Thursday, 1 November 2018

Calling yourself a Communication Trainer doesn't make you one.

Beware! Here comes a rant…

Last week I attended a seminar and got introduced to a Team Manager from a big bank. When he asked me about my profession, I told him about my work as a Communication Trainer. He scoffed and said he was a Communication Trainer too. 
He recently started running workshops with his team members to improve soft skills.  

This will be interesting, I thought. So I asked him what his background was with Communication Training and Workshop Design. 

"None" he replied.

"None?..." I replied in shock and horror.

"No." he said "Anyone can be a Communication Trainer, right?" 

Needless to say I died a little bit inside...

It seems like everyone is a trainer these days. 
Except that, they're not. 

What it means to be a Communication Trainer

I am not a Communication Trainer just because I say I am. 
And just because you ran a few communication workshops doesn’t mean you are trainer. It just means you lived through an experience, which is valid but doesn’t make you a trainer.

Being a Communication Trainer means you've studied your field. That you’ve spent thousands of hours mastering your craft before even calling yourself a trainer. It means you’ve done the work.

A Communication Trainer is an expert in the ways of transferring knowledge to others. A professional who knows how to make people apply those new communication skills in the workplace.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying the Team Leader can not help his team communicate better. I just wish that he would be more careful how he positioned himself. 
Maybe he should stop calling himself a Trainer and start seeing himself as a Student.

Now I know that there are many firms out there that use their front line people to ‘train’ their staff in communication skills. But when you are not an experienced, skilled trainer it is natural to make some dangerous mistakes. 

For example: 

There are no learning objectives in place so the workshop is not designed around achieving those objectives. Without them, it's like trying to hit a bull's eye blindfolded. 

or another common mistake:  

Packing the students with as much information as possible in as little time as possible. In other words, give a lecture, show power point slides and challenge participants to talk and think.  

I like to call this the information dump. Sort of like drinking from a high power sprinkler while lying on your back in the neighbour’s yard. 

There is a lot of water flying around, but how much do you get to drink?
A trainer understands how to relay facts and figures about Communication in such a way that the audience will listen, learn and most importantly: apply. 

They know how to entertain, engage and translate facts into relatable stories and impact full learning experiences.

So next time you call yourself a trainer... Please, think again.

Rant over. ;)

Saturday, 20 October 2018

How Scenario Based Training can help you build a Better Business

At InterACT we love to use Scenario Based Training to engage people in learning. This approach is founded on theater methods pioneered by Augusto Boal in the early 1970’s. 

Although drama is widely used in business training, we often hear it is still a concept unknown to many. 

So what is it? How does it work? And how can you benefit from it?

What is Scenario Based Training (SBT)?

Firstly, there is a common misconception that SBT is ‘role play’ or a way of teaching ‘acting techniques’ for business. Whilst these are elements that can be built into a SBT session or form the basis for some follow-on work, they are not what SBT is fundamentally all about.

Scenario Based Training is an experiential change management tool. It helps identify, challenge and change behavior in the workplace. Using the expertise of professional actors SBT brings complex business issues, processes and practices to life in accessible scripted scenarios.

SBT is about learning through experience. It is about creating an energetic, safe environment that engages with staff, encourages participation and a mindset that will be open to the possibility of change and growth. It uses the skill set of talented facilitators and professional actors to motivate and empower employees. This allows them to embrace change and play a positive part in the improvement of overall customer and employee experience.

How does SBT work?

Firstly the desired learning outcomes need to be identified. Then scripted scenarios are written to highlight the key areas for development. Combined with bespoke drama development techniques and traditional training methods these scenarios, presented by the actors demonstrate the identified issues and stimulate debate around the fundamental questions:

  • What is it like to work here?
  • Are we happy with this way of working?
  • Does it fit with our vision and values?
  • How can we do things better?

Skilled facilitation in a fun learning environment encourages participation. It motivates delegates to take ownership and suggest effective solutions to problems themselves. SBT enables them to practice new behaviors and experience how these changes would benefit them and the organisation. As well as how to embed identified learning objectives into every day practice.

Positive Impact

How to benefit from Scenario Based Training? There are several reasons how Scenario Based Training can impact positively on staff morale and contribute to continuous employee improvement in the workplace.

