#LestWeForgetTrainees: Twitter diary of a trainee

A few months ago, I tweeted my experience as a trainee in an 8 day course. The idea was to keep a diary of how I felt about things and then use that as input for a discussion with other trainers about how to improve the trainee experience. I’d be happy to have your comments….


  • Today I start following training myself. Will be tweeting and blogging about my trainee experience …check it out…
  • Training day1. I’m wondering: What will I learn? How will it help me? And is it worth the time and money?
  • Excited. I chose training myself and really want to learn!
  • Intrigued and surprised by no tables, just a circle of chairs. Close contact and interactive I suppose!
  • Given the book “Derrière la magie” by Alain Cayrol and Josiane de Saint Paul  – we await arrival of last trainees..
  • Intro session very good for me. I am sold on the topic and approach to training. Wondering if everyone else is.
  • How do you “assess” satisfaction, “buy-in” or resistance of your trainees during the start-up of a new training?
  • Had a moment of frustration when the conversation went off topic during training for “too long”
  • …but a good morning. Trainer: enthusiastic, not too much. Participants: Seem nice. The topic still interests me.
  • Proposition of 90min lunch seemed too much but it went quickly. Food was good; nice chance to chat amongst trainees.
  • …but tired now and full up!
  • Hard work after lunch. Tired and “fluffy”. NEVER have that as a trainer, but I understand today how trainees have it.
  • Had a nice moment of revelation in training. With a simple model and time to think and work through things, it helps.
  • Last 45 mins = long and tiring, especially having a cold. Hard to be attentive and deal with new stuff all day long.
  • 4 big results implementing my learning points from yesterday. My question: How can I make it a habit?
  • My other question: How will the trainer help me to turn today’s understanding and skill into long-term habits?
  • By chance a school-mum tells me she too followed this training. She said “problem” is having the reflex to apply it.
  • Day2: Expectations clear (not as “excited” as d1). Happy to have real results from day1. Ready for more. What next?
  • Would like to share my success stories with the others. Is this in the agenda today?
  • I take it back – I AM excited to be following training again today 🙂
  • Trainer’s time-management (alignment to commitments) is impeccable. How does she do it with all that flexibility?
  • Trainer answer to “how will she support me in creating habit” = encouragement and support. Will this be ongoing?
  • Aware that we go “off on tangents” + this is nice for me. Trainer is flexible. Does everyone like these tangents?
  • Frustrated when what is in workbook does not obviously correspond to what is on flipchart – I get a bit lost.
  • I worry from time-to-time if I take too much space in the group – would be nice to get feedback on this.
  • I see that some others don’t seem to follow as quickly as me when models and concepts are explained.
  • Nice conversation at the end of the day with my trainer about Kolb’s learning styles.

 …follow me on twitter?

9 PowerPoint tips for real business people

The internet is full of great tips on how to make PowerPoint slides PERFECT. But most people are not selling the world’s sexiest product and won’t take the time to make slides PERFECT. This post is for you, the real business people. 9 simple effective tips…


These are the basics for good looking PPT slides. They will keep you on-track for 90% of your business needs:

  • Only have 1 message or main idea per slide
  • …and make that message your slide title
  • Prefer visual messages to text
  • Replace numeric tables with charts
  • Limit the number of bullets to 5 or 6
  • Limit the number of words per bullet to 5 or 6
  • Use font size 24 to 48
  • Use “normal” fonts
  • Use a dark background with light text (if your marketing department will let you!)


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Dressed for presentation success?

Last week, a trainee from “Presentation Skills” sent me an email – I thought I’d share my answer here.

If you have comments, please add them.


The question

After the course I was discussing with a friend a mine and it ended up in a statement/question that needs to be cleared out by a specialist. One of them pretends that, while presenting in a suit in front of an audience, it should be better that the sleeves of the skirt are longer than the vest so that the sleeves are well visible. This should express an aggressive, positive and confident body language. There is even a rather famous presenter on the Dutch television that should buy his vests 1 size smaller to emphasise this effect even more.


What do you think about this?


My answer

First of all, I am not an expert on dress-sense – my wife would argue that I have no style 🙂

I therefore cannot make any comment on the specific effects that specific clothing has on the impact of a presentation.


