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We can all be trainers–with support.¬†


“Ever hear of Plato, Aristotle, Socrates? MORONS!”

Scott Abel recently wrote an article titled, “Why Thought Leaders Aren’t Usually The Best Trainers,” in which he makes a valid point that not all thought leaders who push out books and PowerPoint slides are trainers or teachers. I get that. He backs up his thesis with some facts to support this. And yes, it wouldn’t hurt for those who are thought leaders who haven’t had to go out in the world to present their expertise to learn some fundamentals of teaching/training.

However, I feel Scott has done a disservice here. Sure, I admit I’ve seen some of the thought leaders he’s described, people who are incredibly brilliant and have a lot of great information to share, droning on with dull PowerPoint slides and who don’t know how to present it in a compelling way to actually feel like you learned something. It sounds like much of my entire higher ed education. I’m willing to bet that many of these thought leaders merely wanted to write a book to share knowledge, and didn’t think that they’d end up training people on their methods or data necessarily.

But with method that Scott used to frame his position, I feel like this article is a big slam against half the thought leaders in our industry, simply because they haven’t had those educational fundamentals instilled in them at times or the presentation skills he seeks. In doing this, his commentary implies, in my opinion, that those with the expertise shouldn’t even bother, because without these skills to be a trainer, you’re not worth the time or effort. “Learn to teach/train, or don’t waste my time.” That’s not quite right.

The thing to keep in mind is that understanding different learning styles, etc. takes TIME, as well as trial and error. It’s not something learned in a day, and most thought leaders aren’t going to go back to school to get an education degree. It’s not rocket science either. Budding educators are even given time–a learning curve of their own–to student teach before being sent out to teach. In the corporate world, there is no learning curve before being sent out in the world. You are thrown to the wolves and told, “Okay, you know this, you are an expert on XYZ. GO TRAIN.” This isn’t to say that there aren’t “train the trainer” programs or other resources out there that we can learn from, but I’m willing to bet that more experts are let loose to learn how to train others by trial and error, rather than be guided themselves. At least they go out there and try, which is more than I can say for others.

To understand my perspective, you have to understand that I am an educator’s daughter. My father did some form of teaching either on the high school or university level for over 40 years, and in his spare time, his idea of “fun” was reading books about learning styles and testing the theories on his kids. (Ask me sometime about family vacations at historic cemeteries instead of the beach. ūüėē) I also have learning disabilities, which provides a different perspective. I have trained others, including those with learning disabilities as well. There is no right or wrong way to teach if the information is learned. Just as there are different learning styles, there are different ways to teach. As long as comprehension is accomplished, then the task has been completed.

I have been a trainer, and still consider myself a trainer. I don’t know how good a trainer I am, but I know I’ve had my successes and failures in teaching people different concepts. I do know that there are many times I have to re-explain a concept to a learner in a different way so that they understand a concept.

In the end, I’ve realized that as a trainer, the process of learning is a two-way communication. As a trainer/teacher, you can present all the facts you want, but if no conversation ensues as a result, then the lesson has failed. At the end of every presentation, workshop, or one-on-on training I’ve ever done, I’ve always invited the students to not only ask questions, but to share their insights or experiences as well. My goal is that students come away with learning something new as well as validating their own knowledge, since I find that to be the best learning for me. It’s a good deal for me as a trainer because I learn how I can explain concepts better to students, as well as gain some new perspectives.

So rather than be a motivating article to spur thought leaders to improve their skills, I thought it was discouraging towards thought leaders. As a community, tech comm should be more pro-active in lifting those thought leaders who have the great ideas into being BETTER teachers. Writing their books is already an effort on their part to teach us, and many write excellent resources. Summoning up the courage to train people on these concepts can be hard enough. I have no disagreement with encouraging those who are going to share their ideas publicly to get some foundational training in how to train and learn how to assess comprehension. But build those budding trainers up, don’t tear them down. Tell them what they did right, but give them constructive criticism. I’m willing to bet that they will appreciate it, and get better over time.

The expression of “Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach,” ran through my head as I read Scott’s article and while writing this post. I always thought that this expression was rather insulting to the many teachers I know. In so many respects, teachers are more capable than those that “do”. But conversely, there are “do-ers” that can’t teach, just as there are teachers that can’t “do”. ¬†Scott himself is a university instructor and trainer. Does that mean he can’t do what he lectures about? Of course not. He’s an expert in his field, plus he’s evidentially taken the time over years to learn the most effective ways to teach for his audience. Not everyone makes that same effort, or for that matter, is expected to do that. Thought leaders do need to learn some teaching fundamentals, but we shouldn’t diminish their contributions simply because they aren’t the best trainers.

As I said, as a community, let’s work on raising thought leaders to their fullest potential, which includes encouraging that two-way conversation related to learning, which will help them become better teachers and trainers. After all, Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle didn’t have written books or PowerPoint to share their ideas, and they were revered teachers because of discussions. Let’s work on that, instead.

(In the meantime, if you are inspired to improve your training skills, I’m sure there are plenty of resources out there that can help. I think my first stop would be searching through SlideShare to see if there are any pointers out there. I would also watch any video or listen to audio presentations done by those who I think are good trainers, and figure out why I respond to their methods. How was the information presented? What verbal tone did they use? Things like that. Emulate your favorite teachers, because they evidently did something right.)

