September 06, 2013
Announcement of First Meeting of IEC Ethics Training Methods and Ideas Committee, Sept. 20
The IEC Ethics Training Methods and Ideas Committee is being resuscitated!!! Get and share ideas for improving your agency's Initial, Annual, and specialized population (e.g. Procurement and Grants Personnel, Political Appointees, IPAs and SGEs, etc.) ethics training and employee ethics job aids such Ethics Flipbooks, podcasts, social media...does your agency have an employee ethics app? You Tube site? Twitter feed? Learn how to do the famous USAG DAEO's Ethics one pagers for senior officials? Do you know how to incorporate current ethics events into your ethics training? Do you have an interactive agency Ethics website with games, info papers, etc?? If you do, come show others how you did it! If you don't come to our meetings and learn how to energize your ethics office training and outreach!
WHEN: 1:30 pm - 2:30 pm, Friday September 20, 2013
WHERE: FEMA HQ, 500 C Street SW, Suite 840, Washington DC. (Entry requires Gov't I'd or FEMA Escort). FEMA is located in the middle of the Capitol Hill Holiday Inn, one block from the L'Efant Metro station (Maryland Ave exit) Blue, Orange, Yellow and Green Lines
Please contact IEC Ethics Training Committee Chair Paul Conrad prior to September 20 if you plan to attend the meeting, so I can speed your entry into our secure office space. Paul Conrad, Senior Ethics Attorney (Training), FEMA Office of the Chief Counsel Paul.Conrad2@fema.dhs.gov
Paul Conrad Phone Contact: 202 646 4025 Desk 202 531 6547 Blackberry 540 993 9459 Personal Cell
August 08, 2013
Materials from August 1 IEC Meeting
Handouts and powerpoint from Paul Conrad's presentation at the August 1 IEC meeting are attached. Paul spoke about using various media in ethics training and the copyright issues that are involved.
May 01, 2012
Training Tip 24: Using Title Slides Effectively
Every slide show needs a title slide, right? The title slide is the right place to give your audience basic information like the name of your presentation, the name of the sponsoring organization, the date, and your name.
When should you display the title slide? Nearly always, presenters assume it should be the first slide. That's probably a safe choice, but when you want a little extra oomph in your presentation, consider using a trick from James Bond movies and TV shows like Jennifer Garner's late, lamented show Alias. Not that the technique is particularly new. In fact, the Iliad (vintage 8th Century BC) starts "in medias res" (in the middle of things).
Showing your title slide only AFTER you have grabbed the audience's attention is a great way to get things off with a bang. For example, for a presentation about the role of the Inspector General in handling ethics issues, I began not with a title slide, but with a sequence of slides about various scandals in the federal government. I had one slide illustrating each scandal, and then another slide illustrating the IG response. The subliminal message was: the Inspector General was the "solution" in each case. The message was conveyed more effectively because I did not have to say it. The selection and sequencing of the slides communicated the message more effectively than I could say it.
On another occasion I was giving a presentation to a group of criminal investigators. There is a custom among some members of law enforcement of "professional courtesy." One police officer may overlook a minor offense committed by another police officer. Showing a badge is a way of asking for professional courtesy. See, for example, Stroud v. Department of Treasury (upholding punishment of policy officer who showed badge during traffic stop, with hope of obtaining professional courtesy).
This issue should be addressed in ethics training for this audience, but it is tricky. At least a few in the audience are likely to be at least somewhat sympathetic to an officer requesting professional courtesy, and it's possible some have engaged in the practice themselves. Instructors who condemn the practice in an unconvincing way run the risk of looking like an unrealistic Goody Two Shoes and losing credibility.
My first three slides were:
- The mug shot of Senator Larry Craig, arrested for solicitation in an airport.
- An excerpt from the arrest report indicating that Craig had shown his Senate ID to the arresting officer and, in an apparent attempt to intimidate him, asked "What do you think about that?"
- A picture of the front page of the Senate's Public Letter of Admonition to Craig for misuse of credentials.
Having gotten the audience's attention in a major way, then and only then did I move to the title slide. When I subsequently used a slide about the Stroud case, I immediately followed it with a reprise of the Craig mug shot. Not a single audience member spoke up in favor of "professional courtesy."
Why does beginning in medias res work? Audiences tend to remember best the first part of the presentation and the last part. Why waste the audience's prime attention on a boring title slide? Start off with something important, something you want them to remember, something that will support a key point you intend to make later, like the Craig/Stroud connection.
Will beginning this way confuse your audiences? Only the ones who have never seen a James Bond movie, an episode of Alias, nor any of the many similar T.V. shows.
Starting your presentation in medias res is an example of a theme we will be exploring further in future columns: Making your shows more appealing to a generation of people who have grown up watching television and surfing the Internet.
April 01, 2012
Training Tip 23: Slide Show Formatting Basics
Compliance with the following basic slide show formatting principles can make make your presentation appear much more professional:
Colors. Old fashioned transparencies, often referred to as overheads, worked much better as dark text on a light, preferably white background. Modern computer slide show projectors use a different technology. With slides, light colored text works best against a dark background.
What background color is best? Some authorities suggest trying to match colors to the emotional mood you are trying to create. For example:
Purple: Royalty, wisdom, spirituality, mystery
Green: Nature, environment, health, reptiles, insects
Gray: Conservative, practical, reliability, security, staid
See the Think Outside the Slide website for more.
Certainly there might be some benefit to this approach in some situations. However, as a practical matter I usually give these factors little consideration when preparing my own slide shows. I normally use the color combination that is generally acknowledged to have the highest legibility: Dark blue background, with light text, usually white or yellow. The most important thing for me is that the audience be able to read the slides easily. I'll use methods other than color if I feel I need to maniuplate the audience's emotions.
Whatever color scheme you choose, to improve legibility try to maximize the contrast between foreground and background. Light grey text on a medium gray background is a recipe for disaster. The Think Outside the Slide website has a color contrast calculator.
Font Followup. Last month we had a detailed discussion on selecting fonts for various projects, including slide shows. Selecting the right fonts gets us only part of the way home, though. Size is important. Some authorities suggest rules of thumb, even a 24 point minimum. However, point sizes of different fonts are not directly comparable, so I recommend a more pragmatic rule: Test the size of your font from a distance equal to the distance from the most remote seat in the auditorium you will be using. If you prefer a rule of thumb to actual testing, then you will usually be OK with fonts size 18 points or higher.
The ransom note effect is another font hazard. Keep the number of fonts to a minimum.
Bullet Points. Bullet points have the salutory effect of improving quick comprehension. However, deploy them wisely. Squeezing too many bullet points on a slide creates a cluttered impression. No more than five bullet points per page is a pretty good rule of thumb.
Bullet Point Sub-Levels. Avoid having more than two levels of bullets on slides. In other words, you can have a bullet point, and one sub-level below them. If you need more sub-levels to convey complex ideas, it's better to break them into more slides.
