Instructional Design Category

What’s a sales pro doing in instructional design?

How did Shawn Greene, salesperson, add “instructional design” to her toolkit? Here’s the scoop:

“After many years as a high-performing sales rep I became interested in why sales methods work or fail, and how to teach others to thrive in sales. This inspired a transition into training, a role that allowed me to apply a broader range of abilities – including talents for analysis and writing. I leveraged those talents, along with training in the ADDIE model and adult learning principles, into solid instructional design skills.

Sales skills add power to the work I do as an instructional designer. I use sales skills to clarify needs, identify resources, build relationships with subject matter experts and stakeholders, encourage buy-in, and generate excellent value.

The flip side is also true: Instructional design expertise adds power to training services. Most clients want customized training: design skills ensure I provide this quickly and effectively.

As for technical writing… discovering these talents was a happy accident. I landed my first official technical writing project by begging the client to give me a chance. The begging was driven by a low bank account balance, not by a conviction I could do it. Fortunately for my pride–and bank account–I was indeed good at it. The client was pleased with the first draft, allowed me to finish the project, and I added “technical writer” to my skills portfolio. In fact, the finished user’s guide is still in use today.

I feel lucky to have a profession in which I can apply a number of skills, even luckier to do that to help people learn and succeed in their work.”

Articulate vs. Captivate: Which is Better?

Several months back, I posted a simple question in two LinkedIn ATD groups: Articulate or Captivate – which do you like better, and why?

I asked because I wanted to refresh familiarity with these apps. Though I had used Captivate and Articulate in the past, it had been about five years (just so happened they weren’t applicable to projects) and of course lots had changed.

My preference was to crank up only one free trial and I thought opinions from peers in instructional design would narrow things down. I posted the question and sat back in anticipation of the kind of fierce debate not seen since WordPerfect aficionados squared off against Word connoisseurs.

End of day one: crickets. End of day three: zero responses. End of week three: still zip.

Well, drat, I thought, I’ll just have to free-trial both.

As I penciled time into my calendar to do that, I wondered how less experienced training designers would choose an authoring tool. The answer is they may not choose at all. They’d likely make do with other tools or buy based on a consultant’s recommendation. The realization inspired a slightly different approach to using the free trials, and this review.

A Review with Lack of Experience in Mind

This review is not about how these tools work for experienced instructional designers. The focus is not on why clients should buy a certain authoring tool for a consultant’s use on their project.

This review is about things that can be important after the contract is over and the highly experienced designer walks out the door. (more…)

How to Fix Problems Caused by Professional Slang (With Samples)

man holding signMisleading or confusing information is a common cause of inefficiency and errors. The same is true for professional slang — lingo that’s understood by one group but not by others. Take “disruptive” for example. A disruptive tech product is currently a good thing, yet disruptive employees are not.

Most instructional designers have examples of how they uncovered errors caused by professional slang. My own favorite focused on use of “1.2” to describe a certain aspect of lending policy. The situation and solutions are covered in the samples document attached below. I’ll use this article to add a bit more information.

Why it Often Takes an Outsider to Find the Core Issues

This particular core issue was simple: one group (commercial lending officers) was using a phrase that seemed so straightforward the other group (sales, service, and processing reps) thought they understood it — or should understand it.

A typical exchange went like this: Sales rep asks, “What’s our policy if the borrower’s credit score is below threshold?” Lender asks, “Is this on an investment property?” Rep says yes, it is. Lender then says, “We debt-service the property at 1.2. Minimum NOI is 1.2.” (more…)

Comprehensive Marketing and Selling

sell-the-sameOrganizations often say they want a comprehensive or consistent approach to marketing and selling. Their various business groups often say they need something unique. Here’s a look at which things should be the same—and which should not.

Use the Same Basic Definitions

An organization that speaks the same language has good communication and consistent expectations—which feed strong performance. Language involved with ‘marketing’ and ‘selling’ should start with which is which. Here are definitions that fit no matter the department or how simple or complex the products and services:

  • Marketing is the stuff we do proactively to gain prospects’ attention, and regain customers’ attention. Marketing tools include advertising, email, mail, calling, social media (to name just a handful).

Marketing also includes responding to inquiries from prospects and customers. This includes responding when someone calls us, emails us, or walks in and asks for information.

  • Selling begins once the prospect or customer has agreed to discuss the fit between what they want and what we have to offer. Selling does not begin unless and until we have that agreement. This is true even when someone has approached us: just because they’ve got questions, that doesn’t mean we have that agreement.

Why Agreement is the Best Line

No matter how sophisticated or simple the products and services, an assumptive approach generates problems. Using agreement as the gate means employees need to ask for a sales conversation, which helps prevent assumption from the start. (more…)

Successor Trustees – Are Your Employees Ready?

Successor TrusteeA successor trustee walks in to one of your branches or calls your service center. Maybe they’re an existing customer. Maybe they chose your bank because that’s where their recently deceased parent has his or her accounts. Either way, this is a terrific opportunity… and chances are high your employees aren’t ready for it.

As our population ages, dealing with a deceased person’s living trust will arise more often. It’s a chance to earn new customers, deepen existing relationships—or not. My personal experience with the “not,” and a notary’s pithy summation, inspired this article.

Half of the Picture

Reasons for creating a living trust are fairly well-known, especially among baby boomers, many of whom persuaded their parents to create a living trust, too. What is not common knowledge are the prosaic details of what successor trustees must or may need to do. (more…)

Freebies to help you help successor trustees

For Internal use:

This document covers some basics about living trust accounts. It’s in Word, ready for your changes:

  • Be sure to add where people can find the form, as well as the instructions for customers. Those spots are highlighted in yellow.
  • The footer shows how to contact me for customizing. You may want to delete that.