What I can say is:

  • 93% of what is understood by other people is more than words – this includes body-language and all sorts of other things (like culture, convictions etc..). Therefore, it is clear for me that the perception of one’s clothing can definately have an impact on how the other person processes information.
  • I think it takes more than clothes to come across as aggressive and confident
  • Aggressive doesn’t sound like a good thing to me
  • I think it would be possible to wear all sorts of clothes that are supposed to look like XYZ and not have the other body-language and behaviours to really create XYZ
  • I’m sure Tom Cruise wears high-heels to make himself look taller 🙂 and more “powerful”
  • Some people position themselves as experts in colour/clothing and will tell you which colours best make you look X, Y, Z


What I mostly think about clothing and presentations is that you need to match the style to the audience you are presenting to. If I were to come to training dressed extremely differently to you guys, it would have an impact. I also note that some people come to my trainings looking “really smart” with expensive clothes from designer labels. The fact that I think they “look smart” probably says more about me than it does about them. But its worth thinking about…


That’s the best I can answer.


Focus on behaviour and not clothes. Match clothes to the audience style if you want to. Do that right and your presentation will look confident and strong.


Hope this helps!



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Self-learning in the vegetable patch: 5 important ingredients

What can be learnt alone and what cannot? What is the fine-line between discovering something and learning something? Do we need expert help to learn? Do we need expert help to KNOW we’ve learnt?

All these questions interest me a lot at the moment and I’d be happy to have your comments. For today, I just want to share an example of something that feels like self-learning to me, underlining the different things that make it possible: Welcome to my vegetable patch.


Motivation is key

Since I bought my small farm in January, I have delusions of “living off the land” and “keeping livestock”. Fortunately, Delhaize is just down the road and my chickens are well behaved!

But I still have a vegetable patch. Having spent the initial day digging and turning the soil, a month waiting patiently for weeds to die under cardboard boxes and plenty of time doubled-over planting seeds….. things have started to grow!

I was motivated by the challenge of growing my own vegetables, the ideas of relaxing in the garden with a family project and the (potential) reward of eating the vegetables afterwards. As far as I can tell, the first 2 are examples of what @DanielPink calls Motivation 3.0 in his book “Drive”. Eating the vegetables sounds like a classic example of extrinsic motivation (the proverbial carrot becomes reality :-)).

Without these motivations, I am not sure I would learn (or do) anything in my vegetable patch.


Clarity of mission

Covey says you have to begin with the end in mind in order to be effective. Csikszentmihalyi says you need clarity of mission to get in flow. I agree with both. Vegetable patch mission: Grow some vegetables!

Ok, got it. What next?

Last week, I was confronted with a dramatic vegetable patch situation: My garden-pea crop is falling over. Nobody ever told me this would happen. I didn’t know they would grow so tall and only my own understanding of gravity and growth tells me now what the problem is. Time to self-learn!

Mission: Help them stay upright. I hold on to this idea like a burning torch in the darkness of my ignorance.

Mission is key to successful self-learning.


Ability to evaluate the as-is situation and self-coach for options

In my post on self-learning competences, I talked about the need to self-coach and give feedback. I am a fan of the GROW model from Sir John Whitmore. Faced with my droopy peas, I applied this model to self-coach myself towards solutions:

  • I want the peas to stay upright as I have an intuition that this is best for growth
  • Assess reality: Peas not upright, future growth in bad direction…
  • Options: stand and hold them, recruit children to do the same, look on internet for answer, tie them individually to a bunch of sticks, put a wire from one side to the next and hope they climb it, create a fence ….
  • Assess options in relationship to mission, vision, resources, competences etc… (children not motivated 😉
  • Choose action





Available resources, including own materials, own competence and time to discover and learn

I decided to go for the fence solution. I still don’t know if this is what people generally do and frankly I don’t care.

Not wanting to spend money on a fence, I looked around for something that might do the trick (much like William Kamkwamba and his windmill): I found chicken wire and a few bits of old bamboo.

3 hours of work.

I tried, I failed. I tried, I succeeded.


Encouragement and feedback

Csikszentmihalyi says it is important to get feedback from the world. When self-learning, this might come from simply seeing (lack of) results, but it can be equally helpful to seek out other 3rd parties for feedback and other ideas. Whilst failing to create my effective fence, I asked 2 people for their input

  • My 35 year old wife came with encouragement in the form of words (“Well done” and “keep it up”) and presence (her simply being nearby boosted my activity – I hoped to show her how clever I was !)