Firstly. It’s unique. Unlike standard traditional training, Scenario Based Training offers a completely unique approach. An approach that is powerful, relevant, different and fun.
But perhaps the biggest impact of SBT comes from the opportunity to observe recognizable workplace scenarios from a 3rd party perspective. This encourages exploring alternative approaches by directing the actors to change their behaviors in a way that influences the outcomes of the scenario. Delegates can look at challenging issues in a safe environment where it’s OK to get it wrong. 

When actors play out scripted scenarios peppered with humor to demonstrate issues, it brings real situations to life. It is a strong, interactive and informative method of highlighting key issues and stimulating debate. As a result, it enables staff to fully understand and implement what they have learnt. Real scenes that people can relate to are a lot more memorable than a PowerPoint presentation.

And last but not least, it improves motivation and confidence. The combination of techniques used in Scenario Based Training appeal to all learning styles. The use of drama and the interactive way training is delivered make it an effective way of engaging delegates improving motivation and confidence in the workplace.

So now that we've answered the question ‘What is Scenario Based Training?’ and covered the reasons why it can benefit your business, do you think your corporate training program could do with a refresh? 

Would you like further information about how InterACT's Scenario Based Training can inspire staff, improve efficiency and deliver results? 

Please contact us at You might also like to read about some organisations who have had success from SBT

Sunday, 14 October 2018

How to root out workplace harassment.

We all know it. Employees have a right to work in a workplace free from discrimination and harassment. And as an employer, you have a legal responsibility to ensure that these rights are met. 

So many business try to do the right thing and run frequent workshops that provide up-to-date knowledge regarding legal and duty of care obligations. But based on recent headlines, these training programs might not be working, and employers should perhaps try more innovative approaches. 

Recent research suggest that the best way to prevent sexual harassment, bullying and other toxic workplace behavior is not by proving staff with more knowledge, but to train them in how to stand up for their abused colleagues when they witness incidents. Also know as Bystander Training. 

One reason why encouraging intervention makes good sense is that some 70 percent (!) of employees have observed harassment in the workplace. 
While the concept of encouraging employees to report harassment is not new, bystander training achieves additional goals that may positively shift workplace culture:

  • It provides employees with strategies for intervening in/responding to observed workplace misconduct.
  • It allows employees to practice in simulated scenarios with role play actors to increase confidence and improved communication skills.
  • It reinforces to employees that, if they don't feel comfortable stepping into active situations, they can "intervene" by reporting misbehaviors through different channels.

Additionally, Bystander Training can serve as a powerful deterrent. Potential harassers, even those in high-level posts, will know observing "bystanders" are watching.
Finally, bystander training helps create a culture of shared responsibility and purpose, in addition to boosting workplace morale. 
There is a strong case for incorporating some form of it into existing training programs and there is really no downside to equipping employees with intervention tips to address harassment.

Would you like to know more about our roleplay based Bystander Training Program? Call 0487693349 or visit our website

Tuesday, 7 August 2018

The 1 critical element missing from Leadership Training

When I was 28, I was beside myself with excitement when I learned I was being promoted to my first Account Management position. It was everything I had worked hard for, and I was determined to be the best Account Manager possible. My company's leadership training program addressed many critical elements, like understanding my new role and what my responsibilities would include, communicating expectations clearly and delegating responsibilities. 
However, my training didn't include any learnings on how to deal with conflict and with resistance. It turned out to be the critical missing element, leaving me unprepared for a challenge I would soon face...
In my early days in the new position everything went well, and I was thrilled to see my clients and account team members respond to my actions. However, the honeymoon ended quickly when one of my biggest clients started arguing with me in a crucial meeting and was causing conflict about a contractual error. 
I was so confused. I did not know how to deal with the situation, and it escalated with my client leaving the meeting and myself on the verge of tears.

The reality of conflict
According to a global study an overwhelming majority of employees at all levels (85 percent) experience conflict to some degree. The research also found that employees spent more than 2.8 hours per week involved with conflict. (!) 
This is an enormous financial cost to organizations whose managers lack training in dealing with conflict and those companies who understand the value of training on conflict resolution have a competitive advantage. An advantage I didn't have at 28 years old.

