Wednesday, June 23, 2010

First Impressions

You never get a second chance to make a first impression.

It's cheesy, you've heard it a million times, and it's mostly true.  Sure, there are people you have met who you thought you just would not get along with or like, and ended up being friends.  But that is the exception and not the rule.  In most cases, your gut instinct is correct and you stick with it.  And that is why the opening moments of any class or session has to start out right.

Lazy wisdom (one of those nuggets of behavior we all do because "everyone else does it") tells us to ask the participants, "What do you want to learn today/this week?" I have always hated this question and I never really knew why.  Now I think I know.   It is just too vague, too politically correct, too, well, lazy.

Typical answers in my own brain include: Where is a good place around here for lunch, How do I win the lottery and retire early,  and How do I find a better job?  Now I know these are just silly but that is the sort of question that everyone just tunes out.

A friend and colleague suggested an alternative to me last week that I thought was subtly different yet brilliant.  He asks, "What problem do you need to solve with our software?"  This expresses a number of very key points: 
  • We acknowledge they have business problems to solve and they are not just here because they had extra money in the training budget.
  • We show an interest in their personal issue, as opposed to just what we want to teach.
  • We involve the rest of the participants in their problem, in as much as they may have or had the same issues.
Training isn't about presentation, it's about customers learning.  You want to make sure everyone knows this class is about them and not you.  Give your customers that impression right out of the gate.

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