Templates. Good slide show software provides templates (called "slide masters" in MS PowerPoint) to provide a consistent layout. I occasionally see presenters who do not use templates. It's nearly always a mistake. The templates are designed by professional designers. The defaults in a decent template will facilitate a professional appearance. A Google search on the phrase using powerpoint templates will find plenty of tutorials to get you started. You can override the template for a particular slide if you want, you can even modify the template if you need to, and you can even create your own templates. In any event, take advantage of templates to help make a good impression on your audiences.
Logos. Some presenters who have just learned how to edit templates or create their own succumb to the temptation to include their organization's logo on every slide. This is popular in businesses as a form of "branding." It is generally not advisable in the ethics training context. A logo on every page is usually overkill that limits your flexibility to structure subsequent slides. The best approach is probably to include the logo on the first slide, and maybe the last. If demands of unsophisticated supervisors or other reasons make you feel you absolutely must include the logo on every slide, make it small, except on the first slide and the last, where you can usually get away with more. Whatever you do, don't follow the example of one OGE conference presentation I saw that included no less than four different agency seals on every single slide, one for each of the four presenters!
Edited April 2, 2012 with various improvements.
March 01, 2012
Training Tip 22: Enhance Training Materials With Font Choices
Accurate, and engaging content is the key to computer slide shows. However, appearance counts, and counts big. Font choice is one subtle but important appearance factor. It's worth taking some time to understand the basics of font choices for slide shows, and how they compare to other tools ethics trainers use to help their audiences, including printed handouts, transparencies, slide shows and online presentations.
The first step in being able to intelligently select fonts for use in training materials is to understand the key distinctions between categories of fonts: serif vs. sans serif, and print vs. screen, and system vs. professional:
Serif vs. Sans Serif
Serif fonts, like Times New Roman, have small ornamentation at the ends of letter strokes, called "serifs," or "hinting." Sans serif fonts, like Arial, lack such ornamentation. Decorative fonts (including script) are a third category that will rarely be useful for lawyers. I have prepared a font chart illustrating the three basic types, serif, sans serif and decorative.
Trick Question: Which style is more legible, serif or sans serif?
Short Answer: It depends on the medium. In general, serif fonts are better for printed matter, like books or newspapers. Sans serif fonts are better for computer displays.
Rationale: Serif fonts are easier to read in big blocks of text. The serifs help readers recognize the shape of a word, rather than decoding each letter individually. Nearly all books are printed in serif fonts, for this reason.
The problem with serif fonts is that they are harder to read at low resolutions, like on computer monitors. For example, laser printer resolution starts at 300 d.p.i., and can go up to 1200 d.p.i. Times Roman, a serif font, works well at these resolutions. By contrast, computer monitors (and projectors) have much lower resolution. The resolutions are so low that the serifs do not show up. Therefore, sans serif fonts are generally your best choice for computer use, though a sans serif screen font (discussed in the next section) may be OK in some situations.
Sans serif fonts are also easier to recognize as single words. This is why serif fonts are used for traffic signs. Professional typographers tend to use sans serif fonts for headings, and serif fonts for text body.
Print Fonts vs. Screen Fonts
Recent decades have seen a new development: Fonts designed specifically for computer display, sometimes called "screen fonts" or "web fonts." Verdana (sans serif) and Georgia (serif) are examples. They look better on a computer display. Many screen fonts (including Verdana and Georgia) don't look as good when printed on paper.
System Fonts vs. Professional Grade Fonts
Compters come with a selection of built-in "system fonts," including the ubiquitous Times New Roman and Arial. Some of these are better choices than others. The most commonly used choices provide the comfort of familiarity, but they are often inferior to less common system fonts, or professional grade fonts available as an upgrade. Broadening your horizons is a way of subtly or not-so-subtly improving the quality of your instructional materials.
The Typography for Lawyers book and website both have good practical advice on font selection, including "naming names" of hackneyed fonts and better choices. At the website, look under the "Font Samples" menu choice. The book has much more detailed information.
I make no claim to be a font expert, but suggest the following simple rules will suffice for presenting most ethics training materials effectively:
- Use serif fonts for large blocks of text.
- Use sans serif fonts for headings.
- Use a screen font (either serif or sans serif) for computer slide shows or websites.
- Rather than fall into the Times New Roman/Arial rut of using only the most common system fonts, follow the guidance of experienced professionals when making your font selectons.
Provide your suggestions and examples in the Comments section below. We welcome your ideas as to topics for future columns. Biographical information about our Training Tips columnist and the Training Tips archives are available.
February 01, 2012
Training Tip 20: Computer Slide Shows: Boon or Bane?
“Slideware may help speakers outline their talks, but convenience for the speaker can be punishing to both content and audience.”
Edward Tufte, The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint
Computer generated slide shows like Microsoft PowerPoint have gotten a bad rap in some circles. For example:
- The quotation above from respected Yale professor Edward Tufte is one of the milder criticisms in his pamphlet-sized anti-slideshow rant.
- Peter Norvig’s Gettysburg PowerPoint Presentation is an hilarious demonstration of how slideware would have destroyed Lincoln’s famous speech. Norvig posits the question an imaginary listener would ask: "Doesn't he realize this presentation is a waste of time? Why doesn't he just tell us what matters and get it over with?"
- Former OGE Director Bob Cusick began a speech at one OGE conference with the comment “I don’t have a slide show.” The audience cheered.
- Some U.S. Army Generals have banned the use of PowerPoint from military briefings.
- A Swiss political party has even undertaken to have slide shows banned altogether.
Are the criticisms justified? To some extent, yes. Too many users of slide shows don’t understand what they are doing or don’t put in enough effort, or both. A high percentage of slide shows are painful for audiences.
However, the story is not that simple. Contrary to the views of the anti-slideshow camp, slide shows don’t cause people to be bad presenters. Slide shows are merely a tool used by many speakers, both good and bad.
An excellent speaker without a slide show will be better than a poor speaker without a slide show. However, a good slide show will probably make an excellent speaker even better. And it can sometimes make an average to poor speaker noticeably more effective.
Slide shows make sense for trainers who understand how to use them and are willing to invest the time to produce a decent product. Understanding how to create and use slide shows is a powerful tool in the trainer’s arsenal. We’ll be devoting our next Training Tips columns to exploring the right way to use PowerPoint and similar software, and we hope you enjoy the ride.
January 01, 2012
Training Tip 19: Lessons from Movie New Year's Eve
Despite its star-studded cast that included Robert DeNiro, Hillary Swank, Michelle Pfeiffer, Halle Berry,
Ashton Krutcher and many others, the new movie New Year's Eve met with critical disdain (including a pathetic 7% rating at Rotten Tomatoes) and limited success at the box office. A romantic comedy in the Love, Actually and Valentine's Day mode, it was less successful than those films.