Remember: Suitable for California only. If you’d like this document branded and/or customized, drop me a line and we’ll talk about it.

Living trust accounts and certification form information for internal use

For Customers:

This document is also in Word, ready for your changes. Tells customers how to complete the form, as well as covers important basics like…the answer to “Do I really need a trust account?”

Remember: Suitable for California only. If you’d like this document branded and/or customized, drop me a line and we’ll talk about it.

Certification of trust form instructions for customers

The Form:

Designed for trustees and successor trustees of living trusts. pdf format with fields suitable for online or manual completion.

You know the caveats by now, right?

Certification of Trust form CA Only

PowerPoint vs. Word: Choosing Well

read mysteryPowerPoint is often the program of choice for creating any ole document — and often the wrong choice. For more about how we acquired this bad habit and why you may want to break it, see this article. This article provides tips on which program to use for what.

Why to Fight PowerPoint’s Power

Nap by powerpointThis article is not meant to bring the news PowerPoint tends to induce boredom—we all know that—it’s about why that happens. The inspiration is the many organizations which use PowerPoint for almost every sort of document, even though that’s less productive and most people dislike seeing it.

So how did we get to this sad state? Here’s what I think got rolling when PPT came out:

First of all, creating and decorating decks was fun. It was suddenly easy to insert spiffy clipart, add color, make text into neato shapes–kind of a business version of playing with crayons and a coloring book. It’s still fun to create and decorate slides, so much so we often forget about meaningful and effective content.

Secondly, the deck presentations were impressive. When PPT came out back in the early 1990’s, audiences were rightfully wowed. Beautiful backgrounds, fancy charts, slides that seemed to move. Zowie. The PowerPoint habit lives on, even though most people are now unimpressed and many decks are crammed with text. Which brings us to the biggee…

PowerPoint dropped the bar for acceptable writing quality to an unprecedented low. All you needed to write was headlines and bullet points–didn’t even need full sentences. This is still true and I have a hunch it’s one of the main reasons PowerPoint is still prevalent and so often used inappropriately.

The Power of a Bad Habit

A quarter-century after PowerPoint hit our PCs, many who reluctantly use it say they do so because it is expected (it’s an organizational norm). Some say they use it because it supposedly helps them quickly produce a deliverable. Here is why that speed is a myth, and why breaking the PowerPoint habit is worth it. (more…)

Writing: The Joys of Bad Grammar

grammar hound“You’re grammar is not very good.”

Someone recently wrote to say I should work on the grammar in an article. The person contacted me privately instead of posting a comment — sort of like pulling me aside to tell me I had something stuck in my teeth. They meant to be helpful so I did not snarkily reply with a correction of my own. The thing is: using bad grammar can have good effect.

In Scripting

Scripts written using proper grammar often sound overly-scripted. Using these scripts also tends to feel awkward. This means “proper” writing backfires on both ends of the phone line.

Learning to write effective, natural-sounding scripts takes practice. To help people get into the swing of it, many articles in the cold calling section are written the way people talk. This includes purposeful bad grammar and short sentences.

In Manuals and Materials that Teach

Training materials and reference manuals written using proper grammar too often utilize longer sentences which in turn require a good deal more concentration.

The above sentence is written properly, but here is a sentence people will easily absorb: Proper grammar can make training materials and reference manuals harder to understand.

That’s another good reason to toss good grammar out the window.

When it’s on the Internet

People tend to scan stuff on the internet. The same is true of stuff viewed on monitors. If sentences are too long — properly constructed or not — it’s easy to lose track of the point. This is yet another situation when it makes sense to use somewhat lax grammar.

You, too, May Want to Drop Proper Grammar

Next time you’re writing a script or something instructional, try using shorter sentences and grammar that mirrors how people talk. You’ll find the scripts sound (and feel) better, people learn more quickly, and references are easier to use.

You’ll also find there are fewer reasons to argue over correct use of semi-colons; but don’t worry, there will be other minutiae on which to spend meeting time. (See how odd that looks? Proper grammar again.)








How to Save the World with Post-its

How to Save the World with Post-itsThink that’s a lofty title? Using the Post-it method, you can tap your creativity, focus effectively, plan and follow through brilliantly, and even sleep better at night. Who knows what that might lead to?

The method is perfect when you need to create a report, paper, plan, presentation or proposal. It’s a great tool to use when you want to reinvent or refocus or regroup.

It’s ideal when you need to get a handle on preparing your organization to roll out new products, comply with regulations, or handle a merger. Same goes for marketing strategy or scheduling the timing to apply the strategy.

The Post-it method is effective when you want to create a work aid, and vital for creating training programs or comprehensive curriculum.

If you need to determine what to delegate and what to do yourself, when you’re not sure which resources you have and which you need to locate – start with the Post-it method.

You can use it to figure out what should be on your vacation to-do list. If the moving parts in the move-Dad project have been keeping you up at night, the Post-it method can give you some peace.

The method helps you prepare for questions and objections. You can use it to figure out website navigation. When you have a decision to make and the good old pros and cons list isn’t cutting it, upgrade to the Post-it method.

Those are just some of the situations for which the method is the perfect tool. Here is why it works so very well: (more…)

The Post-it Method Step-by-Step


You need a bunch of Post-its and something to write with.

It helps to use just one size and one color Post-it. However, that’s not vital — use what you have as long as they are large enough to write on. (But do not plan to use different colors or sizes to organize, prioritize, and so on because that will be counter-productive.) (more…)