • Believe in what you are saying. Maintaining authenticity will show in the delivery.  If an urgent decision is required, stress the point and explain why, but avoid continuous repetition to maintain the audience’s attention.
  • Maintain eye contact. This creates engagement and means that you avoid reading from a script.
  • The use of visual aids or a computer-based presentation may not always be possible, so the congruence between your message and your body language is important.
  • Be flexible and react to what you are listening to. If concerns are raised address them and ask if the question has been addressed.  Ensure that the discussions do not move away from the central point that you want to get across.  If this does occur, park the issue and deal with at a later stage.
  • At the end of the pitch, ask for questions and prepare for this in advance. Remember to consider the responses from the audience’s perspective.
  • Stick to the time you have set yourself and as soon as you go over this, you will lose the attention of the audience.
  • Finally thank your audience and follow-up to affirm the next steps.
  • Practising delivery is important and presenting to a mirror allows you to observe yourself in action. When you are comfortable with your delivery consider a dry run with a colleague.   They will pick up points that you have overlooked.
  • Remember that the message you want to deliver is important so nothing replaces practise and preparation to ensure that the delivery is effective.


Emotional Intelligence And The Impact On Management

Emotional Intelligence and Management

This is a talk I gave some time ago – still apt and applicable today and the subject gains more and more resonance.

In here I present some data that suggests that a measure of emotional intelligence [known as Emotional Quotient EQ] decreases with role / seniority.  It suggests that past management level, EQ falls.

I show this and get a reaction of agreement – based on what individuals have seen from their leaders.  But I really believe that the best leaders demonstrate not only exceptional strategic and business acumen, but also high levels of emotional intelligence.  At the end of the day, they only achieve success through the actions of others.  “Others” need to be motivated and inspired to create followers.  Perhaps we can use emotional intelligence to create willing followers?

Communicate Messages

Navigate Leadership – Communicating Messages chapter introduction

No matter what organization I work with (large or small, for profit or not for profit), I am often brought in to fix some organizational issue. I often discover that the real problem is invariably communication or more precisely the lack of communication, but when asked to pinpoint the cause, it is often difficult to do so.

Communication represents a large sack filled to the brim with a range of issues and includes how messages are both delivered and received, the tools used to convey a message and the context in which it occurs.

Communication is an art and science, but we often overlook that. When it does not work, it becomes one directional. When it works, it is bi-directional and rich. It connects us emotionally allowing us to complete tasks with focus, operate as a team and deliver results.

Communication is at the heart of everything we do and deliver, whether it is setting a vision, building and maintaining trust or shaping our personal brand. It influences everything that we represent and being an effective communicator is a key function that an Executive Leader must master. It is the way that we externalize (and therefore make available to others) what is going on internally for us. We need to create our own authentic and effective leadership ‘voice’.

Communication exists in a number of guises: internally and externally, horizontally and vertically, formally and informally. Effective communication requires a proactive approach to addressing challenges that exist.

ball-63527_1280In this Chapter, we identify what constitutes effective communication and how the richness of face-to-face interactions is translated and filtered through a wide variety of communication tools that we use on a day-to-day basis. Communication in its broadest sense is providing the right information and knowledge to the right person at the right time in the right way.


Workplace Communications

Alistair Coburn (2002), presented a wonderful graph that shows the effectiveness of communications versus the richness of communications.  At the top scale, the most effective and richest form of communication is face to face with a whiteboard.  At the lower end of the scale, are telephone calls and at the least rich and least effective is email.  So what tool do we use more than any other tool on a day-to-day basis?  Email I hear you shout.  According to the Radicatti Group, the number of corporate emails has grown year on year.  Where will it end?  How will social networking impact email usage?  If you take a look at what tools teenagers use, they do not use email.  They communicate using instant messaging, Facebook, Twitter.  People of my generation say that teenagers do not communicate as much as they did.  Do simply use and harness these communication tools?

If we spend so much time using emails, why don’t we get training on how to use these tools effectively?  How often does email management appear in a time management course?  It will be interesting to see how the email versus social networking race progresses over the next few years.

Innovation Through New Voices

Gary Hamel . “Strategy Innovation and the Quest for Value.”
Sloan Management Review. Vol. 39, No. 22 (1998). pp. 7–14. suggests that in order to create an environment that thinks and seeks innovation, new ways, practices and methodologies, it needs to create five preconditions in the organization:

  • New voices: Creating an environment in which all can participate and are encouraged to offer insights, ideas, challenges to the status quo.  We are not all located in the same room, leave aside the same building, so this presents a challenge to an organization operating in the virtual environment.
  • New conversations: The development of dialogue at all levels in the organization looking at the known through new lenses. Asking ourselves why and seeking leaner, practices, products and services.
  • New passions: Giving the employees a stake in their future, motivating them to contribute and rewarding them for their inputs.
  • New perspectives: Get the team to look at the known through new lenses.  Perhaps we have simply missed the blazingly obvious.
  • New experiments: We should try new approaches, and if trialled at small-scale, what do we have to lose?  It it does not work, then study the lessons learned and use them in the future.  If it works, consider scaling up.

I have always been of the opinion that real change is simply the accumulation of small change.  Perhaps we need to use Hamel’s approach to create new approaches within our teams, departments and ultimately our organizations.

Effective Communications

I have worked with numerous organizations, (large and small, for profit or not for profit) and often observe issues concerning communication or more precisely the lack of communication.  These issues occur both internally (vertically and horizontally) and externally (with key stakeholders such as suppliers and customers).

Communication represents a large sack filled to the brim with a range of issues and covers both how messages are packaged, delivered, received and interpreted.  The richest form of communication remains in the face-to-face mode, but now due to the breadth of tools available, we have at our disposal many means of communicating to individuals, and groups, regardless of the physical location.  Though a wide range of tools exists, we often neglect matching the right tool to the message (though I would argue that it should be the message to the right tool).

Communication is an art and science, that is often overlooked and frequently taken for granted. When it does not work, it becomes one directional. When it works, it is bi-directional and rich. It connects us emotionally allowing us to complete tasks with focus, operate as a team and deliver results. But this rich mode of communication takes both consideration and time, which we appear to be short off on a daily basis.

Communication is at the heart of everything we do and deliver, whether it is setting a vision, building and maintaining trust or shaping our personal brand. It influences everything that we represent and being an effective communicator is a key function that an Executive Leader must master. It is the way that we externalize (and therefore make available to others) what is going on internally for us. We need to create our own authentic and effective leadership ‘voice’.

In our Navigate – Executive Leadership Journey (2015), we address the following questions:

  • What is effective communication and how do I maintain this effectiveness through the variety of communications tools at my disposal?
  • Why do I need to communicate as an Executive Leader? Shaping communications at a high level ensures that good communication skills cascade through the organization.  Otherwise it will erode the way it behaves and operates.
  • How do we all communicate effectively and what tools can be utilized to maximize my personal effectiveness, and the effectiveness of my organization?
  • What if we are unable to shape the communications within my organization?  Poor communication can become the catalyst of many problems and issues impacting the organization and can we afford not to improve and optimize how we communicate?