One part of the movie met with success, at least in this quarter. Near the middle of the movie, the machinery that raises and lowers the ball for the iconic Times Square ball drop turns balky. The assembled crowd is worried that their fun will be spoiled.
The character portrayed by Hillary Swank is asked to take the microphone and give the crowd an update. Everyone is expecting reassurance. The Swank character provides more: Inspiration. She goes beyond the immediate crisis to exhort the audience to approach the holiday in the right way. The audience received not just reassurance but inspiration.
Let's resolve that during the coming year, we'll all try to give our audiences more. Rather than being content to provide dry ethics rules, let's give students engaging material that will help them understand the significance of ethics and inspire them.
We will be doing the best we can to support you in this effort by providing useful resources through this Trainning Tips column.
December 01, 2011
Training Tip 18: Asking Questions: How?
Some instructors avoid questioning the audience because they fear they will lose control. There is little to fear if you have a few basic techniques in your repertoire.
Come across as genuine and brightly optimistic that the students will be able to answer the question. I like to provide cheerful encouragement like “I know you are not going to disappoint me.” If responses are slow in coming, provide hints.
Treat any reasonable attempt at a response positively. Be generous with praise and steer the discussion in the desired direction. For example, “That is a very clever approach, but it may not be the best for this situation. Does anyone else have an idea?”
Praising those who proffer answers emboldens others to contribute, but even better, it subtly encourages everyone to try to give “good” answers that will earn further praise from the authority figure in the room (you).
I've had good results holding students' attention by sprinkling in a few Jeopardy-type questions on interesting topics. This can work even if the questions don’t have all that much to do with standards of conduct. For example, if I’m using the movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off to illustrate a point (see example at the end of this article below), I will note, “By the way, one famous politician reported that this was his favorite movie. Who remembers this prominent political figure?” The answer amuses those in the audience old enough to remember Dan Quayle.
The possibility of learning more amusing/enlightening trivia motivates at least a few members of the audience to pay closer attention than they otherwise might.
Some public speaking books recommend that an instructor who is stumped by a difficult question should turn it back on the audience. This makes a lot of sense in some situations. If you are a lawyer teaching a group of other lawyers in your organization, you may be more of a peer than an authority figure.
In other settings, the reverse-the-question technique is dubious. When you are teaching standards of conduct classes, you are supposed to be the expert, the authority figure. Passing some types of questions to the audience can reduce the group's respect for you. It’s usually better to respond with the time-honored gambit of offering to look up the answer.
Don’t give the appearance of being disrespectful toward an audience member. This will not merely deaden the crowd by making others less likely to contribute, but it will make the audience (who identifies with their peers in the group) resent you.
Final tip. Well, not exactly a tip, more like an example of what to avoid. At all costs, don’t emulate the soul-deadening of actor Ben Stein, playing an economics teacher in this YouTube clip from the movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986). Here’s a transcription for those who can’t access You Tube:
In 1930, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, in an effort to alleviate the effects of the... Anyone? Anyone?... the Great Depression, passed the... Anyone? Anyone? The tariff bill? The Hawley-Smoot Tariff Act? Which, anyone? Raised or lowered?... raised tariffs, in an effort to collect more revenue for the federal government. Did it work? Anyone? Anyone know the effects? It did not work, and the United States sank deeper into the Great Depression. Today we have a similar debate over this. Anyone know what this is? Class? Anyone? Anyone? Anyone seen this before? The Laffer Curve. Anyone know what this says? It says that at this point on the revenue curve, you will get exactly the same amount of revenue as at this point. This is very controversial. Does anyone know what Vice President Bush called this in 1980? Anyone? Something-d-o-o economics. "Voodoo" economics.
November 02, 2011
Finding YouTube Videos for Ethics Training Use and Converting Format
YouTube and other online sources contain many videos useful for training. Audiences tend to like videos, and short videos can provide the trainer with a welcome break.
OGE maintains a YouTube "channel. PublicResource.org has converted an OGE 22 minute video entitled The Ethical Choice: Ethics for Special Government Employees, and a thorough YouTube search would probably find more OGE material. Since there is no copyright in government-produced material, anyone is free to upload it.
Clever trainers can find uses for material not prepared by OGE. One ethics office organized its annual training around videos from the popular TV show The Office, including using the "Let's Get Ethical" muscial sequence as an introduction.
Unfortuately, many training locations have poor Internet connections, or no connections accessible to the Ethics trainer. We have had good luck converting our videos with a free service called Media Converter. It's pretty easy, but pay attention to selecting the output file format, as some file formats work better on Windows computers and others work better on Macs.
November 01, 2011
Training Tip 17: Asking Questions: Why?
Training Tips Columns 10 through 13 dealt with answering audience questions, so let’s look at the other side. Asking questions is a powerful, yet often underutilized tool. Skilled questioning can create multipe benefits.
Qualifying the Audience
The first opportunity for questions is at the beginning of a training session. Some trainers use questions to “qualify” an audience. They ask the audience questions about their background and what they hope to get out of the session.
Ideally, the trainer will be flexible enough to take what they learn into account and customize the training on the fly. However, even if you are not that flexible, showing interest in the audience can help create a favorable impression.
Some Reasons to Ask Questions
At the simplest level, questions break the monotony. Instead of the same voice droning at the front of the room for an hour, other voices are heard, different rhythms, different timbres, different approaches.
Thoughtful questions can make audiences pay more attention to the program. They transform audience members from passive receptacles of your gems of wisdom into thinkers, at least temporarily, as they try to figure out an answer.
Sometimes questions can be a way of presenting an idea without taking complete ownership of it. The question puts the idea out there, without a formal endorsement by the trainer. For example, in Training Tip Column 7, Should You Have Handouts?, I quoted an ethics trainer who proffered this excuse for not having handouts:
"Distributing handouts would make the audience remember the presentation better, so I could not use the same material next year."
This excuse is so pernicious that it must be thoroughly discredited, but in a live training session for ethics trainers it is probably better for the instructor not to pile on. Give the audience the opportunity to explain why the excuse is so poor.
The Power of Answers from the Audience
The “highest and best use” I have found for questions is emphasizing a particularly important teaching point. In fact, I sometimes try to structure a presentation so that it will be a member of the audience—not me--who first articulates the most important idea.
This is particularly valuable when the idea is controversial or there is some reason to expect that some in the audience will be predisposed to reject it. If the instructor prepares the moment properly, when an audience member first states the idea, it will seem more persuasive. It’s not just some crazy idea the guy standing in front of the room is trying to foist on the group, it’s coming from a presumed peer in the audience.
A savvy instructor will build on this by repeating the concept and endorsing it, and perhaps the person who preferred it. Another way of reinforcing the idea is to ask the audience member to repeat or explain it. Repetition is the educator’s ally.
There are plenty of reasons why asking questions is a good idea. Next month we'll consider how to ask questions effectively.
