Monthly Archives: February 2011

Working for Kluwer Formations

Dan wants to ‘über-satisfy”.

It shows in his way of working: he’s always well prepared, punctual and always quick to respond or act according to the specific needs of the client.

… and above all, his personality makes him a pleasant trainer to work with.

Miek Wouters and Helena Van Caekenberghe
Project Managers
Kluwer Opleidingen

Creation of a training concept in pharma industry

Dan nous a aidé à créer un nouveau concept au niveau de la formation médicale continue des médecins généralistes. Il s’agissait d’un programme qui était soutenu par une des plus grandes sociétés pharmaceutiques.

Sans qu’il ait une expérience dans le domaine médicale et/ou pharmaceutique, son apport a été très riche et nous a surtout permis de réfléchir ‘out of the box’.

Il est enthousiasmant, crédible et surtout fiable.

Kristof Canoot
Sales Director
Medipress Services

Speaking too fast? Tips for presentation nerves

This blog outlines the simple solutions discussed during training last week for people who need to slow down their speech a little when presenting. Fast speaking is mostly due to stress and as such it often naturally slows down a few minutes into the presentation. If that’s not the case, try some of these solutions:


Build some gaps into your speaking

The easiest way to slow down during your presentation is to stop talking! To create intonation in your presentation structure and to give you a chance to be quiet and calm down, try building in some speech-gaps. Examples of how to do this include:

Create interactivity

Ask the audience some questions and use this time to breathe, drink water and generally relax. They will be happy to get involved, and the interactivity will increase learning and recall.

Add in new media

Your presentation doesn’t have to be all you. Show a film, hand out a reference, have a flip-chart moment… Just be sure to be quiet for a while.

Use strong transitions

A transition is the moment between one part of your presentation and another. To do a good job of these transitions you need to show the audience that one part is over and another will begin. In principle, this can be done with verbal or visual signals and pace-changing activities. If you go for the verbal transtion, try the “mirror, signal, manoeuvre” technique – it will help you to focus on your structure (which may calm your mind) and give you a moment to drink some water:

  • “So, we’ve seen how proactivity can have a positive impact on the organisation” (Mirror)
  • “Now we are going to see what you can do to build proactivity in your organisation” (Signal)
  • …walk to other side of room, drink water, change PPT slide (Manoeuvre)
  • “In this part of my presentation, we will see 3 best-practices for building proacti…..” (Continue presentation)


Get a helper

Some people just don’t realise that they are talking too fast (until someone tells them afterwards). To remedy this, find someone friendly that you know will be in the audience and ask them to give you a discrete sign when you start speeding too much… (The same approach can be used for time-management in presentations)


Present in a pair

You have been asked to present, but you are nervous. Why have you been asked to present? Probably not because everyone wants to see YOU present, or because they like to put YOU under pressure. The most likely reason is that someone wants to know something, get some input for a decision, hear your arguments for XYZ…. Whatever. So why do it alone? If you know you are stressed, you can always get someone to present with you. Create a strong structure and rehearse well and you will give yourself a good chance to sit back and relax during part of the presentation… …you’ll also get a good opportunity to gauge the audience’s reaction whilst your co-presenter is doing his stuff.


Chill out and believe in yourself!

The nerves are due to stress. Maybe you didn’t prepare well, maybe you don’t like to stand in front of the public, you are not convinced of your message or you had bad experiences before… The stress is due to something in you that is afraid of doing the presentation. That fear can manifest itself in many ways. In presentation skills training, we focus on building strong behaviour that will lead to a strong performance. But this doesn’t mean you need to ignore the nerves. Try one of these solutions:

  • Meditate for a few minutes prior to the presentation – try hiding in the toilets!
  • Use visualisation techniques to convince yourself you will do well (sit down, close your eyes and imagine your successful presentation in all its glory)
  • Scream (this is what my wife and I did in the car on the way to our civil wedding – it works a treat to get out the general stress and trembling voice
  • Do some decent physical exercise prior to the presentation – this can be as simple as systematically tightening and releasing different muscles in your body 1-by-1 (in the toilet again, if necessary) or maybe some real exercise (e.g. running).
  • Try hypnosis – by chance 🙂 my father @andy_steer is a hypnotist and has created a downloadable track to help with confident speaking. His site is here and the free downloadable track about confident presentations is here.


Looking for more ideas? Try this site:


And if that wasn’t enough, then come to one of my training sessions. Let me know if you are interested….

…and that, as they say in show-business, is all folks!


