Guest blogger Lucy Hayward – Are looks really that important?

FlipLucy1When it comes to the presentation of your workshops and the flip charts you design, then my answer is a
big fat YES!!!

I love being creative and designing flip charts is one of my favourite bits of putting together the finishing touches of a new training event; so as I set about designing my visuals for my new “Coaching for Leaders” workshop I thought I’d take the time to share some of them with you and a few hints and tips I’ve picked up (borrowed/stolen) along the way.

Keen Follower of Accelerated Learning

As a keen follower of accelerated learning principles I understand the impact the environment can have on the learners. The last thing I want to do is freak people out with a boring, grey, blank walled classroom that evokes memories of school and for some people it can act as a barrier for getting to know each other, for feeling welcome and for engaging with the workshop.

In the preparation phase of The Accelerated Learning Handbook, Dave Meier talks about creating a positive physical, social and emotional environment and how decorating the learning environment with colourful peripherals relevant to the topic can stimulate the learners interest and encourage engagement and curiosity. So I like to pre-prepare all my flip charts (see pics below) and put them up around the room; as delegates enter the workshop they are greeted with a “Welcome” sign and have plenty of opportunity to move around looking at the visuals and discussing them with others. This way they get a feel for the interactive and social tone of the workshop, a glimpse at some of the topics we’re going to cover to put them at ease and even a sneaky peek at some of the answers!

Hints and tips

So if you’re curious to see the impact this can have on your learners in future workshops and fancy ditching the projector and spicing up your flip charts here’s a few hints and tips to get you started:

  • Borders – simple, very effective and you don’t have to be an artist to get it right! There’s so many you can choose from, squiggly lines, arrows, picture frame, note book, double/single lines, computer screens…. and the best bit about borders is they only takes 2 minutes!
  • Icons and shapes– are a great way of making bullet points more exciting, they can also be added into the borders to outline the title or emphasise a key point. If you want to be really clever you could try using icons that match your subject; so if you are facilitating a time management workshop you could draw mini clocks in the corner of each flip chart!
  • Colours – I love using colour! The Big Book of Flip Charts by Robert William Lucas talks about
    enhancing your visual messages with colour and how the appropriate use of colour can connect key subjects and guide learners through a page of information. It does warn you not to use more than 3 at any time otherwise the flip chart can appear too busy and cause confusion. (Look out for the scented pens to double up on sensory stimulation, the fruit ones are lush!)
  • The 6 to 8 rule* – Research into neuroscience tells us that the brain can only retain 7 (+ or – 2) pieces of information in the short term memory. So don’t overload your flip charts with text, try and keep to a maximum of 6-8 lines with plenty of space. It looks much better, is clearer and easier to read and also ensures the learners are listening and not just reading.
  • Correcting mistakes – I picked up a wonderful tip from recently; she said when you make a mistake rather than throwing away your flip chart and starting again or scribbling out mistakes, just cut out a small section of paper from another sheet and stick it over the top! Magic! Another one to try is covering up the mistake with sticky address labels, though they’re not exactly the same colour so you may prefer not to. (Can you spot my cover up job in the pics below??)

Here’s a few examples of my latest flip-charts, showing you a variety of borders, icons and colours. Feel free to copy/steal/borrow mine or have fun designing your own…

FlipLucy2 FlipLucy3

Lucy is a valued team member at How to Accelerate Learning but also runs her own consultancy in West Yorkshire. She specialises in delivering focussed programmes, designed using accelerated learning principles and using the Learning Loop Approach. Her areas of expertise are: leadership, emotional intelligence, time management and coaching.

Why melt the ice, when there is none?

IMG_0224So please tell me, how many times have you had folk round to dinner and started with an ice-breaker to see who can make a piece of paper travel furthest or to see if they can form human pyramids? Have you had your family round and then paused once everyone arrived and asked them to disclose 2 secrets and a lie about themselves? You just wouldn’t do it would you?

There are scholarly articles on ice-breakers and whole books on ice-breakers but I’d like us to stop and ask, in a training environment,  if they are even necessary most of the time? When you invite guests into your home, most times they should already know each other or at least know you. If not, you can get people to introduce you, or you can introduce people to each other. Same goes for a training session.