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Recap of the Adobe Day “Coachella” – Tech Comm Rock Stars abound!

KSM ROTHBURY packing up 5Adobe Day at the 2013 STC Summit was really great. It took me a while to digest all my own notes and relive the moments promoting the rock stars of tech comm. But like all good music festivals, the “Coachella” of tech comm had to end, but with great memories of fantastic information that will stay with me for a long time. Hopefully you enjoyed this “magical mystery tour” as well!

There were several people from Adobe that were truly instrumental in making this event a success, but I have to “give it up” for the two Masters of Ceremony of the event, Saibal Bhatacharjee and¬†Maxwell Hoffmann.

Saibal Bhattacharjee

Maxwell Hoffmann

So many people know them from the Adobe TCS webinars, blogs, and other social media outlets. I know they’ve been two of my greatest supporters, so I want to thank them for inviting me to the event, and as always, making me feel welcome both during Adobe Day, as well as during the STC Summit.

If you missed my series for this Adobe Day event, here’s a recap, so you can relive the day yourself:


Maybe I’m Amazed I met this Tech Comm legend…


How does that jagged little pill of content strategy go down?


Get your motor runnin’…Head out on the [mobile] highway…


XML Metrics are the Coldplay of the Tech Comm World


If Tech Comm had its own Coachella, how would it be done?

I hope you’ve enjoyed all the articles.¬†If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to comment below!

The next time there is an Adobe Day near you, or if you have the opportunity to go to one, I strongly encourage you to go! I’ve now been to two of them, and both were different. ¬†It’s amazing to see how perspectives change on the “hot” issues of tech comm in a mere few months! I was glad to hear from leading experts on the pressing topics of the day. And I have to say, I’ve learned so much from both visits. I can honestly say, as well, that both provided information that were applicable to my job, even as a new technical communicator. ¬†Keeping up with current trends in technical communication is important, because technology is changing fast, and technical communicators need to keep up with not only the technology itself, but the needs that new technology presents. Adobe does a nice job of bringing the best thought leadership from around the globe to talk about these issues ¬†for free. How can you pass that up?

Thanks again, Adobe, for an amazing opportunity to attend this free event!

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Adobe Day is Back– STC Summit Style! Don’t be Tardy for the Party!

KZ-ATLOne of my favorite indulgences offline is watching reality shows on the US cable channel, Bravo, and one of my favorite shows is the Real Housewives of Atlanta. During a past season, one of ¬†the Housewives, Kim, decided that she was going to be a singing star, and recorded the song, “Tardy for the Party.” It was a minor one-hit-wonder song, but it still sticks with me, just because it’s a fun song, and it makes me think about fun in Atlanta.

So, as I start thinking about the upcoming STC Summit in a month, lo and behold, I receive news about a tech comm celebration. Adobe is having another Adobe Day–this time in the ATL! ¬†Adobe is hosting another one of its fabulous free networking and thought leadership Adobe Day events in Atlanta, GA (USA) on 5th May 2013 (Cinco de Mayo!), from 8:00 AM-1:30PM.

If this Adobe Day is anything like the one that I attended at Lavacon in Portland, OR, then we are in for a treat and a good time! You can access the details for this event and register by accessing the event microsite.

The thing that is really great about these Adobe Day events is that they are free (I can definitely afford that), and the talks presented are not a long-winded infomercial for Adobe products. The talks are about the leading trends going on in tech comm right now.

I was SO glad that I was able to attend the one at Lavacon, because the information I learned at that Adobe Day actually helped me get my job. No, seriously. Because the Adobe Day talks gave me a better understanding of current trends in content and mobile strategies, I was able to speak competently about these topics when I had my interview for the content strategy job I have now. It really helped! That’s how good this event is.

At the Lavacon Adobe Day, I met some of the top movers and shakers in the tech comm industry, and was blown away by all of them. It was an incredible experience for me. ¬†For the STC Summit Adobe Day, the speaker line-up looks fabulous. I met or saw at least half of them at the Lavacon Adobe Day, and they were all creative, smart (and friendly) people who had great information to pass along. I’m looking forward to hearing them speak, as well as meet and listen to some experts I haven’t seen before.

One of the highlights that should be exciting is that the “father” of Framemaker¬†himself, Charles Corfield, is scheduled to speak. How cool is that? I mean, Framemaker is a long-time standard in tech comm software, so to hear about its origins and what he has to say about the tech comm industry now? That’s going to be a treat in itself. And yet, there will be so much more!

It should be a great time! So, don’t be tardy for the party! You don’t even have to be attending the STC Summit to attend Adobe Day. You just have to be sure to register on the event website. ¬†If you are in the greater Atlanta area, and want to attend, or you are attending the STC Summit and can come into town early, it’s definitely worth the trip. I’ll be going for sure! I’ll be blogging and tweeting about the event, so keep your eyes peeled for that as well!

NeNe Leakes
My favorite of the Real Housewives of Atlanta,
Nene Leakes

If you do attend, please make sure to thank the Adobe TCS team members present for such a wonderful opportunity to learn, and then make sure you say hi to me, too. I’ll be the one with the Nene Leakes haircut. ūüėČ