Articles and Resources - Professional Development

How to Prepare for a Presentation - The Quick & Easy Way

It seemed like a good idea at the time. You agreed to give a presentation. The day is fast approaching and now you are getting anxious. Now what? First, you must be comfortable with the subject, or have the time to carefully research the topic.

By answering these questions, you will be able to prepare a memorable presentation in a minimal amount of time.

  1. Purpose - What is the purpose of the presentation? Is it to give information, to be persuasive, to entertain or to share emotion? For example, if you are giving information, the objective would be to explain the features of the most recent insurance policy.
  2. Audience - Who is in your audience and how familiar are they with the topic? This will determine the breadth and depth of your communications strategy. If you are speaking to seasoned management professionals on how to use an electronic Travel form, they will only need to know the basics and changes to the form, while a summer student would need a detailed explanation of the features of the tool and how to navigate through it.
  3. Time - How much time do you have to deliver? The longer the time, the more details you will provide. The delivery time will determine the number of examples, stories and explanations that are given.
  4. Content - What are the main points that you will talk about? What does the audience need to know? What information do you need to give the audience in order to meet your objectives? We usually speak in groups of 3, 5 or 7 (depending on the time). What are the 3 most important ideas you need to get across? Now, how are you going to get your ideas across? Tell a story, draw a diagram, explain the contents of a form, refer to a picture, give a famous quote or analogy.
  5. Visual Aids - What visual aids will you use? For example, Power Point slides, handouts, flipchart, videos, or whiteboard. Visual aids are meant to enhance the presentation – not take over it. The speaker is the focus of the presentation. How and when will you use the visuals? Remember to mix it up and provide some variety ... within reason, of course. 
  6. Practice, practice, practice - How should you practice? Verbally provide your presentation to a co-worker, friend, or family member. This will make you more comfortable with the content and give you a good "feel" for the flow of the material. The tone should be conversational, as if you where having a talk across the coffee table. Be sure to time yourself and remember that the actual presentation will take less time, as we tend to speak more quickly when we are nervous.
  7. Humor - Do you need humor? Absolutely. All humor needs to tie into the material and to serve a purpose. A good rule of thumb is to only tell the jokes that you would say to your Grandmother in Church.

Benjamin Franklin said, "By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail." By using these quick and easy presentation ideas you will be prepared and ready to deliver an outstanding presentation to your audience.



Ideas Worth Sharing

The #TEDxWpg2016 event was a real treat to attend! It was a impressive learning and networking day. So many wonderful speakers and attendees to learn from!

After the event, I shared some of my experience and there seemed to be a lot of interest in the variety of topics, therefore the following is a snippet of some of the ideas.

Did you know that … aging speeds up in space? Research shows that there is rapid increase in bone loss and artery deterioration. When people return from space, muscles, tissue and bone rapidly regenerate.

Did you know that ... our health is determined by 3 main factors? Sleep, fitness and nutrition. Chronic insomnia is an issue for 9 to 10% of adults. Poor sleep is almost a public problem. Our environment has changed with constant electronic diversions but our ability to adapt to these changes has not occurred.

Did you know that … one-third of children who live in poverty end up with PTSD? Art appeals to all types of learners such as visual, audio and tactile. Art and film also help children and young adults deal with stress and pressures of day-to-day living and help to overcome diversity.

Did you know that … our behavior looks different from the other side of the eye? One critique can rattle our entire being. Be ready to accept critiques. Others are there to help us – we just need to be open and receptive.  How would you change if you could see yourself as others see you? 

Did you know that …. we need to know the priorities of a community, or else we will loose direction. Research shows a 27% reduction in the use of City of Winnipeg water over the last 20 years. 

Did you know that … bugs (or parts of them) are in our food? One cup of coffee can have up to 60 bug parts. Crickets are a good source of protein and contain more protein than steak. Consume them in a protein shake – vanilla and chocolate work quite nicely! I tried it!! Lobster and shrimp were once considered to be the equivalent of eating insects these days.

Did you know that … everyone has a playbook of skills, gifts and abilities that we bring to the game of life? Have a bigger plan, know the rules of the game and execute one play at a time. Be consistent and productive. Passion and production will equal balance. Outperform the competition and always adjust along the way. Find a mentor who knows the key moves and techniques. We need discipline, flexibility and patience.

Did you know that … when it comes to protocol, we need to do the right thing, at the right time, for the right reason, with respect? When travelling, we need to know the customer, culture and protocols. Protocol brings calmness to an event.

Did you know that … people with concussions recover more quickly with biofeedback and support? Hurt athletes should not suffer in silence.

Did you know that … four percent of the population hears in color which is called synesthesia? What make you weird is also what makes you awesome and unique. Celebrate it.

Did you know that … in the future, we will be able to travel using virtual reality, powered by a cell phone? If you could put anyone in your story, what would you tell them? 

Did you know that … a band teacher inspires her students by giving them the honor of signing their name on a brick wall? Nurture the individual and make the investment in them by using their name, compliment them specifically on what they have done well, and be curious by asking questions.

@TEDxWpg2016 was one of the best learning and networking events I have attended in Winnipeg. Even after all of my years of training and development workshops, there is always more to learn and explore.



How to State Your Disagreement – Without Ticking Anyone Off

You have been asked for your opinion on an issue, but you know that you are not going to give a popular response. How can you state your opinion without causing offense or resentment? 

This is a structure with 6 easy steps to help you state your opinion without ruffling any feathers, and still get your ideas across.

Stop and Think – Some of us tend to speak before our brain is in gear. So take a few seconds to be quiet and think ... What do I think about this? Why do I think this? This reflection will help you to collect your thoughts and plan your strategy.

Rephrase what you heard them say. Put in your own words the ideas that you believe you heard. By rephrasing, we are checking our understanding and the other person either confirms or corrects our interpretation. 

Buffer – Use a phrase to gently broach the idea. It says that you value what they have said, but you are going to share another perspective. Some phrases might be:

  • I hear what you are saying – here’s another thought ...
  • I appreciate your views – here’s another way of looking at it ...
  • Interesting perspective ...
  • Something else to consider ...
  • I understand your concern ...
  • Something else to think about ...
  • This company has another way of looking at it ...

State What You Think and Why – Give them the goods, in a diplomatic way. 

Evidence – Support your idea with an example to back up your opinion. The evidence might consist of a personal experience, something that you studied, read about, researched, or observed. Evidence usually cannot be disputed. It supports your opinion and adds credibility to it.

Opinion – