Dancing in the moment 

I always remember meeting a man named Doug Malouf. It was at an ASTD conference back in the ’90s. At that time, I thought I was a great trainer and presenter. He changed my life by opening my eyes to what I was really doing as a trainer, instead of what I wanted to be – a training facilitator.

From the moment he walked on stage he had my attention. When he left I was satisfied, but wanted more. He was funny, he was entertaining he had my full attention. I sat after he finished and asked myself one simple question.. “How did he do that?” I had a head full of new ideas and a book full of writing I had scrawled so fast, I had trouble reading it.

Ask yourself a question before you begin every course: If this group of students go home today and say they had a bloody great time, what would have happened and how will you have achieved this?

“Listen up,” I shouted at a conference. The room fell silent as I began a presentation five minutes early and whilst still backstage using a microphone. People were still trying to take their seats and choose the best view. I said “Don’t sit down, stay standing, and if you are sitting comfortably then please stand up for a moment.” It was a room of professional e-learning developers. I asked two questions: “If you have never facilitated a classroom-based training course using a controlled set of pre-designed interventions, or have no idea what I am talking about please sit down.” And then…”If you have never sat and completed any e-learning course that you or your company has not designed, please sit down.”

At that point, of the 175 people in the room all bar a handful were sitting down. I was astonished and have repeated this around the world with the same result.

Being a trainer in today’s world is being a facilitator, able to move with the crowd and change the material on the fly to meet the need. The training psychotherapist in my family (my wife) calls it “dancing in the moment.” The rules of the chalk-and-talk educator of the past have changed. The more we move to new media the more we have to change our training ways and views.

To dance in the moment is to know your subject so well that you can design your course not as training but as explorative learning. Imagine this: You stand up and begin to present your session. Everyone looks eager and awake, eyes are shining. Everyone is ready for your very first word. You start to talk, all seems great. You like the sound of your own voice, so why shouldn’t everyone attending? Five minutes in and a few eyes are glazed, the light fixtures and the sweets in the dish on the table have become more interesting than you. You’re in trouble, but you have not noticed yet. So on you go, talk…talk…talk…

At seven minutes there is a change in the group. The “manager type” in the front row is smiling at you politely. The blonde lady in the business suit has a twinkle in her eye, and the techie in the second row is completely relaxed and fully consumed in pleasure. You think, “Hey I’m getting through.
They love me, no?” No! In fact after seven minutes, it is well documented your audience will be thinking of something else, something that is fun or is more easily palatable. What you have is not the positive feedback you so desire. It’s a message to stop talking and move on.

Dancing in the moment?

Dancing in the moment?

To dance in the moment is to present for only a few minutes, and present something so thought provoking in relevant subject matter that the group are filled with questions and the need for more. Then offer the group the opportunity to use your expertise, to ask questions and explore the areas they wish to know rather than your normal, pre-designed route for teaching. Delivery in e-learning using this process is still achievable. Design a library of small scenarios and allow the user to get involved in as many as they wish.

Dancing in the moment, requires not much new, just a change in how you do it…. If they had a bloody good time, then you were dancing…..

As for Doug Malouf, he was one of those “ah ha” moments for me all those years ago, something that stuck and that I will always consider. If I saw him on the bill at any conference, I would be at the front of the queue.