  • My 6 year old daughter came with feedback: “That’s not going to work papa. You don’t have enough chicken wire for all the peas” Good point – this feedback helped me to slow down, think ahead and change course…



Voila, what seems to me to be 5 important ingredients for successful self-learning.

What do you think?

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Thanks for reading!


4 spontaneous feedback moments this month

It’s always nice to get some feedback about positive performance… …even nicer when you didn’t ask for it!

This month, I had 4 particular spontaneous feedbacks from satisfied clients. Being a proud young man, I share 🙂


“After your training, someone told me I was a good listener. It’s the first time in my life that I am told that. Thank you!”

During the 2nd day of training, a physics PhD student came to tell me this. During day 1 we did my absolute favourite active-listening exercise (if you want to know what’s so special about it, mail me). He repeated his feedback again after day 3 of training. He learnt, he practiced, he implemented, he succeeded. Nice!


“Juste un petit mail pour te faire part de ma très grande satisfaction par rapport à ce training. Mr Dan Steer a fait preuve d’un professionnalisme et d’un investissement personnel absolument remarquable dans le cadre de cette formation.”

A trainee from “Presentation Skills” with Kluwer sent this in an email to his own training manager, who forwarded it on to my contact at Kluwer. He followed 2 days of training with me, delivered 3 presentations and learnt a whole lot of stuff he can now do. Satisfied!


“J’ai passé, aujourd’hui, un entretien chez [ – – – – – – – ] qui ont accepté de me prendre en stage l’année prochaine. Un grand merci pour votre aide! »

My 2nd favourite recent feedback, as it show the effectiveness of good networking: A few months ago, Epsilon sent a mass mailing to their members asking if anyone knew of a theatre-training company that might take a temp-student-worker. I connected Sylvain with Sabine and received this email some time later. I love it when a plan comes together!


“Hello Mr Steer. It’s Gerard here – you trained me in Mons in 2008. I wanted to give you an update and let you know that I finally did my Djembe concert. I don’t know if you remember, but we talked about my lack of confidence and my dreams to perform in public. You asked me what I would think if I got to 50 (years old) and still hadn’t done what I always wanted to do. Well: That won’t happen – I’ve done it! I wanted to thank you for the inspiration and all your help and belief.”

My absolute favourite feedback in a long time, received by voicemail. My wife listened to it and nearly cried 🙂 3 years after training, this guy came back to thank me personally for the boost and “wise-words”. I feel like a guru. Like !



…if anyone else wants to tell me I did a great job, feel free… 🙂

Thanks for reading,


Learn to play, play to learn

When I was at school, we used to have fun. Driving past the local school yesterday, I saw kids in the playground at 10.15am and thought: Why don’t I still get to play in the middle of the day?

According to Eric Lardinois, Belgian en “ludopédagogie”: “Business games help people to live the experience, improve recall… and enable training participants to deal with subjects differently” (Trends, 24th February 2011, Belgium).

According to Rudolph Steiner, play is essential to the development of children. What about adults? What can be achieved with fun and games?

Cases of free-time innovation such as those seen at Google and 3M are well documented: Give people a chance to play in the sandpit without the pressure of performance, rules and time and the results are great. But many people still dismiss these examples, saying: “That’s Google, that’s not us. WE don’t need it. We can’t do it. That CAN’T be us.”

Can it?

Here are a few play ideas I’ve encountered recently that CAN be used in different ways to help learn, relax, perform and amuse your people:

The benefits of play:

  • Relaxation / stress release
  • Connectivity, relationship building
  • Creativity
  • Right-brain/left-brain integration
  • The Eureka effect (when I stopped thinking about it, the answer came to me)
  • It’s just fun 🙂

In conclusion: Learn to play and play to learn!

Hope to hear more about what is happening on play-training from #ASTD2011. In the meantime, please add comments to share your ideas on playing to learn…

See www.infinitelearning.be for more learning and development resources or follow me on twitter

Thanks for reading!


Self-learning: Defining this competence for the future

If everyone is going to learn by themselves, we are going to have to help them. Any ideas on this at #ASTD2011?