Hope you found something interesting here – feel free to comment.

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Learning Design Questions

During a recent meeting with Jan Laurijssen of Kluwer and one of our clients, we discussed many ideas about learning design and how to move forward when implementing learning initiatives. Part of that conversation was centered on the types of questions you should ask when approaching a potential learning issue. This blog entry is inspired by that conversation and outlines some good questions you can ask to get the ball rolling in the right direction.

This is a non-exhaustive list of questions that can be useful to consider when people ask you to “deliver training” or “make some learning”. Some are more creative than others. You should not see this as a “list of things to ask” but inspiration for your consulting… They may help to ensure that you tackle the right issues in the right way (for the right reasons):

Define the problem first

It is important to begin with the end in mind and put first things first. We need first to be sure what we are working towards and where we are at present. Some interesting questions:

  • What are we trying to solve?
  • What evidence is there of an “issue” in the organisation? How did you detect the problem? How is business not going as it should do? How do you know some competence is missing? Who says so?
  • What is a concrete example of how things are going wrong today? And what is the business result of this?
  • What culture/organisational/process issues are causing difficulty here?
  • What competences are missing (knowledge, skills, attitude)?
  • How far does this problem reach? Who is impacted?
  • What are the priority issues? What are the deadlines?
  • Read about Impact Mapping and Backwards Planning here (Don Clark)

Be sure learning is the answer

Some learning professionals jump too quickly into tailoring a package to solve the issue. But not all issues are learning issues. Some interesting questions:

  • Why do you think this is a learning issue?
  • What experience suggests that learning will solve this?
  • If learning was not the answer, what would be?
  • Is this really about training? Or something else?
  • What people or processes are not working as they should? Why would learning by the answer?
  • How could better communication improve the situation?
  • What knowledge, skills or attitude do you seek to improve with learning?
  • 2 more articles on whether or not training is the answer: The Experience Factor and Why training fails and when training works, by Cheri Baker (@cheribaker)

Think about who you are dealing with

If you are going to design a learning initiative, it is important to think carefully about your people before creating anything. Ask some good questions:

  • Who needs to learn?
  • How many people will be involved?
  • Who are the stakeholders and what do they need from learning?
  • How do the (future) participants feel about the problem/current performance?
  • What talents/competences/passions/convictions do future participants have? How will these help or hinder learning?
  • How would you describe the style of the participants?
  • What is their experience and background?
  • What would they enjoy/dislike from a learning solution?
  • What is the current situation of those that learn? Are there any obvious opportunities or threats for learning?

Fix some real learning objectives

To be successful in both implementation and measurement of the learning solution, you need to have quality goals to work towards. Consider the following:

  • What would be the optimal “end-state”?
  • What should participants know or be able to do after the learning and under what conditions?
  • How do you expect participants to change after learning, either in behaviour or attitude?
  • What will “being competent” look like after learning?
  • What other elements do we want to measure? (eg: Reaction to learning)
  • How will we measure effective behaviour/competence/attitude before and after learning? And how will these measures include both quantitative and qualitative elements?
  • How will we measure business results before and after learning?
  • Check out Don Clark’s page on performance measures
  • In what timescale is change expected?
  • How will the learning provider, participant and n+1 provide feedback before, during and after learning?
  • What could be a good slogan for the learning initiative?
  • Check out Don Clark’s site for more ideas on fixing learning objectives

Design a learning solution

Learning is more than training and training does not (necessarily) imply learning. Don’t jump straight into a classical training solution before thinking about some of these questions:

  • What is the solution best suited to this problem and these people?
  • What resources are available (budget, facilities, time)?
  • How will we represent all stakeholders in the learning solution?
  • How will you get the relevant sponsors involved?
  • How and what will we communicate?
  • What methods are available? Follow this link to read about Choosing Delivery Systems.. (Don Clark)
  • Through what phases should learning move? What order should things happen in?
  • What is the best way to ensure learning is linked to reality?
  • How can we make the process truly authentic? How will we build in the right context?
  • When and where should learning take place?
  • How will we ensure transfer to the workplace? How will we get the learners’ managers involved?
  • Who can help facilitate or deliver this initiative?What are the obstacles to transferring learning to the workplace and how will we overcome them?
  • Who is competent and available to design and deliver the learning solution?
  • Who will own the learning process and what will their input be during design and implementation?
  • How can we ensure participant buy-in to the problem and learning process?
  • How will you follow-up on learners (if required) to be sure they do what you ask them to do?
  • What is the minimum effective dose of learning that can get the job done?
  • What are the best materials, methods and channels to use? How will people access these?
  • What methods are we strong in using?
  • What deliverables should be achieved at which moments?
  • How can we best profit from available technology and learning tools?
  • How can we enhance formal learning with tools like social media?
  • What is the most efficient way to deliver knowledge?
  • What can learners do by themselves and what do they need help with?
  • How can we leverage or capture informal social learning before and after a formal learning initiative?
  • What can we do to get closer to the Infinite Learning © vision?
  • What are obstacles to success in the learning process?

