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August 01, 2011

Training Tip 14: Training About Technology

The increasing popularity of ethics-related IT products like automated financial disclosure software and CBT (computer based training) has required many DAEOs to conduct training about high tech products.  Information technology training has its own unique challenges.

Effective training rarely happens by accident, and this is even more true of technical training. Left to their own devices, most technically inclined trainers will assume that all they need to do is hook their laptop up to a projector, and demonstrate for the audience how the product works. This almost never works as well as the trainer imagines it will.

It is usually difficult for audience members to follow the demonstration or remember how to do things once they are back at their own computers. Sometimes it’s hard for the audience to even see the cursor, or tell when which menu choice the instructor is selecting. In the trainer’s mind, the demo has been successful, but the impression in the mind of the average audience member is very different.

There is a place for demos, but it's usually a mistake to rely on them to carry most of your training effort. Consider supplementing them with:

  • Paper handouts that illustrate and explain how to perform key functions. Screen captures can help. There’s no substitute for a “take-away” the audience can reference later. See Training Tip 7: Should You Have Handouts?
  • A slide show presentation. Slide shows have a poor reputation because so many of them are weak, but a good slide show can be a much more effective teaching tool than the typical live demo. It can do a better job of providing a conceptual framework for what you are trying to do with the intranet. Through the use of screen captures, animation and “builds” (additions to a static slide), an audience can better see and understand the material.
  • Periodic short, clear follow-up/refresher e-mails with simple explanations of how to perform the product's key functions.

If you do a live demo, make sure the audience can read the text on the websites or products you display. Stand in the back of the room and verify this. If the type is too small, take corrective action such as moving the projector back, enlarging the fonts in the browser, or lowering your screen resolution (for example, moving from 1600 x 1200 to 800 x 600 will mean less text will fit on the screen, but the text that does appear will be larger.

Finally, consider generational issues. A generation that has grown up with Web 2.0 tools like Facebook may be quicker to embrace online collaboration and other IT products. Many lawyers lack such experience. Your training and motivational efforts should take these differences into account.

Provide your suggestions and examples in the Comments section below. Biographical information about our Training Tips columnist is available.

Posted by J. Lawson in Training Tips | Permalink


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