Tips for managing conflict in the workplace
Conflict in the workplace is a given. Bring people together, and you will find differences of opinion, perspectives, and personalities. And to manage conflict, you need to understand your own response to the objection, or person's behavior, or situation. You need to learn how to diagnose a situation and drive it to resolution and, how to manage the conflict and turn it around.
Sound impossible? It's not. Here are a few tips for dealing with conflict:
1. Use empathy statements to show you hear them.
2. Drop your agenda and go into open question mode. (Who? Why? What? When? How?) 
3. Overwhelmed? Suggest taking a break, before resuming. 
4. Ask the person how they feel about your solution.
Need more help?
Our 'Conflict Resolution' and 'Dealing with Difficult Conversations' workshops offer hands on practical advice and scenario based practice opportunities to help manage diverse personalities, conflict, and challenging conversations.

And my client? After developing my own conflict resolution skills I was able to reconnect and rebuild the relationship. We managed to clear the air and get issues out of the way effectively. Twelve months later they placed their biggest order ever. 

Wednesday, 25 July 2018

Presenter, Facilitator, Trainer or Experiential Trainer?

In recent years I have come to notice that many businesses don’t know the difference between a presenter, a facilitator, a trainer or experiential trainer.
In fact, many still consider a training room to be an extension of a school classroom. 
This is the same as believing that a team-leader, a supervisor and a manager all do the same thing...

So to clarify: Who's who? 

A facilitator is a person who makes the learning process easier. They often help a group of trainees to understand their common learning objectives and assist them to plan how to achieve these objectives. In doing so, the facilitator remains "neutral", meaning he/she does not take a particular position in the discussion. Facilitators don't necessarily need to have formal education in adult learning. 

A presenter is someone who performs a speech or presentation to a live audience, with less interaction with the learners. They are often subject experts and their (sometimes Power Point) presentation is deliberately structured with three general purposes: to inform, to persuade, to inspire and to entertain.

A trainer is able to design and provide training to fill gaps in knowledge that are identified and agreed on. Trainers focus on the foundations of adult education: establish existing knowledge, build on it and keep it relevant. The trainer focuses on learning for the group in face to face sessions and will use videos, group activities and binders with useful information to keep the trainees interested.

Trainers will have formal education in adult learning principles and know that Kirkpatrick and SWOT are not from Star Trek. ;)

Experiential Trainer:
An experiential trainer is a trainer who knows the material well enough to improvise during the session in order to include the participants in the learning. 

They will readily change the session in order to help the needs of the participants. An experiential trainer will use different, interactive methods when designing and delivering a learning event. These methods* are connected to helping learners achieve their learning goals.

*Methods are for example: Reflection exercises on critical incidents, presentations on what has been learned, Role play sessions, Simulation & Drama based Activities, A project that develops ideas further, Group discussions and Feedback sessions & Stories that involve thinking about learning in the placement.

Like to know more about our in-company Experiential Training Programs for 2018-2019? Check out

Monday, 7 May 2018

Who Are You?

Self Reflection is an important competency, and a common term used in Learning & Development. Just a quick google search on the term 'self reflection' leads to more than 357.000.000 results!

Apparently there is a lot of self reflection to be done...
And it is not without reason... You can learn and improve a lot from self-reflection. It increases your self-knowledge, makes you (more) aware of emotions that play a role in different situations and it gives you insight into how you can act more effectively. But how does one do that? How do you self-reflect? Recently I ran a Personal Effectiveness training using the Logical Levels of Change, Learning & Communication, based on Bateson & Dilts.

This theory states that people can think, learn and communicate on different levels:

The effect of each level is to organize and direct the information on the level below it. Changing something on a higher level would necessarily change things on the lower levels. Changing something on a lower level however, could but would not necessarily affect the upper levels.

For example: Many people have the behavioral skills to get up on a stage, grab the microphone and tell an audience of 200 people something about themselves. Yet many do not think that's a very pleasant task. There is something on a higher level that is blocking them... Perhaps a belief? (ie. "I do not have anything interesting to say.") Only changing that belief can lead to true changed behavior. Just changing the behavior does not necessarily change the belief. When you want to learn how to self reflect, these levels can be a very helpful tool.