If you have comments and other interesting questions to note, please add them to this blog – looking forward to hearing from you!

Implementing a Competence Mgt System

J’ai collaboré avec Dan Steer dans le cadre de la conception d’un CMS (« Competence Management System »). Dan est intervenu comme consultant externe, et expert en CMS.

Dan allie une très bonne capacité d’analyse et de réflexion, avec un talent inné pour animer des brainstormings créatifs, il a véritablement une double casquette de consultant et de formateur. Il dispose d’une grande flexibilité
mentale et d’un bon talent créatif, qui lui ont permis d’apporter de la valeur ajoutée concrète dans le projet.

Je re-choisirais Dan sans hésiter pour un projet du même style.

Didier De Greef
Operations Manager

8 strategies for how to make group decisions

There are lots of different ways to make decisions. This post outlines several.


Should we cancel the project? What should the team implement to solve absenteeism issues? Which DVD should we hire? What time should we run the meeting? How will we decide which new processes to implement? Where should we hold the team event? How will we deal with MarComms in 2012? What are the strategic priorities?

For all these questions, we need to identify solutions. With a good problem solving method, some brainstorming or spontaneous creativity we can come up with ideas. But how to decide?

Decision making is an integral part of leadership (even if the leader does not decide) and as such, how decisions will be made is something to consider in detail. When leaders set up the modus-operandi for teamwork, projects, meetings … defining how decisions will be made should be included.


Here are a few ways you might make decisions in a group


One person decides

  • This is usually the leader or manager or another person with responsibility. I have discovered in my family that it can be fun to delegate decision making to different family members at different moments. You get some interesting results..


Democratic (majority) decision

  • Everyone votes and the majority wins. Anything over 50% = majority. A variation on this is the advance-majority decision which states that prior to voting, the % majority required to pass the decision must be defined. What is interesting here is to think about who decides this % and how (the group or one person?).


Unanimous decisions

  • Everyone has to agree on a given solution/proposition. When the unanimous decision does not come quickly, groups face the dilemma of having to dedicate more time than they hoped to make the decision or to have to change the decision making process. The 2nd option can lead to conflict and dissatisfaction, especially if only a small number of people in the group were “against” the majority.



  • In this option, you question the decision itself and changing it until everyone is happy with the new outcome. Imagine a choice between options A and B. In the compromise situation, we would either look for a merge of A and B or collaborate to create a new option (C). Read about the Thomas Kilman Indicator for more ideas on the difference between the will to compromise or collaborate.



  • Involves accepting a decision provided no-one objects. This usually involves one person (the leader) saying: “If no-one disagrees, we will….” Best hope those who disagree dare to speak up!



  • Putting off the decision until later might be the best decision right now. It could be done because you don’t have the time, people or expertise to deal with the decision at this moment. Does it have to be decided now?


Not deciding

  • Maybe you will just ignore the decision and see what happens


The final option

  • …works just fine for me when the stakes are low and the choice seems quite random: Flip a coin!



Advice for setting up decision making processes?

Avoid indecision or “plop decisions” (nothing is decided, but because we move to the next item, people think it was decided) by doing the following:

  • Create clarity in the decision making process before anything is on the table to be decided
  • Clarify the options well when making choices
  • Let everyone speak – this can help to create motivation (even if one person only decides)
  • Don’t take too long to decide – it is the author’s opinion that it is better to put the decision on-hold and come back to it (like doing crosswords!) than get caught up in decision making for too long – the latter drains energy and does not improve effectiveness
  • Be creative!


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My 21 favourite good SWOT questions

The first step to doing SWOT well is asking good questions. Don’t know what questions to ask? Read this post.

SWOT is a great and simple tool for analysing your current position in order to define strategic action. In this post, I first outline the meaning of strategic action and then list 21 of my favourite SWOT questions to help you with your own SWOT analysis.


