Thursday, 8 February 2018

The Secret to Memorizing Anything

Working in the field of Training and Development I meet A LOT of workshop participants. Meeting all these new people is one of the best parts of my job, but when I just started out running training workshops I had serious trouble remembering the participants names...   

I believe calling someone by their name is a simple way to make them feel recognized so I quickly resolved the problem. 

By using name tents. 

It didn't take long before I knew this was a big mistake. It just didn't fee right. I felt like a fraud calling out someones name right after I secretly peeked at their name tent.   

Dale Carnegie once said, “A person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” so I knew I had to find a way to remember people’s names if I wanted to truly connect with them.
I started using the same formula that I use in my workshop design to help people retain more from their training course.

It's called Spaced Repetition.

It is a learning technique that is highly effective because it deliberately hacks the way our brain works. It produces long-term, durable retention of knowledge and in my experience, once people start using it, they swear by it.
Spaced repetition states that in order to keep the new information in your head for a longer time, you need to try and put it into your long-term memory instead of in your short-term memory.
You can do this by extending and spreading out the memorization period.

How did this help me memorize people's names?
Here are the seven Spaced Repetition Techniques I nowadays use to improve my ability to connect with my adult learners and remember their names:

1. Meet & Greet. When someone first introduces themselves to me, I greet them by name, and repeat it immediately: “Welcome, Jeff!”

2. Use it. Next, I use their name in a sentence as soon as I can: “Jeff, there’s coffee at the back table. Feel free to help yourself.”

3. Repeat it. I take a moment and introduce the new person to someone else in the training room: “Jeff, I’d like you to meet Susan. She works in Finance too”

4. Picture it. Starting a conversation and learning about a new participant allows me to associate their name with one of the tidbits I’ve learned about them. I typically ask what they like to get out of the workshop, information about their family, etc. This way I can associate them with that information (e.g. Jeff wants to learn how to communicate more assertively and has two young kids).

5. Make it Stick. I like to rewrite their first name on my class list when I review it, rather than just check it off. I also write down tips for pronunciation that might help me recall their name correctly.

6. Associate it. On the first day of training, I like to take a 'mental picture' of everyone. At the end of the day, I’ll have more information about everyone, so remembering what they look like allows me to make associations with their image. This also helps me to remember more about them for upcoming training days.

7. Visualize it. If I have a group of learners that don’t know each other, I like to use a quick and simple name game that can break the ice and help me remember. 

I challenge you to use these 7 steps next time you wish to remember something and experience how it can benefit your memory. 
Just think of memorizing something as being kind of like building a brick wall; if you stack the bricks up too quickly without letting the mortar between each layer solidify, you're not going to end up with a very good wall. 
Spacing your learning however allows that 'mental mortar' to dry
Would you like to learn more about how we 'build' our spaced learning training programs? Have a look at our website 

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Training Managers for Mental Health Conversations

Last week I visited a new coffee place in the city. As I walked in, there was nobody behind the till. A young man in his twenties was making coffees for two business men and told me he'd be with me as soon as possible. 

Then suddenly another employee appeared from the kitchen. 

Her eyes red from crying. 
Desperately biting her lip in an attempt to keep a straight face.

She jumped behind the till and asked me for my coffee order without making eye-contact.   

I asked her if she was OK. 
She said she was fine. 

I said I had trouble believing her. 
She said she was just trying to keep it together.

I asked her if there was anything I could do for her. 
She said she just wanted to get some air.

So after her young male colleague agreed to take over, we stepped outside together. She told me she didn't want anybody to find out she was suffering from anxiety. This job was very important to her. When I asked her why she didn't talk to her manager, she reassured me that that was absolutely no option. She didn't want to be labeled as 'crazy'... 

When I later walked back to my car with a cold coffee and a heavy heart, I couldn't help but feeling how terribly unfortunate it is that so little time and resources are dedicated to assist managers to work more effectively with people with mental illnesses. 

