Tag Archive: demos


Sailing and sailing regattas usually spell fun-in-the-sun for some lucky folks in the summer. Exciting, unpredictable and hopefully uneventful, sailing has many similarities to the teaching/training world. The training lessons we can learn from sailing, should not be taken lightly: as they illustrate some top training mistakes.

UNPREPARED NAVIGATION

A good sailor knows you have to chart your journey, consider the ever-changing wind and weather and prepared for the unexpected.

One of my pet peeves, is when you know a presenter, teacher or trainer is (clearly) just ‘winging it’. Such unpreparedness shows a lack of respect for the [paying] audience. Now, having said that, there are people who can just talk off the cuff and be extremely organized in their thought process and somehow stay on topic. But lets face it, can you really expect to do that successfully? Will it showcase your skills in the best light?

Talking is one thing, but when you are giving a demonstration it is another thing. Demonstrations require the planning of  your navigation. I always have a cheat-sheet to help even if the demo is something that I really know well. On my cheat-sheet I always record key points so I will talk through them. Not everyone will be as familiar with whatever you are demonstrating, so it is important for you to help navigate them with phrases such as “… in the top left had corner there is a pull-down menu, I’m clicking on that and selecting…” I try to orally navigate my audience as if they were visually challenged or if English was their second language. Remember to slow-down, consider the different learning styles and practice your navigation. The more prepared you are, the higher the probably of success you will have.

HIKING: LIVING ON THE EDGE

I remember the excitement of ‘hiking’ on a sailboat, just like in the photo above. Wow, what an adrenaline rush, especially when you hike (or hang) off the boat so far that you wet your hair in the water.

While living on the edge and ‘stretching’ may be a rush. It poses some risks, just like the time I backward somersaulted off the boat into the water! (That was embarrassing!)

When you are training, it is exciting to ‘stretch’ a little and pose a controversial question or try a new challenging exercise. BUT: Do you really have time to do these things? Will they really add value? Is it worth the risk? So, always be prepared with a back plan… and if things go wrong, NEVER forget your sense of humour!

EQUIPMENT CHECK

A sailing ‘best practice’, (and really a no-brainer), is equipment testing. If you watch parents of sailing youngsters, they’ll equipment check (or ask about equipment checking) several times before the young sailor ‘sets sail’. They wouldn’t dare let one of their children out on the water without equipment checking.

If you are dealing with any technology, it is important to equipment check. As an instructor, I used to arrive early to ensure the equipment was set up properly and in working order (even though I had checked the night before). (Back in the really old days), we even had spare light-bulbs for our three overhead projectors. When traveling on technical marketing awareness roadshows, we always equipment tested because invariably something did go wrong at the last-minute. Don’t laugh, when technology is involved, Murphy does show up. (I love this quote from the Murphy’s Law Website: )

Murphy’s Law

“If anything can go wrong, it will…
Corollary: It can…
Corollary: It should…
Corollary: At the most inopportune time…

Extension: it will be all your fault, and everyone will know it.

CROSSING THE FINISH LINE

So, in closing:

  1. Plan your navigation, especially in ‘tricky waters’.
  2. Mitigate the risks when you ‘stretch’ above and beyond what you are used to.
  3. Always, always equipment check. It is one thing to fail because of better competition, bad weather or conditions OR stretching and really trying. However, failure because you didn’t check your equipment: now that is unforgivable.

Until next time, enjoy the summer sun and breezes!

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Image of  “Connor Hiking on Connor Bay”, Port Maitland Lighthouse in the background, courtesy of Gord Palin.

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Have you ever been to a seminar or to a demo, and afterwards you are thinking, “Man, that looks easy… I can do that.” Then you get back to your office and when you go to use that tool and you are TOTALLY lost… OR you try to navigate all the steps and you miss one: so it doesn’t work?

Has that ever happened to you (or your students)?

What happens next?? You go back to the old way of doing whatever it was you were doing.

This happens with all types of training: computer, sales, gardening, dog obedience, painting, carpentry or cooking instruction: UNLESS the student walks away with a summary or how-to instructions.

SOME ASSEMBLY REQUIRED

If you are assembling a summary or instructions (i.e. cheat sheet) , think of yourself as a CHEF writing a recipe.

Assemble your mise en place including any equipment.

Then, carefully record the directions: step by step.  (An easy outline of you’ve covered the detail in your session will suffice.) BUT remember: if your audience executes the steps in the wrong order, it could be disastrous (like frosting a cake before putting it in the oven).

TRIAL AND ERROR

I know it is straightforward for you, you’ve done it a million times: You are the expert.

But one of the best things you can do is to have someone else try out your ‘recipe’: Are you missing a step? An ingredient? Any equipment? Your friend will find any oversights, before you do.

SMOOTH SAILING

Following these steps will also help you get your ‘ducks in a row’ for teaching/training and any demonstrations that you will give. Did you ever notice that folks that are so good at demoing, have such a nice way of navigating… the chefs on HGTV really nail this because they have a foolproof  ‘recipe’.

Prepare like a chef writing a recipe:

  1. Assemble and record the ‘ingredients’ and equipment,
  2. Write step-by-step instructions,
  3. Test it out.
  4. (Improve over time based on feedback… but that goes without saying.)

Assembling a cheat sheet will make it much easy for your students to be productive back on the job. (Isn’t that your objective?) However, it will also help ensure that when teaching there will be smooth seas ahead: unless of course you are team teaching in which case you’ll need to know how to prepare (to team teach)  like a pirate!

Until next time…

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