October 01, 2011
Training Tip 16: Boosting Confidence
Audiences are more likely to trust and like a confident presenter. Unfortunately, nervousness impedes most trainers, at least to some degree. Fortunately there are techniques for boosting confidence.
The more you are on top of your material the less nervous you will be. If you have taken the time to build the logical flow of your presentation, designed supporting materials that are professional and appropriate, there is much less to be nervous about. And, if you have then rehearsed with an actual computer and projector (assuming you are using slideware) several times, your nervousness should all but melt away. We fear what we do not know. If we know our material well and have rehearsed the flow, know what slide is next in the deck, and have anticipated questions, then we have eliminated much (but not all) of the unknown. When you remove the unknown and reduce anxiety and nervousness, then confidence is something that will naturally take the place of your anxiety.
Andrew Dlugan's Practicing Your Presentation has other practical preparation pointers.
Taking along an associate is another confidence builder. It worked wonders for reducing my nervousness as a Special Assistant U.S. Attorney trying cases before a jury. My results improved significantly after I began taking a paralegal or law clerk to court with me. This reduced the number of administrative details I had to track and let me concentrate on the substance of my presentation.
If your associate is capable of helping you substantively by answering audience questions, etc., so much the better, but even help with administrative tasks like handling attendance records, distributing handouts, wrestling with balky projectors, troubleshooting your laptop and so on, they can still be a giant help. Not every organization can afford this luxury, but you are lucky enough to have someone to help you, take advantage of it.
Watching yourself on video can boost confidence. You may not like the way you look, but most people will find the exercise not merely helps them improve, but reassures them that they don't look as badly as they had imagined. Video is a fantastic tool for trainers, and thanks to the digital revolution video cameras have never been as affordable or convenient.
I have found having high quality handouts and/or slide show to be a giant confidence booster. When I have good supporting materials, I tell myself that even if I have a lousy oral presentation, the event won't be a total disaster: The audience will still get the key points from the handouts and slides.
"Automatic winner" is the name I give to a particularly powerful type of supporting material. This is what I call a slide that has two characteristics: It advances an important teaching point, AND it's something I think will engage and entertain the audience.
I tried to create such a slide for the most recent OGE conference. The goal was to help the audience understand the importance of appropriate demeanor for trainers. Trainers need to be lively, but not so lively that they come across as phony. I prepared a chart illustrating two types of undesirable demeanor, and one listing the desired demeanors. I supplemented the chart with an MS PowerPoint slide with custom animation using pictures of movie characters to illustrate the "demeanor continuum":
- The Ben Stein character from "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" (a boring economics teacher) was the example of "Not "Enough." His zombie-like demeanor would put any audience to sleep.
- Kurt Russell's car salesman character from "Used Cars" was the example of "Too Much." His hyper demeanor radiated insincerity.
- Paul Newman's character from the 1982 courtroom drama "The Verdict" illustrated the desired demeanor. By every word and gesture, he conveyed sincerity.
Of course, few trainers will be able to convey an attitude like Paul Newman. The point is to give the audience concrete points of reference in a way that will instruct and amuse them.
September 01, 2011
Training Tip 15: Mobile Learning Options
Fueled by the widespread adoption of smartphones, iPods and similar devices, Mobile Learning, aka MLearning, has become a major educational trend. Such training is frequently delivered in the form of "MP3" files, delivered through a mechanism knownn as "podcasts." While Apple iPods are wonderful devices and seem ubiquitous, it's important to note that nearly any smartphone (iPhone, Droid, etc.) or personal computer can also play podcasts with the help of earphones or speakers. The USA.gov web site has a section explaining podcasts.
Many organizations are taking advantage of this new training vehicle. For example, the Legal Talk Network distributes podcasts of interest to lawyers, and legal technology guru Dennis Kennedy has an article about the value of listening to podcasts. Previous IEC Journal posts have provided examples of the successful use of MP3 files or podcasts by other respected organizations:
- American Bar Association
- Federal Law Enforcement Training Center
- Government Accountability Office
- Project for Government Oversight (POGO)
The latest POGO example is a lecture by the Office of Special Counsel's (OSC) Adam Miles, who reviews OSC's interaction with federal whistleblowers. This training was originally part of a series POGO provides to educate congressional staffers. Other podcasts from the same series are available.
The Office of Government Ethics has also at least put its toe into the water, having prepared a podcast of "the Senate-confirmed nominations process and video clips that provide scenarios for discussion during training sessions on ethics restrictions on seeking employment."
We see the biggest value of podcasts as a low-cost, low-hassle supplement to the rest of your ethics program, including a way of reaching certain "high value targets" like senior managers, many of whom are into multi-tasking. With so many prestigious organizations using them successfully for other training, this appears to be an area with enormous untapped potential for ethics trainers.
In a future column, we will share nuts and bolts information on creating podcasts to make it easier for those inclined to explore this exciting new training option. In the meantime, we encourage any federal ethics trainers already using it to share with the IEC Journal any products we can distribute to other agencies.
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.
July 01, 2011
Training Tip 13: Handling Difficult Questions
Many presenters dread the challenge of dealing with hostile or otherwise difficult questions. Some questioners have a personal agenda, or simply enjoy showing up a presenter. I make no claim to being an expert instructor, but with experience, I eventually came to enjoy the challenge of dealing with difficult questioners. My experience convinced me that the presenter who stays calm and remembers a few simple rules can nearly always hold his own, or better, in such encounters.
Approach the task with confidence. Let the audience see you are confident and calm. If you become defensive or argumentative it tends to legitimize the hostile questioner. The audience will tend to side with you if you remain gracious and polite.
Treat even aggressive/hostile questioners respectfully. A response like this will often work wonders: "Thank you for expressing your view [so articulately (if that is true)]. I know that others have come to different conclusions on this issue. I am telling you what has worked for me [or most people, if that is true]."
Give ground when appropriate. If there is some validity to the questioner's position, acknowledge it readily. For example, if someone is complaining about the time needed to compile records for financial disclosure purposes, acknowledge that it can be a burden. Failure to acknowledge the obvious will cause you to look out of touch or unreasonable. However, be firm in defending the ground you can and must defend.
Direct your attention appropriately. Treat the questioner like the most important person in the world while he is speaking, but through body language and eye contact, direct your response to the group as a whole, not the questioner. When I was a prosecutor, I directed most of my effort toward the audience that mattered most--the jury. Many questioners have a chip on their shoulder, and nothing you say will satisfy them. Direct your attention toward the audience that matters.
Prepare for predictable difficult questions. Sometimes you can predict troublesome questions and plan a response. In this situation, it may be attractive to preempt the question by raising it yourself during your presentation. This can take the sting from the issue. Alternatively, you can wait till the question and answer period.
For important presentations, or ones I will be giving multiple times, I sometimes prepare slides to assist in answering the most important questions I anticipate. Wasted effort if no one asks the question? Sure, but when you happen to have just the right slide for just the right question, it can make a palpable impression on an audience. Knowing you have just the right slide in reserve is a big confidence builder as well.
Offer to meet with the questioner after the presentation. This will discourage troublemakers who crave the attention of the audience.
Use a strategic pause. Some presenters have been known to gain a little extra time to compose themselves or prepare to answer a particularly difficult question by getting some water or referring to their notes.
Consider the use of question forms. Finally, the practice of providing "live" answers only to written questions (discussed in Training Tip 10) is a powerful technique for dealing with questioners who have an agenda. You can answer at the public meeting only the questions you want to answer, and reserve questions with an agenda for post-meeting follow-up. Establishing this policy and sticking to it is a powerful way of positioning yourself when hostile questions are expected.
Empathy + Objectivity
My "ultimate weapon" was what I call the Empathy + Objectivity formula. It works like this:
Step 1: Begin your answer by identifying with the questioner's emotional condition. "It is only natural that anyone in your position would feel that way ..."
Step 2: Conclude your answer by providing an objective assessment of the situation.
For example, assume that someone in the audience attacks the requirement to file financial disclosure forms as an unwarranted intrusion into privacy. You might respond something like this:
I understand why people might feel that way. However, Congress created the Office of Government Ethics to establish a uniform approach, and this is what OGE came up with. It's a known condition of government employment, and if we want to work for the Executive Branch, we have to deal with it.
Corrected July 5: Replaced missing word "always" in first para.
June 01, 2011
Training Tip 12: Handling Questions, Part II
OGE regulations give question and answer periods an exalted status in the training process. OGE requires no live lecture: You can use written materials, a videotape, or an online presentation. The one indispensable element? A "qualified instructor must be available during and immediately after the training." 5 C.F.R. § 2638.704. Subsection 2638.704(c)(5) explains the meaning of "qualified": Able "to respond to ethics questions raised during the training." (Emphasis added).
Very little is indispensible--except the for opportunity for questions and answers. OGE takes Q & A seriously--and so should we. This month we have Part II of our series of Training Tips on answering questions:
Reflect before reacting. After repeating the question, as recommended last month, don't be afraid to take a few seconds to think before you begin your answer. As noted by Garr Reynolds in his book The Naked Presenter (2011): "It's a conversation, not a race."
Value brevity. Rambling, repetitive answers can squander the good impression you have worked so hard to create in the body of your presentation. Make the important points concisely and then shut up. If you are lucky enough to be in a situation where you can use Q & A forms (see Training Tip 10), then take advantage of it as a way to tighten your answers.
Respect questioners. Never, never make a questioner feel ignorant or stupid. It's also important to avoid disrespecting them more subtly by appearing to be bored or condescending in your answer. Unless the questioner is blatantly a major league jerk, the rest of the audience will identify with them, not you, so disrespecting a questioner is the functional equivalent of disrespecting the whole audience. Even if you wish you were somewhere else, you should strive to treat each questioner like she is star NPR interviewer Terry Gross and you are a guest on her show Fresh Air.
Match your demeanor the the question. Malcom Kushner suggests in Public Speaking for Dummies, 2nd Ed.:
If someone is confused, be understanding. If someone is blatantly offensive, be forceful and disapproving (without counterattacking). If someone is seeking information, be professorial. Never lose control of yourself. Never be discourteous.
Know how to deal with a dead audience. No questions? Not a problem for the resourceful presenter! Prime the pump by asking yourself a question, one whose answer will advance the purposes of your presentation. Ask a question that an audience member asked you privately before your talk. Break the ice by asking the audience questions: "How many of you think X? How many think Y?" Offer to answer questions privately. They may have questions they don't want to expose to the group.
Do not let the Q & A session run late. This goes double if you are the last speaker before lunch, or the last speaker of the day. This is one of many things I learned from the best presenter I've been lucky enough to work with, Greg Siskind. If people have questions they really want to ask, they can catch up with you after the session.
Provide your suggestions and examples in the Comments section below. We welcome your ideas as to topics for future columns. Biographical information about our Training Tips columnist and the Training Tips archives are available.
May 01, 2011
Training Tip 11: Handling Questions, Part I
OK, you have gotten through the body of your presentation satisfactorily. Time to relax, right? Nope, there is one hurdle left: The Question and Answer period.
This is when some presenters wilt and others shine. With a few tips, some practice and a modicum of intestinal fortitude, you can shine every time. Here's how:
Anticipate questions. With most topics, it's easy to compile a list of probable questions. Take a little time to plan how you will approach the most difficult. At your option, you can pre-empt these questions by addressing them yourself during the body of your presentation.
Set the ground rules. At the beginning of your talk, tell the audience whether you will be taking questions, and if so, when. Taking questions only after you have finished speaking has much to recommend it.
Consider using question forms. Training Tip 10 explained the many advantages of question forms. Experience has shown that the use of question forms can make dealing with questions much easier.
Ask yourself the question you most want to answer. At the beginning of the Q & A period, tell the audience "People often ask [whatever]". This lets you start strong with an answer that will help you get your message out. This technique also encourages others to ask questions. For similar benefits, some speakers have been known to plant a question with a friendly audience member.
Maintain appropriate eye contact. Focus intently on the questioner when he is speaking, but don't direct your answer only to the questioner.
Ask the questioner to elaborate if the question is unclear. Paraphrasing the question can be an effective technique.
Repeat the question. In many venues, questions will be inaudible to most members of the audience. Repeating the question also reduces the possibility of misunderstanding. Finally, repeating the question can gain a few seconds to formulate your answer.
Avoid the trap of believing you must know the answer to every question. No one knows everything. Offering to look up the answer after the presentation is often the best approach. Some speech experts recommend that if you are stumped, you solicit answers from the audience. Exercise care with this approach. It might work in some situations, like giving a presentation at the OGE conference. It's presumed that many in the OGE conference audience will have significant ethics expertise. On the other hand, this approach could be a disaster when training agency employees. Soliciting audience opinions in that context can forfeit the presumption of authority that your cogent presentation has just reinforced.
Compliment the questioner if deserved. Some speech instructors discourage the practice of complimenting an audience member for asking a good question. Their theory is that this will discourage other audience members from asking questions for fear theirs won't be as good. My experience has been exactly the opposite. I've gotten multiple benefits from complimenting good questions. I will sometimes even make a big deal of thanking the questioner for reminding me of such an important point. If handled well, the compliment will serve to emphasize an important point I want to make. In my experience, compliments also tend to encourage other audience members to ask "good" questions, i.e., ones that will also earn the approbation of the authority figure in front of the room (you).
End strong. Questions all answered? No questions? Either way, whatever you do, don't say something like "Well, I guess that's it" and creep off stage. Reiterate a key point you wanted to make and thank the audience for their attention.
Part II of our Handling Questions series will appear in the June 1 Training Tips column.
