Sometimes trainers can get stuck in a rut when writing training courses. The tone can become monotonous, or the way to approach things is unclear. But a little shift in your approach can rejuvenate the way you think about things. So here’s a trick we often use to get us over a stumbling block: write like a journalist.
Newspapers certainly aren’t new; they’ve been around for over 400 years. But clearly they are doing something right. They have evolved over the years to remain appealing to people from across generations, income levels, and backgrounds. They’ve done this by updating their writing style and layout for mass appeal.
Training has a few similarities to newspapers. Trainers also have to cater to a diverse audience, and they have to create and lay out the content so it’s appealing to that audience. Given the success of the newspaper, why not take some cues for your own training?
Grab attention with informative lesson names
When you read the paper, you scan its headlines for an overview of the day’s news. “Man sentenced to 12 years for Ponzi scheme,” or “City Council approves property tax hike for 2013”. Sometimes the news from the headline is enough and you don’t need to read any further. Other times, you might want to read more to find out how the news happened. Headlines present lots of information in a way that’s easy to digest.
Lesson or tutorial names should be equally informative. When people take training, they want to know the purpose of the lesson before they take it. They want to know how the lesson is going to solve their problems or answer their questions. For example, instead of naming the feature highlighted in the lesson, such as “Using the Mouse,” highlight the outcome of the feature: “Pointing, Clicking and Dragging Items on Your Computer.” Sharing the purpose of the lesson, instead of just naming the feature covered, gives people a reason to be interested.
Putting first things first: Article structure
The structure of a newspaper article is also something from which trainers can borrow. The first sentence is always the lead, which summarizes the most important facts of the article. The rest of the article explains these facts in greater detail, in order of decreasing importance.
Lessons and tutorials can be structured the same way. Begin with an introduction that provides context and meaning; explain the purpose and objective of the lesson. What will people get from this? Why should it matter to them? Then go on and flesh out those objectives for the remainder of the lesson. This guides people as they learn, letting the lesson unfold in a way that’s easy to follow.
So next time you’re looking for ideas to rejuvenate your approach, try putting on your reporter’s hat. You might find that it’s a great way to up the mass appeal of your lessons.
Internet giants like Google, Wikipedia, Reddit, and other influential firms are joining in tomorrow’s Internet protest against the SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) bill, which is currently being debated in Congress.
SOPA and PIPA (Protect IP Act) are both pieces of legislation that aim to stop the pirating of America’s intellectual property and copyrighted material, especially piracy originating from foreign “rogue” sites. This is, of course, a noble cause; no one believes that stealing movies or music and selling them for profit is a good thing. But the language in the bills leaves a lot of room for interpretation that copyright trolls could use against American tech companies.
Here are three compelling arguments against SOPA and PIPA:
CustomGuide joins these companies in protesting SOPA. Upholding copyright law is important, but it’s not worth breaking the Internet. Let’s go back to the drawing board and make sure the language in these bills is right before they pass.
Every year I reply to over 10,000 emails from clients, employees, vendors, and other business associates. Since e-mail correspondence is only part of my daily responsibilities, corresponding quickly without losing the quality is very important.
As you probably already know, Microsoft Office contains a useful tool called AutoCorrect that will automatically replace commonly misspelled words, such as “teh” or “recieve” with the correct spelling. Office allows you to add your own AutoCorrect entries, so if you always misspell “bureau” as “buerue”, you can add an AutoCorrect entry so the misspelling is automatically corrected whenever it is typed.
I noticed that for my e-mails, I tend to write the same words or phrases again and again and again, so it’s really a no-brainer to have “autocorrect shortcuts” to quickly write out as many as possible. For example, instead of typing out interactive assessment or interactive eLearning, I’ve entered custom autocorrect entries of “ia” and “ie “ which will then change the abbreviations with the entire words.
I have created and regularly use about over 200 autocorrect entries to increase my productivity. Here’s a partial list:
Thus to come up with the following response:
“Thank you for your interest in CustomGuide’s computer training products. Our PowerPoint 2010 course is available as an interactive online course (best for self-paced) or as customizable print on demand courseware (best for instructor led training). Please let me know if you have any other questions.”
I use these autocorrect abbreviations:
“Ti in cg’s ct products. Our P10 course is av as an io course (best for sp) or as cz pod (best for ilt). Plq.”
You and your company, of course will have your own words and phrases that you’ll want to use in your AutoCorrect list. I’d recommend starting with a few long ones that you are sure to use again often (perhaps starting with one for your company name). One pitfall to avoid—be sure not to redefine abbreviations for actual abbreviations. For example, adding an AutoCorrect abbreviation for Windows Vista as “wv” might seem like a good idea, but you’ll have some annoyances as soon as you try writing a letter to someone in West Virginia.
It’s a question that has always bedeviled those of us in the training industry. We at CustomGuide are always looking for ways to help clients measure the financial impact of training to their organization. However, the formulas and numbers used to measure ROI can be difficult and expensive, which is why many organizations simply believe that it pays off without spending the money needed to measure training’s impact. But if you’re unable to measure the financial impact of something, you’re generally unable to justify it in the business world.
What if you could tell your manager that investing in training and development will significantly increase the value of your company’s stock in the long term? No doubt they would be all ears.
The evidence that training and development increases the value of a company’s stock was discovered by labor economist Laurie Bassi in the mid-1990s (read the complete article here). As a former research director for the American Society of Training and Development (ASTD), Bassi noticed a connection between stock prices and the amount of money invested in programs for training and development. She dug deep into the topic and published groundbreaking research on the impact of training on business. Her conclusion was that over the long term, companies that invested more in learning and development had higher stock prices than those that didn’t.
Unfortunately, no one heeded this blazing insight into investing. So Bassi put her money where her mouth was and started a fund in 2001 that concentrated on buying stocks from companies that are known for investing in the training and development of staff. Ten years later, the fund has outperformed the S&P 500 by substantial margins.
There are many other ways to measure the worth and impact of training. But 10 years of stocks that consistently outperform the rest is a striking example of training’s impact on the bottom line. It’s evidence that’s difficult to ignore.
Go ahead and try it out at your own company. If you don’t have stock, try measuring the overall profit of your company from one year to the next. See if profit increases in the years after an investment in training. See if profit decreases after reducing spending in training. Chances are, you’ll be able to show that yes indeed, training is worth it, to massive effect.
Melissa Peterson is a writer and editor at CustomGuide.
Copyright © 2010 CustomGuide Inc. - All rights reserved.