Creating strategic action starts with knowing your position

According to Sun Tzu, the Chinese military general who penned “The Art of War”, understanding your current position is the key to creating good strategy. According to Stephen R Covey in “The 7 habits of highly effective people”, if you don’t begin with the end in mind (define a clear mission) it is not possible to understand your current position and therefore not possible to put first things first and create strategic action and priority-based action. Linking these ideas to the usage of SWOT, we can say that you cannot know your strengths (for example) unless they are measured in relationship to some goal, mission or objective. When asking “How strong am I?” we must first ask “For what?”

So – if you want to use the following SWOT questions to analyse your position, start by defining your mission well. If you’ve already done that, read on and answer each of these questions, thinking of your mission statement at each moment…



  • What makes you better than others (for this mission)?
  • What actions do you do well?
  • What are your competences? What knowledge, skills and attitude do you have that can help you?
  • What do other people say you do well?
  • Why should you of all people undertake this mission?



  • What could you improve in order to achieve this mission?
  • In what ways are you not efficient?
  • What don’t you do well?
  • Where are you incompetent? What knowledge, skills and attitude are you missing?
  • What should you avoid doing?
  • Why shouldn’t you undertake this mission?



  • What real opportunities are present today?
  • What is going on around you that seems to be useful?
  • From which recurring tendencies can you profit and how?
  • What could be done today that isn’t being done?
  • What is missing on the market?
  • Who can support you and how?



  • What are the negative tendencies in play today?
  • What obstacles do you face in your mission right now?
  • Who might cause you problems in the future and how?
  • What is the competition doing that might cause difficulties for you?


Not enough? Read my other post: 6 more cool SWOT questions to identify opportunities


When I do a SWOT, I like to take a little time alone to get started, but then try nonetheless to include others later on (my wife, peers, a team I am working with). Here are 2 more references to help you do a great SWOT:


Once the initial SWOT is done, it’s time to start thinking about actions, solutions, priorities etc…

..want a simple idea? Check out my post on “2 questions that seem to set me free” or read about “Creating Strategic Action in 4 Steps


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How I introduce myself in Presentation Skills, Commercial Communication and Consultancy training

How should a trainer introduce herself at the beginning of a course? Should she just give her name and company, or detail her experience? Do certain people and cultures expect to know what school she came from, her family name or her special interests?

For the training noted above, I prefer not to worry about those things and just let the participants decide. This reinforces key learning on how to adapt to your interlocutor whilst achieving your own objectives, the importance of asking the right questions and how to deal with questions. Read on to understand..


Consider the following exchange from my training this morning:

  • DAN (after all trainees have introduced themselves): So, what do you want to know about me?
  • Trainee 1: How old are you? Do you have kids?
  • DAN: Just like that? No more detail than age and if I have kids?
  • Trainee 1: Yeh, that’s fine.
  • DAN: I’m 32 and I have 3 daughters. Is that OK?
  • Trainees 1: Yes, thanks.
  • Trainee 2: What is your experience?
  • DAN: You want to know what presentations I’ve given or just my CV?
  • Trainee 2: No, no, your experience as a presenter?
  • DAN: I have given lots of presentations to lots of different public….. (DAN continues with a resume of different conferences he spoke at, 2 previous employee roles where he had to present to different internal audiences… full detail). Does that answer your question?
  • Trainee 2: Yes, thank you!
  • …and so on…


What you will see in the above exchange:


1. I don’t launch directly into a presentation of myself

What I want to achieve is a useful introduction of myself that gives them enough information to trust and believe in me and create rapport. (I “begin with the end in mind” Covey habit n°2)

I ask what they want to know in order to choose what I say. (Covey habit n°5: “Seek first to understand, then to be understood).

Having both of these things in mind, I can decide what to share.

This is the basic approach to creating an effective message (in presentations, commercial communication, consultancy…): Look for the common ground between your objective and the other’s situation, values and needs.


2. I reply to a closed question with a closed answer

Trainee number 1 asked me a question that could only be answered by “yes” or “no” as well as another very restricted question. I answer by “yes” and “no” and just giving my age. Being able to ask questions that will get your interlocutor speaking is key in presentations (to create interactivity), and in commercial communication and consultancy (to assess situation, values and needs). Although I am a little abrupt in my answer, he ought to understand that if he wants more, he should ask for it.


3. I check that I have understood the question well and that the answer if satisfactory

No trainer worth his pay-cheque misses this and since we will deal with that topic in presentation skills training, it’s a good start… if you have joined training today, check p32 of your workbook.


Voila: How I introduce myself in these 3 training modules.


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