April 01, 2011
Training Tip 10: Benefits of Using Question Forms
One of my favorite training techniques is using forms for audience members to ask questions. Left to my own devices, I would never have realized the value of this technique, but having seen it used very effectively in several CLE programs I did for the Pennsylvania Bar Institute, I became a believer. I now use the technique for the reasons PBI used it, and have found multiple other benefits. My version of the PBI Question Form is available as an MS Word document. Print out copies as needed and cut each page into four sections.
The PBI programs I did drew large audiences, many of whom were eager to ask questions. PBI staff circulated among the audience collecting the forms and delivered them to the panel moderator. While one panelist was answering a question, the other panelists, led by the moderator, would quickly study other questions, decide which ones had the most intructional value, who would address them, and prepare their answers.
Why Use Forms?
Rambling, disjointed answers are one of the most annoying presentation flaws. The use of question forms creates large improvements:
Giving panelists time to think about their answers and decide which panelist(s) could answer most effectively results in enormously more concise and useful answers.
This was only the beginning of the benefits, however. Audience members sometimes use questions not to seek knowledge, but to advance personal agendas. The use of question forms gives the speaker or moderator (if a panel) better control over the situation. If there is not enough time to answer all questions, those questions motivated by personal agendas get the lowest priority.
There are many other benefits to using question forms. It's more democratic, as the audience members with the most instructive questions may not be the most assertive in getting the moderator's attention. Experience over a decade using this technique has given me the impression that written questions tend to be more thoughtful than spoken questions.
Especially where I will be teaching similar classes in the future, I find it invaluable to keep a record of the audience's concerns. The questions frequently stimulate my thinking on the topic, causing me to add modules to future training programs or use the ideas in other ways. Many of the best ideas I've used in writing books and magazine articles were prompted by questions asked during various seminars.
Optional or Mandatory?
Should you answer only questions submitted on written forms? In large groups or where there is heavy audience interest in the topic, this may be the best way.
Some speakers might like audience question forms because they enable the speaker to avoid unwelcome subjects. In some situations, this might be appropriate, but it's not the way I use question forms. I normally volunteer to take additional questions from the floor as well. I also usually tell the audience that I will distribute answers to all remaining unanswered questions after the conference. I answer all the questions, but in a way that gives me better control.
Posting answers to a website is one way of following up. The IEC Journal website is available to host such questions and answers at no charge. Contact us for help if desired.
Edited April 4 to incorporate various improvements.
Provide your suggestions and examples in the Comments section below. We welcome your ideas as to topics for future columns. Biographical information about our Training Tips columnist and our Training Tips Archives are available.
March 01, 2011
Training Tip 9: If You Teach Them Nothing Else ...
Many government employees assume that "ethics" and "morals" are the same. They are so confident of their integrity that they tend to tune out standards of conduct training as something that applies only to those of lower moral standards.
The Army's guide for new ethics counselors, Running An Effective Ethics Program. is the best 9 pages of practical advice that I'm ever seen, or can imagine seeing. It addresses this point pithily:
Key concept to convey to personnel: You don't have to be evil to screw up. Many regulations and statutes are not well known, are counter-intuitive, and have been violated in the past. People violate them unintentionally and unwittingly. (e.g.: 18 U.S.C. 205, 18 U.S.C. 207(a)(2)).
If your ethics training does not convey any other ideas, make sure you get across this point across. Make sure they have your contact information, and explain the concept of immunizing advice.
February 21, 2011
Training Tip 8: The Humor Paradox
Which of these statements is correct?
- Presenters should never tell a joke just to be telling a joke.
- Nearly every presentation can be improved by using humor.
Though the statements may appear inconsistent at first glance, they are both correct. Humor is a great way of connecting with an audience—but it is usually a mistake to include a joke just so you will have a joke.
Distinguishing between "canned" humor and "organic" humor is a key to resolving the apparent inconsistency. Canned humor is something artificial grafted onto your substantive ideas. Organic humor flows from your substantive ideas and helps advance them.
The difference is critical: If you tell a “joke,” and no one laughs, you look like a dummy, and worse, a dummy who just wasted everyone’s time. By contrast, if your would-be “humorous” material advances the substantive point you want to make, it doesn't matter if the joke falls flat. You haven’t wasted anyone’s time. You’ve still advanced the ball.
Of course, getting a laugh is even better, and one of the little-understood truths is that organic humor does not have to be very funny to get a laugh. Look for chances to introduce humor that naturally arises from your substantive material. It the humor advances the substantive point you are trying to make, so much the better.
Graphics are an easy way for even the humor-impaired to work in humor. Show the audience a picture that relates to your topic. Sometimes the picture itself will be the "punch line." More often, you will deliver the punch line orally.
One of my favorite examples was a slide show I did for a humor-impaired friend. Though a bright and articulate fellow, he absolutely could not deliver a joke in front of an audience.
I dug up a seventies-era photo of one of the subjects of his presentation. My friend came up with a mildly sarcastic reference to the subject's "leisure suit." It was a remarkably garish garment, even by the standards of the 70s. Though his joke wasn't exactly the peak of wit, my friend never failed to get a laugh. Even better, knowing that his joke was a winner increased his confidence, making him more effective with the rest of the presentation.
A beauty of the organic humor approach is that even if no one had laughed, it would not be a problem. The speaker had not gone "off topic" in a time-wasting unsuccessful attempt to get a laugh.
We will be returning to this important topic in future columns. In the meantime, we encourage you to provide your suggestions and examples on the effective use of humor in the Comments section below. Training Tips is switching from weekly publication to a monthly schedule. The next column will appear on March 1.
February 14, 2011
Training Tip 7: Should You Have Handouts?
Should you give the audience handouts?
A simple question deserves a simple answer:
Yes, nearly always.
There are many reasons for this. The simplest is that at least a few audience members, perhaps many, will consider the failure to provide some written accompaniment to be evidence of apathy and/or laziness. Apathetic slacker is not the image most of us want to project.
However, handouts are not merely an appearance issue. Well-done handouts enhance audience understanding and increase the chance they will retain your message. They are also a basic courtesy for the audience, freeing them from the frantic scramble to write down every important thing you say. (You will be saying important things, right?).
Excuses for Lack of Handouts
Excuse 1: I want the audience to be paying attention to me while I'm speaking, not a handout.
I call this the narcissist excuse. Few presenters are capable of constructing such enthralling handouts, but even if you are one of this talented group, is it really so bad if people learn the material from your handout instead of your eloquent voice?
In any event, if you think your handouts are really that extraordinary, why not distribute them after your talk, instead of at the beginning? If you take this approach, be sure to let the audience know at the beginning of your remarks, so they won't feel a need to take duplicative notes.
Excuse 2: Handouts will dilute the value of my jokes or other surprises.
This excuse has a silver lining of sorts: At least the presenter is trying to keep the audience engaged and believes their material is good enough to deserve protection.