These days my preference is to do the following:

  • In the joining instructions get people to fill out a template about themselves
  • When they walk in, introduce people and ask them to put up their introduction on the wall
  • Invite people to add their personal objectives to a flipchart and look at the resources you have brought and any posters. You can even have an activity where they need to find some answers from each other or from the resources
  • Introduce anyone standing around on their own

Ice-breakers can break down barriers, but inappropriate ones can raise them, and you certainly would not stop communication in a group that knows already knows each other or is getting along famously and say “Right, lets do an ice-breaker…”. For some people it might imply that there is something wrong in the group that needs fixing.

So my number one choice of ice-breaker for a reasonable sized group (up to 30?)would be no ice-breaker at all.

If you have set up your training room properly so that it is inviting and non-threatening, have communicated with people beforehand to ensure that they fully understand what they will be doing and why, then the need for any form of ice breaker is debateable. What do you think?

The Power of Stories


This blog was inspired by a short session I ran in the Experiential Learning Zone at the World of Learning in September 2015, with the team at Pearlcatchers.

Stories have been around a very long time. The oldest one recorded was written in 1200 BC and is called the “Epic of Gilgamesh”. It is based on real characters and was about a man who lost his best friend and so went on a long journey to search for the secret of immortality. The story is perhaps not a true reflection of reality but more like a Hollywood blockbuster, that has been digitally enhanced for effect. But nevertheless it illustrates the power of stories.

Stories are “narratives with plots and characters, generating emotion in narrator and audience, through a poetic elaboration of symbolic material. This material may be a product of fantasy or experience, including an experience of earlier narratives. Story plots entail conflicts, predicaments, trials and crises which call for choices, decisions, actions and interactions, whose actual outcomes are often at odds with the characters’ intentions and purposes” (Gabriel, 2000, p. 239).

So stories are part of our history, our cultures and we know how they work. But how many of you use stories in your training? Or those of you who do, to good effect?

Stories, in training can have many uses, so here are some of my thoughts on their use:

  • Introducing a topic
  • Making a point
  • Making a boring topic come alive and highlighting its importance
  • Closing off a topic
  • Changing minds and ways of thinking
  • Staring a discussion
  • Sharing successes in an organisational or in a personal motivational way
  • Developing empathy for others
  • Metaphor for something difficult to cope with
  • Helping people to identify with certain situations and relate to their own
  • Envisioning the future for change programmes
  • Simplifying complex issues

It is often useful to tell your own stories and I use Larry Reynolds 6 part start structure when I have to create one. It gives me a format and stops me from rambling on too long! Here is Larry’s story structure:

  1. Think of a time when you faced some kind of challenge. (happy ending!)
  2. How did you feel when you encountered this challenge?
  3. What unexpected help came your way?
  4. How did things work out in the end?
  5. What did you learn from this experience?
  6. What does that say about your values and beliefs as a person now?

So here is my example of a story using Larry’s useful structure:

  1. This year in May, for the first time I had my own stand at the CIPD exhibition, to launch to the wider world, the Learning Loop. The challenge was for me – how do I design my stand? In line with what is expected or in line with how I work?
  2. It was a pretty daunting prospect, actually terrifying. My style as is playful, creative but professional and my biggest fear was that it would just look childish and at worst unprofessional
  3. My biggest help has always been from getting great feedback from clients and my associates who work with me and of course my husband Gareth who is always encouraging of my ideas. It gave me the courage to stand by my convictions and do it my way.
  4. On the morning of the first day of the exhibition I was so nervous, I felt sick and had to force breakfast down. I had seen everyone else’s stands the night before and thought “This is either going to be a huge mistake or they will love it”. Mine just did not fit in with what was there. From the moment the doors opened we were inundated with visitors. People were curious and came to speak with us. Even people from other stands were curious, why we had so many visitors. Feedback was fantastic and follow is still on-going. Orders are coming in
  5. What I learned from this experience is that sometimes when you believe in something, really deeply you can get frightened just because your idea is so different and new. The fact that it is different and new attracts people. So if people you respect and believe, encourage you to “go for it”, then do, with the confidence that they have your back
  6. What this experience has done for me is to help me have more courage in my ideas as well as confidence in the opinions of those I respect and trust. I say if you have a great idea “Go for it!”

So what is your story? I would love to hear it!

Do you know how to be objective?


In case you had not already noticed, I am a real anorak when it comes to setting objectives…… but in my defence they have to be bang on, don’t they?

This blog is a follow on from my previous post Trainer craft – objective setting and sets out some definitions that will help you determine what sort of objectives you need to set.

Do you know the difference between aims, organisational objectives, performance objectives and learning objectives (or outcomes)?

