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We all should find an audience that looks at us the way Dr. Beverly Kaye’s audiences look at her. There’s no greater thrill than attending a session or presentation delivered by someone who is at the top of their craft. I love watching the audience light up when an engaging facilitator creates an environment that connects the dots.

Seek out experienced speakers, facilitators, and presenters as often as possible. It’s called being “fed.” Feeding our minds with new ideas, techniques, and approaches is the key to sustainability.  With that in mind, here are some skills I’ve learned by seeing top L & D professionals in action.

May I take your order? I’ll have some of that, please.

Stagecraft and Theatrics. There’s a scene in the Five Heartbeats when a soul singer wades into the crows and serenades a woman in the audience. He so soundly impresses her with his stagecraft, she actually passes out. While fainting participants would be a bad thing, is it wrong for our audiences to feel like they experienced something special? Or emotionally moving? When a keynote speaker brings an audience to tears or otherwise reaches them on a visceral level, messages are likelier to resonate and stick. Oh, and see them in person if possible.  An online video may not accurately capture the mood of a room. Editing, lighting, and sound all alter the video experience. There’s plenty of local talent available.

Brevity and Purpose. There’s something wonderful about a session leader who stays on message. Like a pastor who understands what time the game starts, a professional who gets their attendees interested, activated and out will be someone brought back time and time again. One of the best tips I’ve ripped off borrowed is the “If you can hear my voice, clap!” phrase. I want to say it was Lou Russell, but I can’t be sure. It’s when you need to get your attendees to refocus after a breakout activity. This phrase cuts through the noise and gets everyone back to the mission.

Technology and Resources. This is especially true for a webinar. Participate in online presentations. You’ll learn new tools and production tips to keep your session moving. Still using Goto Meeting? Maybe is easier to work as a solo presenter. Or maybe both are obsolete and Amazon Chime is the best option. What’s true for technology is doubly so with job aids. Often underappreciated, the best job aids are visually appealing and succinct. My session workbooks and leave behinds greatly benefited from seeing pros like Ruth Urban lead a workshop.

No one is suggesting we mirror the paths of Dane Cook or Carlos Mencia. We should follow our own paths and develop our own styles. It’d be foolish, however not to recognize the greats and learn from them. Like Magic to Jordan to Kobe to LeBron, each took a little from the ones that came before and created something fresh and wonderful on their own. Heck, when we see something that good, we’ve got to try it.

Our local ATD Chapter holds chapter meetings each month with a diverse and accomplished series of speakers, workshops, and events. Including renowned speakers like the aforementioned Dr. Kaye. (Full disclosure: I served on the local board of ATD for years, so I’m a little biased to the great work they do.)

What are some of the best things you’ve learned by watching another L & D professional? Leave a comment below and you’ll be entered into the monthly book raffle.


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