However, in this situation it is possible to have the best of both worlds:
Again, there's no law against distributing your handouts at the end of your talk. Be sure to alert the audience when you begin speaking that you will have handouts, so they don't feel obligated to write down every word you say.
Another approach is to distribute an edited version of the material at the beginning. Good slideshow software facilitates preparing a redacted version of your remarks. You can create a separate version of your slide show that omits the surprise-killing slides. This still requires a little extra work, but it's worth it if you have high quality jokes or other surprises.
Excuse 3: Distributing handouts will make the audience remember the presentation better, so I can't use the same material next year.
Wow! This is my absolute favorite excuse. There's so much wrong with it that I don't know where to start.
Isn't helping the audience remember what you are saying the whole point? This excuse tacitly admits that handouts increase audience retention of the material. Isn't that's a good thing, instead of a bad thing?
Our audiences should not have to suffer the same canned presentation every year. This approach is no more attractive by delivering the material in a quasi-stealth manner, withholding handouts that might help the audiences remember the material.
A key objective of this series of Training Tips is to empower ethics trainers so that coming up with fresh, engaging material each year does not seem like an overwhelming challenge. We will be distributing our ideas in future columns, and we solicit your suggestions in the Comments section below.
February 07, 2011
Training Tip 6: Make Sure to Cover All Mandatory Topics
The United States Office of Governnment Ethics establishes the minimum required content of ethics training in 5 C.F.R. § 2638.704(b):
Content of training. Agencies are encouraged to vary the content of verbal training from year to year but the training must include, at least, a review of:
- The Principles;
- The Standards;
- Any agency supplemental standards;
- The Federal conflict of interest statutes; and
- [Contact information on] agency ethics officials available to advise the employee on ethics issues.
I've attended more than one ethics training session that did not reference these mandatory topics, but I strongly recommend:
If you are going to do ethics training at all, comply with the regulation.
Otherwise, what's the point?
There is no specified time for the "review" component, so presumably a cursory reference to the cited references will suffice. Spending most of your time on a limited subset of ethics issues is much smarter than trying to explain every reference cited in 5 C.F.R. § 2638.704(b), but make sure that at a minimum you remind your audience of these references and let them know how to obtain copies. A hypertext link to the references is a good idea, especially if that part of your training is in electronic format.
I remember one trainer who failed to include her name and contact information on her slide show. She included only her predecessor's name and contact information on the handouts. Was she lazy, or trying to elude those who might have pesky requests for advice? Does it really matter? The damage is the same. Always include the appropriate names and contact information. This might be the most important information you give the audience.
We welcome your thoughts in the Comments section below.
January 31, 2011
Training Tip 5: What Not to Do (The Gettysburg Powerpoint Presentation)
Peter Norvig's clever demonstration of how computer slideshow software would have mangled the Gettysburg Address provides more than its share of laughs, but there is also much to learn from it.
In an accompanying essay, Norvig seems to suggest that Powerpoint presentations are always bad. Antipathy toward slide shows is understandable: A large majority of the ones I've seen have been poorly done.
However, it's important to keep things in perspective. Slide shows are merely tools. They can produce good results or bad results, depending on the skill of the workman.
One of the goals of Training Tips is to help ethics trainers make sure their presentation skills are workmanlike. We will be devoting multiple columns toward helping you come up with high quality audiovisual aids, including slide shows. In the meantime, we welcome your thoughts in the Comment section below.
January 27, 2011
Training Aid: Photo Story on White House Gift Report
Droning oral explanations and abstractions run the risk of boring audiences. "Show and Tell" is not just for second graders. Use pictures to catch the audience's attention and illustrate the points you are making. Our new Training Tips columnist will be expanding on this theme in future columns.
January 24, 2011
Training Tip 4: Never Complain, Never Explain?
Have you observed trainers doing things like this?
Before beginning her presentation, a trainer tells the audience, "I had planned to show you this wonderful video with actors from The Office singing this song "Let's Get Ethical," to the tune of "Let's Get Physical." Unfortunately, I can't get the DVD to work, so I can't show it, but let me tell you, it would be really funny if you could see it."
The example brings to mind the "Never complain, never explain" rule. I've seen this pithy saying variously attributed to Benjamin Disraeli, Henry Ford and Katherine Hepburn. Regardless of the originator, it always struck me as a little dubious. "Never?" Isn't that a recipe for being a jerk?
However, with a little adjustment for rhetorical excess, this saying does describe a sound principle for instructors. It's nearly always a mistake to apologize to the audience. In the example described, the trainer was smart to try to use a training aid recommended by IEC Journal, but when that did not pan out, she unwisely demonstrated to the audience not just her incompetence with technology, but her poor judgment. If she had never apologized for failing to get the DVD to work, the audience would never have known of her failure. Experienced presenters understand that in many cases the audience will never know if the speaker made a mistake unless he or she draws attention to the error by apologizing.
The same principle applies to other mistakes made during your presentation, explains speech expert Richard Zeoli:
When you make a mistake, no one cares but you: Even the most accomplished public speaker will make mistakes. Yet it is important to remember that the only one who cares about any given mistake is the one doing the speaking.
People’s attention spans constantly wander. In fact, most people only absorb about 20 percent of a speaker’s message. The other 80 percent is internalized visually. This ratio is true in nearly everything: a football game, a favorite television show, and even a heart-to-heart conversation. The point is that when you make a mistake, the audience rarely even notices. The most important thing a speaker can do after making a mistake is to keep going. Don’t stop and – unless the mistake was truly earth shattering – never apologize to the audience for a minor slip. Unless they are reading the speech during your delivery, the audience won’t know if you left out a word, said the wrong name, or skipped a page.
"Never" apologize? Probably a mistake. "Almost never" apologize? Sounds about right.
We solicit your thoughts in the Comments section below.
Biographical information about our Training Tips columnist is available.
January 17, 2011
Training Tip 3: Presentations for Dummies
Since the publication many years ago of Dan Gookin's DOS for Dummies, the first book in the successful Dummies line of technical books, I've been ambivalent about the company's naming and marketing strategy. However, when a book's content is good enough, who cares about the name?
When I began giving important presentations in the mid-90s, I pretty much read, or at least surveyed, just about every instructional book I could find. Presentations for Dummies was by far the best practical reference I found, and I have not encountered a better book since.
While "humor consultant" author Malcolm Kushner includes some technical information (including obscure-but-useful tips), he focuses on human factors and practical pointers. The current edition is a revision of the 1996 original ("Successful Presentations for Dummies"). These links to the Dummies.com website provide examples of Kushner's down-to-earth approach:
Google Product Search has information on multiple places the book can be purchased.
We will be providing references to other resources in future columns. In the meantime, we welcome your suggestions in the Comments section below.
Biographical information about our Training Tips columnist is available.
Edited Jan. 23 to correct link to biographical information.