Research shows that up to 50% (!) of employees with a mental health problem will not disclose it to their manager. Yet, to manage efficiently, managers need to know what is going on their teams. They also need to know how to handle a mental health conversation without making things worse. 
Surprisingly very few managers have the knowledge and skills to know how to deal with mental health issues. In fact, fewer than 20% of Managers in Western Australia have had mental health training. 
I believe all Managers require training (and practice experience) to work effectively with mentally ill people. And such training must cover three main areas: 

- Understanding mental illness;
- Identifying those with mental illness who may be in crisis and;
- Communicating and interacting with them in a non-violent way to reduce their distress and de-escalate them.
But most importantly, the training needs to involve opportunities to develop and practice communication and de-escalation skills.
Ultimately employers and business owners need to communicate and educate constantly on mental health and well being and look for ways to open up the discussion and normalize such conversations. It is only by doing this they will see measurable improvements in health and happiness at work. 

I can only hope this culture of wellness is just a few coffees away for the girl in the coffee shop...

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Role Play as the Ultimate Sales Training Tool

In any business organization, sales is the department that generates revenue. No matter how good your operation is, how cutting-edge your technology is or how forward-thinking your management techniques are, you must still have a sales mechanism in place, or everything else is useless.

Therefor one of the biggest challenges for organizations is helping their sales staff execute in the field what they've learned in theory in the training room. 

I learned this the hard way myself. 

When I was 22 years old I just started my first sales job as a Recruitment Consultant. A week earlier I finished up a 3 day in-house sales training course and that day I found myself across the table from the CEO of a Transport & Storage business. 

The conversation went like this:

Me: Thank you for the appointment. 

Client: Well, I'm not too happy with my current temp agency so I'm interested to learn how you can help me.

Me: Ok. Uhhm.. I guess I can start with telling you about our fees. We are known to have very competitive prices. (nervous laugh)  

Client: That won't be necessary. I don't care about the fees. I want to know how your service is better then your competitors.

Me: Our service? Well...It's really good... 

Client: (Sitting back and crossing his arms. Looking at me intensely.) Is it? And what exactly is really good about it? 

Me: I don't know exactly to be honest. You see...I just started this job two weeks ago... But all our clients seem very happy. (award silence) 

Needless to say this man didn't become a client. And I was absolutely gutted. What went wrong? I had just had a sales training 5 days ago!!

It wasn't until years later that I realized that it is easy to discuss sales techniques in a training workshop. But it is in the field, when the lights are the brightest and the pressure is on, that critical sales capabilities like asking the right questions, listening to the answer closely and being able to project confidence, conviction and interest must be demonstrated. 

Today I dare say that role play with professional actors is the ultimate sales training tool. Research shows that people learn up to 60% more (!) in a training workshop that simulates these real experiences. And Sales teams that continually engage in role playing are more likely to outperform their non-role-playing competitors. 

At InterACT WA, it is therefor our goal to make sure all our training participants receive a proper role play based sales training so they will almost never be presented with a question, concern or objection from a client that they haven't already received in their training. 

In other words: they will start the race running. 

They will come out of their training making more money for themselves and their company and they'll likely enjoy their job a lot more.

Is this difficult to achieve? 

Yes. Off course it is. 

Which is why people in the sales industry bemoan the idea of role play based sales training. But the challenge is worth it. And the results speak for themselves. And in a time of economic struggle and hardship businesses and sales professionals need every possible advantage. 

Role play, without a doubt, is that advantage. 

If only I had known at 22...

Want to know more about our corporate role players or simulation based sales training? 
Contact us here.

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Storytelling in 3 simple steps

Read these three words:

Child. Rope. Rain. 

What happened in your mind when you read them? 

Did you see a child playing jump rope in the rain? 
Or did you see a child hiding outside, afraid to get a beating? 
Or perhaps something else...? 

Whatever you saw depends on your childhood, your personal nature and your current state of mind. But no matter what you saw, chances are extremely high that the beginning of a story was starting to form in your mind. 

In fact, you'd have to work really hard to NOT to create a story. That's because our brains are wired for stories. And not only that... We are constantly looking for coherence between bits of information. Nothing is just the way it is. Nothing is just: child, rope, rain. Everything is a story with meaning. Even when we sleep, our brains continue to fabricate the most amazing stories. 

The art of storytelling is very old and at the same time very new. More and more organisations start to understand the importance of embracing storytelling as a communication tool. Why? Because storytelling does something not many other things can do: it connects people at a deeper level. 

We all know great leaders are often great storytellers. They know how to change their message into a narrative and are able to truly connect with large groups of people. Their stories are engagement and teaching tools. And the best thing is: everyone can learn how to do this. 