IMG_0999See if you can match these definitions:

a. Aims

b. Organisational objectives

c. Performance objectives

d. Learning objectives

with these descriptions:

  1. What the learners need to be able to know, do or be by the end of the learning.
  2. A general direction, statement of intention
  3. An objective that states, which aspect of performance in an individual or team will be improved through the learning.
  4. Objectives that define how the organisation wants to improve through the learning process.

and here are some examples:

  • Improve customer satisfaction from 75 to 80% in the 2nd quarter this year.
  • Improve personal timekeeping, reducing incidences of lateness from the current level of 4 times per month to once a month by the end of third quarter of this year.
  • Improve customer satisfaction from 75 to 80% in the 2nd quarter this year.
  • To develop communication skills across all teams

So if the organisational objectives are good….and the performance objectives have been set by the line managers (or other stakeholders)….then you have some chance of setting the correct learning objectives. If these are bang on then ROI and ROE should follow along very nicely!

Get your anoraks out!

IMG_0602Anyone who knows me, or has been on one of my workshops, knows I am a self-confessed anorak when it comes to setting objectives. To let you know how much of an anorak I am, I have put together a very short video on objective setting – in it I use some cards that I designed and got printed to help me do this more effectively.

Why have I done this? Quite simply you can be the most enigmatic facilitator, design the best activities, but if your objectives are wrong, it will ALL be wrong!

So watch the video, sit back , enjoy and let me know….. what colour is YOUR anorak?

Ten ways to accelerate learning you may not have thought of

IMG_0078In this blog, I will discuss 10 very simple, yet effective ways to accelerate learning in a an organisation. For those of you not familiar with accelerated learning, it is sometimes known as brain friendly learning, brain based learning or speed teaching. These tips are based on my “5 secrets of accelerated learning” which I shared in my article “Quick off the mark” for the Training Journal.

So here we go…….

  1. Agree with the stakeholders what the objectives are, so that you get buy-in throughout the organisation. That way line managers get to be part of the process of imbedding the learning. If the line managers are not buying it, then why should the staff? Each year the CIPD do a survey on L&D and the top reason for learning not sticking for many years now has been ” no line manager follow up”.
  2. Ask the learners what they want to get out of the learning and try to meet these as well as the organisational objectives. If learners feel their needs are being met they will engage in the learning. This is using a simple influencing principle (from Ribert Cialdini’s work).Reciprocity rules!
  3. Design variety into your workshops using Sharon Bowman’s 6 principles. You cannot possibly know accurately the best way each person learns and so the best thing to do is to mix it up.  Variety will keep the learners curious.
  4. Change pace or tone every 20 minutes to keep learners engaged. So if you have been presenting new information for 20 minutes, let them have a chance to practice it for 20 minutes. Allow quiet reflection time for them to realise what they have learned. As well as lively debates and activities.
  5. Imbed commands and create a positive learning environment. So many trainers shoot themselves in the foot by saying things like “this is a bit boring but we need to get through it”. Instead speak to their subconscious and prepare them for a difficult subject using something like: “You will to need to focus for this next bit because it will really help you in your role”.
  6. Reuse posters from previous sessions to reinforce prior learning.
  7. Contract with the learners and take joint responsibility for the learning. At the start of a long programme it is important to set expectations. I do not spoon feed my learners and so these 3 questions are great for the start of a programme:
  • In order for this programme to be of value to you, it has to be like what?
  • In order for it to be like that, you have to be like what?
  • In order for you to be like that, others have to be like what?

8. Don’t be afraid to use repetition to make learning stick. Don’t be afraid to use repetition to make learning stick. Don’t be afraid to…..ok labouring my point now….

9. Keep building on what they know. Start with some small skills they already use and add to them to free up that small prefrontal cortex for the new stuff.

10. For a long programme select learning champions who will help others who missed a session come up to speed. This has 3 effects. The first is focus; the    learning champions are keen to learn as much in that session as possible, because they will at some point have to pass it on and this rubs off onto others. It generates responsibility in the organisation for learning. Yay!

Ok thought of this one, too good not to share, so here is your Brucie bonus:

IMG_0416  11. Provide opportunities to use the learning ASAP. This moves the learning to the energy hungry and very limited prefrontal cortex into the basal ganglia   (long term memory) and makes them proficient quickly.

“If you would like to experience accelerated learning for yourself, why not come to a “Brain Friendly Learning Group” meeting? Krys runs the Leeds group and the next meeting is on the 4th of July, with Larry Reynolds, sharing “3 Tools to improve the EI of your learners”.

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