January 10, 2011
Training Tip 2: Studies Prove Positive Approach Pays Dividends
How many times have you attended training where the trainer seemed nervous, skeptical, just going through the motions, or otherwise acting like they just didn't want to be there? Perhaps there were attempts at self-deprecating humor, like referring to how much coffee the trainer would need to get through the training?
When we pause for reflection, we intuitively realize that trainer behavior like this cannot be good. An article by Dr. Brian Fitch for police trainers in the December 2010 FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin entitled "Attitudes and Performance: The Impact of Self-Fulfilling Prophecies" explains that multiple scientific studies confirm what our intuition tells us:
Hundreds of studies have demonstrated that, on average, educators' assumptions do influence the actions and achievements of their pupils. If teachers anticipate that students will succeed, they usually do. On the other hand, when they expect learners to perform poorly, they often are not disappointed. In either case, pupils rise to the level of teacher expectations—either positive or negative. Generally speaking, trainers who anticipate more from students by setting higher standards, providing encouragement, and offering positive feedback inspire higher levels of performance than those who lack faith in the ability and motivation of their charges.
While the earliest studies began with school-age children, subsequent research has examined the role of instructor suppositions with salespeople, athletes, pilots, law enforcement officers, and military personnel. [Footnote omitted].
Perhaps the most instructive message in Dr. Fitch's article is the emphasis on non-verbal communications from instructor:
Studies in communication and psychology have suggested that people rely on three channels to convey their emotions.
- Verbal (words and phrases)
- Paralanguage (tone, pitch, and volume)
- Nonverbal (facial expressions, eye contact, hand gestures, posture, and distance)
What is surprising, however, is the relatively minor role played by the spoken word in communicating emotion. In fact, communication studies have indicated that the majority of emotions, including how instructors truly feel about a student's performance and potential, are communicated nonverbally. More specifically, fully 55 percent of the emotional impact of a communicator's message is nonverbal, with 38 percent accounted for by paralanguage and only 7 percent explained by spoken words.
The apparent power of nonverbal communication reinforces the importance of sending consistent messages. When instructors say one thing but broadcast a different message nonverbally, they invariably undermine the credibility of their communication. For example, law enforcement firearms trainers can significantly undermine their effectiveness by telling students that anyone can shoot well while, at the same time, displaying subtle cues of frustration, such as exhaling deeply, looking disgusted, or speaking in a patronizing voice to recruits having trouble attaining a qualifying score.
Students, however, are surprisingly adept at picking up nonverbal cues, such as subtle changes in facial expression, eye contact, posture, or tone of voice. If instructors send mixed messages, learners invariably will pay greater attention to the nonverbal one, especially if it is negative. [Emphasis added, footnotes omitted]:
Of course, these instructional principles apply just as well to standards of conduct training. If your body language and other cues send the message that the training will be boring and worthless, you are creating a self-fulfilling prophesy. You must make sure your nonverbal communications are not undermining your verbal training message.
Mere awareness of this potential trap should go a long way toward preventing the problem. In future Training Tips columns we will address methods for building confidence and other techniques that should further strengthen performance. In the meantime, we welcome your suggestions in the Comments section below.
Biographical information about our Training Tips columnist is available.
Edited Jan. 23 to correct bad link to columnist biography.
January 06, 2011
Comment Function Open on Training Tips Columns
We have normally kept the Comments function closed at IEC Journal, to avoid automated comment spam. However, to encourage dialog with the audience, our new Training Tips columnist has requested that we open the Comments feature on Training Tips columns. We have done so on the first column, and will be leaving Comments on for at least a few weeks for each column.
Mr. Lawson has provided us with the first eight columns in the series, and we will be posting one every Monday. The topic for the January 10 column will be: "Studies Show A Positive Approach Pays Dividends."
Feedback so far has been favorable, and we are very interested in adding other columnists. We are open to regular or irregular scheduling. Do you know things that might benefit others in the ethics community? A column could be perfect, especially if you would like to raise your profile in the community. Get in touch with us.
January 03, 2011
Training Tip 1: S.T.A.R. Moments
Most government ethics trainers get the substantive part right. Their explanations of the ethics rules are usually correct. The problem is that the descriptions are usually presented in a pedestrian manner.
Nancy Duarte, author of Resonate: Present Visual Stories that Transform Audiences, has a remedy: The S.T.A.R. Moment:
Create a moment where you dramatically drive the big idea home by intentionally placing Something They'll Always Remember--S.T.A.R. moment--in each presentation. This moment should be so profound or so dramatic that it becomes what the audience chats about at the watercooler or appears as the headline of a news article. Planting a S.T.A.R. moment in a presentation keeps the conversation going even after it's over and helps the message go viral. ...
S.T.A.R. moments create a hook in the audience’s minds and hearts. They tend to be visual in nature and give the audience insights that supplement solely auditory information.
It's easier to describe a S.T.A.R. moment than to create one. Reviewing Duarte's explanation and examples is a good start. We'll be providing other examples in the future.
Biographical information about our Training Tips columnist is available.
January 01, 2011
Training Tips Columnist Bio
Training Tips columnist Jerry Lawson has given many presentations for national organizations, including the American Bar Association, American Association of Law Libraries, Department of Justice, ALI-ABA, Price Waterhouse's Legal Tech New York, President’s Council on Integrity and Efficiency, and Association of Inspectors General. He has also been an instructor for many state and local CLE organizations.
His book, The Complete Internet Handbook for Lawyers (ABA 1999), and many articles on legal technology have been praised for making the benefits of technology accessible to lawyers without technical expertise. The authors of the first edition of Persuasive Computer Presentations for Lawyers (ABA 2001) recognized his contributions.
Mr. Lawson says by far his toughest presentations were the ones he has done on teaching techniques, including presentations at OGE Conferences in 2007 (with Dr. Carolyn Chapman), 2008 and 2011 as well as the 2007 OGE "train the trainer" Symposium Time to Get Creative program.
Mr. Lawson considers his strongest qualification for giving training tips to be:
The fact that I am not a naturally good speaker. To get my performance up to an acceptable level took significant study and work. As a result, I believe I may be better able to understand and explain what goes into a good presentation than many speakers who rely on innate talent.
Moving Forward in 2011
Our plans to improve IEC Journal over the coming year include:
- Increasing the sharing of training materials and other information.
- Getting more news tips and links to resources from our readership.
- Recruiting a volunteer to maintain an online ethics calendar.
- Recruiting columnists to write regularly for our readership.
A first iteration of the IEC Journal calendar is now available, and we will be posting more information about it as we develop the features. Our first columnist, Jerry Lawson, will be providing Training Tips every Monday.
If you have news tips or links to resources or would like to help us maintain the calendar, let us know.
We are very interested in adding more columns. We could use people to write about MSPB developments, fiscal law, Hatch Act, OGE developments and many other topics. Columns need not be issued on a regular schedule, but as newsworthy information becomes available.