Starting with these simple three 3 steps:

Step 1. Preparation, preparation, preparation

Some people seem to naturally master the art of storytelling. On every occasion they have a great, inspirational or funny story to tell. How do they do this? Writer Mark Twain once described it very strikingly: "A good improvised speech takes me about three weeks to prepare."

Storytellers have spent a lot of time building a 'database' of inspirational stories. Success stories, failures, challenges, team building stories, stories about love, friendship, sadness and consolation ... It takes time to prepare and think about these stories, but the reward is inspiring leadership.

Step 2. Live your story

The foundation of a good story is authenticity. A story does not need to be told, if it's true. If the storyteller does not include his audience in the story, because he's too busy recalling his next line and saying all the right words, he looses the connection. If he does not experience the story himself whilst sharing it, how can he ever expect his audience to connect with his message?

If the heart is connected, the structure becomes irrelevant. Rely on the power of your own story and give your audience the opportunity to imagine and understand it. 

Step 3. From conscious incompetence to unconscious competence

Storytelling is learning through living. If you want to develop your corporate storytelling skills you need to find the connection between your own story and the business of your work. By telling about the emotions of your own experiences, you can inspire, convince, comfort or reassure people. Practice linking these personal experiences to relevant topics within your organization.

In this storytelling learning process, you will go through the cycle of conscious incompetence to unconscious competence. Meaning: By 'doing it' over and over again, you will eventually make storytelling a second nature. At some point you will not even realize that you are telling a story. And neither will you listeners.

Want to learn more? 
Our 1 day storytelling workshop is the perfect step to enhance your storytelling competencies. This highly interactive workshop involves people in the content and enables them to play an active role in the story of your product, your service or your organisation. This workshop is provided by InterACT and Working Life Consultants. Contact us here for a quick quote.   

This is what our participants have to say: 

"The structure, open interaction and exercises are challenging and thoughtful - GREAT learnings!" 
David Izzard- SMS Rental

"This is a really interactive course providing a lot of learning by doing. Trainer and role play actor compliment each other really well."  
Rupen Kotecha - WA Leaders

"Thanks for the honest feedback. Great mix of interaction and theory." 
Marco Bense - Sandover Pinder

"I gained a great deal and this was truly out of my comfort zone..which is GOOD!" 
Heather Wallace - Nomad Creative

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Assessing Job Applicants using Actors

Nearly two third of major companies in Australia solely use psycho-metrics in the hiring process as an indicator or candidate competency. But more HR professionals and corporate recruiters are coming up with different ways to assess job applicants and get the best people on board. Using professional role play actors for role play interviews has recently been a famous choice to choose candidates in the field of Sales, Marketing, Management and Service. 

It turns out to be a quick, effective and revealing way of testing candidates on their suitability for a specific position. This is not only because the scenarios reflect common work situations, but also because it allows a candidate to demonstrate their ability to perform under pressure. 

While competencies may also be tested within a competency based interview, it is necessary that job applicants demonstrate them throughout the recruitment process, or you could suspect that they are merely saying that they have them, rather than actually possessing them. Knowing that the average cost of a bad hiring decision can equal 30% of the individuals first year potential earnings according to the Australian Department of Employment, you want to make sure you make the right decision.   

Role play actors are a great partner in business because they can truly test how candidates might approach difficult situations that frequently occur in the business world. Actors use their professional acting skills to create a reality that is as close to real life as it gets.   

How does it work? 

The interviewee will have several minutes to prepare for the role play simulation after being given a short brief of the scenario at hand, which will often mirror something that could occur in the job that they are applying for.

The professional role play actor will act the part of a member of the public, colleague or customer, whilst the interviewer will watch and take notes/assess. The situation will often involve some sort of controversy or conflict or dissatisfaction on the opposition's part, and require negotiating and reasoning as well as customer service or leadership skills from the interviewee.
Example scenarios might include:
  • Dealing with a customer complaint 
  • Handling an ineffective team member 
  • Selling a service or product  
  • Explaining or presenting something  
The role play actor will simulate several situations during the role play where the candidate is invited to demonstrate the competencies required for the job. The actor will make it difficult, but never impossible. 

After the exercise, the job candidate will typically be scored by the interviewer and by the actor who will give objective feedback in relation to the verbal, non verbal and paralinguistic communication. This feedback is often considered as incredibly valuable by the interviewee because they can use it to continue their own personal development.   

Would you like to know InterACT can help your organisation increase the chance of hiring the right candidate? Contact us here for a quick quote.