For example, try this 3 Step Self Reflection Exercise:
Step 1.
Think of a situation that you recently experienced that you want to reflect upon. An argument? A conflict of interest? Or perhaps a difficult conversation?
Step 2.
Then write down the answers to following questions based on the different levels of the model. Starting with the lower, bottom level: 1. Environment: Where are you? What do you respond to, when and with whom? 2. Behavior: What do you do, see, hear, how do you act? 3. Capabilities / Skills: What can you do, how do you handle the situation? 4. Beliefs: Why do you handle it that way? What do you believe? 5. Identity: Who are you? What is your goal in life? 6. Purpose: What else is this happening for? What is the purpose? Step 3.
See if you can formulate a conclusion at the end and don't forget: Be kind to yourself! This willingness to examine yourself, to make corrections and to do better in the future, is essential to your personal growth.

Happy self reflecting!

Monday, 9 April 2018

6 Ways to make Role Plays Real

Role-plays are a great way of practicing new skills. But often workshop participants complain that they don't enjoy the role-play simulations because they don't feel real, making  them ultimately learn less. 

Fortunately, as a trainer/facilitator there is a lot you can do to make role-playing real. Starting with these 6 ways to make Role Plays REAL: 

1. Work with real situations
Role play becomes more real when participants can use their own experiences. I love to work with situations that the participants come up with themselves. Reason being that if someone suffers from the miscommunication with a colleague at work, role-playing that exact situation will feel a lot more real than a standardized case scenario.

2. Have the Participant choose his opponent
Let the participant always choose an 'opponent' himself. I promise you he will automatically choose someone who looks like the person he finds it difficult to deal with in real life. By doing that chances are also that the role play will become more realistic. I often see facilitators choose the opponent themselves or ask the group who want to play the opposite role. Don’t do it! It will take away from the learning experience from the participant.

3. Set the situation as it is
When the participant and the opponent are known, you set the situation as it really is. Are they standing, are they sitting? Is there normally a table, then put it there. If they talk to each other over the telephone, let them sit with their backs together and get some phones. These little things will add to the reality of the role play.

4. Name the opponent by his 'game name'
Call the participant by his own name, but name the opponent by the name of the person he plays. Use that name in the time-out. For example: "What do you see the effect was on Trudy?" This makes the situation more realistic.

5. Correct smiling observants
Sometimes observers laugh. That is OK if something happens that is really funny. But sometimes they also start laughing, because the participant in the role play tries something new that might look out-of-character. It can take the participant out of their learning experience so stay serious and say something like "Everyone, please keep the focus." Or to the participant: “You are doing great. Keep trying”

6. Recognize that it is not real
After all of this the participant might still say that the role play exercise did not feel real. In such a case just acknowledge their feelings. "No, of course it is not real." Afterwards, you ask whether the participant is curious about the feedback:" Do you want to hear what the group thought?" Or,"Shall we see how the opponent has experienced it?“ Acknowledging that it is not real will increase the chance that the participant wants to hear the feedback anyway.

Would you like to bring in a Role Play Professional? Than check out our website to learn more about our Role Play Services.

Friday, 2 March 2018

Why content is not training

I love yoga. 
So much so that I take weekly classes. 

Because I live close to one of the best Yoga studio's in WA, the classes I attend are delivered by top-tier teachers. This means that I often find myself side-by-side with amazing yogis from all over the world. This is a little like finding yourself singing with Celine Dion or acting alongside Julia Roberts.
Here’s the thing that I’ve noticed, though. 

We (myself and these yoga stars) are doing the exact same steps to the exact same music in the exact same place at the exact same time, yet it sure doesn’t look that way. 

Why, why, why? 

The answer is a single word: skill.
What we are doing is the same. How we are doing it is not. And, this is why content isn’t training. Content provides the what. Training provides the how.
It concerns me when I hear content being discussed more and more frequently as being synonymous with training. Taking a course on can provide you with the what, but it won’t teach you the how. 

Ditto with providing content in bite-size chunks à la microlearning, taking an e-learning course, watching a YouTube video, listening to a presentation or searching the Internet. Lots of what, but not much (if any) how.

At InterACT we believe that training can and should include content—but it shouldn’t end at content. Training needs to include group discussions, challenging activities and personal advice as well as effective feedback and opportunities to practice the new skills in a safe and risk-free environment.
So, before you decide to provide content instead of training, ask yourself:

“Is skill important?” 

If the answer is “yes,” then think about how you can add some element of training to support skill development instead of just providing content. 

Your learners will thank you, I promise.

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...