Assume that @jpapakalos is right and the Facebook generation is going to go for self-learning. Does this mean that they are going to be any good at it? OK, they like to do things by themselves. But this doesn’t mean they will be successful!

If we are going to accept that people embrace social-learning, sharing and self-learning, we’re gong to have to make sure they are competent at it… Here is my first attempt at defining the self-learning competence:

  • Able to set and follow-up on learning-objectives
  • Knows own learning style and adapts self-learning process accordingly
  • Able to identify and embrace Infinite Learning © opportunities as they arise
  • Able to identify quality learning resources
  • Able to successfully network in order to find useful information in a given environment
  • Effective use of social-learning tools
  • Understands the importance of knowledge-sharing and effectively contributes to “the cloud”
  • Self-coaching, self-feedback and self-leadership skills
  • Memory, speed-reading and concentration skills
  • Ability to chunk-up, categorise and evaluate information

Your thoughts? Add comments!

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Learning leadership in a culture of sharing

What is the role of learning leadership in a culture of sharing and Infinite Learning © possibilities?

On one hand, we have the wish for strategic measurement, development, implementation and evaluation of controlled learning initiatives. On the other, we seek to encourage pro-active employee-led knowledge sharing and self-learning. Where do learning people draw the line between directive top-down action, closely controlled to ensure business competence… and full delegation of the learning business to its customers and 21st century end-users? If Blanchard and Hersey are still right and we assume that our people are committed and competent to learn, then surely we must give away control?

But how can we do that and still keep things moving in the right direction? Are learning managers morphing into learning ambassadors? Will the role become obsolete, replaced by a whole community of self-learning managers? At ASTD2011, we will find a smorgasbord of best (and new) learning practices, tools and ideas. What interests me is who is going to make them happen and on what terms?

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Thanks for reading!

Training does not imply learning

Simply following a training course does not mean that people will learn. Nobody knows this better than me. My first corporate training experience was a disaster and to this day, I still don’t know what I learnt.

In 2002 and after 1 year of maintaining an international Eurostar relationship, I moved to Belgium. Armed with my Philosophy degree, solid English language skills and 2 whole years of marketing experience (in addition to the arrogance obligatory for all 24 year old English men) I was sure I would find work in the European capital of Brussels. Why not?

3 months later and tired of moving boxes for a sports-article-distribution company, I took a job in a well-known international call-centre. During the interview they told me I was “team manager material” but I was nonetheless given the job call operator. Time for training!

For 2 months, I was subjected to the corporate torture of being talked at from 9am to 5pm. The subject: “Computers”. The learning objective: “Death by monotony”. Not a good start. Being English and being dissatisfied, I did the natural thing and complained. More on that later…

Now, if I am slightly more honest, I did learn 1 or 2 things, but nothing anywhere close to what was needed for the job and certainly not proportional to the 320 hours spent in what we came to refer to “the breaking room”. When I went live on the phone, my natural English politeness had been replaced by the standard bad-operator calling attitude we all know and love. And the level of computing knowledge required for supporting HP in their customer service activities had increased by approximately 1 bit (for the whole team). Fortunately for me, the calls didn’t come before I myself got a position as a trainer.

This story of bad training is slightly extreme and probably has more to with the lack of competence of my own trainer than with the method itself. But I still remain sceptical of the ability to integrate real learning with classical classroom training only and I continue to harp on about how things could have been so much better.

During the round-table meetings I have facilitated on the subject of Infinite Learning © I regularly ask people if they have already had training that didn’t lead to real learning. The answer is almost always “Yes”, even when the trainer has been informative, professional and expert in his field. The problem lies in one of two areas:

  • Either training was not the right approach
  • Or what happened before, during and after the training experience was ineffective

I am working on what can be done to improve things. But before we get to that and in case anyone is interested, here is my preferred definition of learning:

“Acquisition and integration of performance-driven competence”

…now, let’s make it Infinite!

Read the blog-post Infinite Learning © …a short intro

For more learning and development ideas, follow me on twitter or check out www.infinitelearning.be

Thanks for reading!

12 random things to remember when you present

I just sent an update to one of clients to let her know what her people replied to the questions “What did you learn?” and “What will you implement?” after Presentation Skills training. Thought it might be interesting to share…

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Thanks for reading!