Running a seminar or a small business management course can potentially be a labor intensive undertaking. You want to ensure the ROI. A major part of that effort will be in researching developing your materials for presentation. How do you do this?
The following acronym (SOAP) sums up the process and the result:
leads to Originality
Essentially, if you research your topic thoroughly before you begin, even when it is an area you work in daily and are familiar with, you are more likely to produce original materials and ideas and present them in a fresh and authentic style.
In addition, you want to get away from the dull familiarity of ‘talk and chalk’ training. Training should be participatory and your presentation materials should include in addition to standard lecture materials,
o Ice breakers such as problem solving and team bonding exercises
o Scripts for introducing and running hothouse sessions to generate ideas
o Case studies
o Role plays
o Workshop exercises
o Multi media presentations
o Supplementary guides and more in-depth technical explanations
o Where to find further information
Researching an area, particularly one where in-depth technical knowledge is required can be a time-consuming process. It also needs specialist skills. While books and trade magazines supply useful background and allow you to ground yourself in the concepts and principles, they are normally out of date. They also cost money to buy or subscribe so unless you have a very good library (probably belonging to a college) to hand, they not the cheapest or most readily available resource.
The best source for fresh and up to date material is the Internet. This material can come from several places –
o Professional association pages
o Magazine and specialist sites
o Discussion forums
o News organizations
The key to unlock this material is knowing how to use an Internet search engine.
Everyone has experienced entering what they thought was a meaningful phrase into a search site such as Google only to be presented with unexpected and unwanted material or so much apparently relevant information that there seems no possible way of trawling through it all. Experts in the area know how to use specific search engine commands to cut down the amount of work required.
For example, if you enter the following words into Google –
you will be presented with every site that has the word ‘income’ and the word ‘tax’ in it and from sites throughout the world.
Whereas the following phrases –
“income tax” date:3 IRS
will pull up recently searched pages on US income tax increasing the relevance factor by 100% and cutting down the amount of material to trawl through (a process called ‘data scraping’) by an order of magnitude.
You can also use search engines to trawl news, discussion pages and blogs on the same subject and track down any multi media information – such as cartoons, pictures and training films.
And there are specialist search applications which work with search engines to make this process easier and more thoroughgoing. However, these normally need a license from the search engine owners to run and so are generally only used by agencies or individuals that specialize in this area of work.
Whether you or someone else is doing the research you need to be very discerning. The Internet can be extremely useful but some of the material posted can be both out of date and very misleading.
Once you have collated your material and selected the most relevant items, you need to structure your training around them. Here it helps to bring in someone with good composition and typing skills as you need to rapidly and accurately develop the key lecture materials and notes along with supplementary guides and sources of further information. If they have also participated in the research effort, so much the better.
In addition, you also need to script the other types of sessions. Even sessions where you are expecting your participants to generate the material need a carefully worded introduction and a well thought out set of rules to structure the session so that it is maximally useful to those who take part and that no one is put under pressure or embarrassed during the process.
What you can be sure of is that the more effort you put into research and development and the more professionally it is done, the more it will repay you in the long run.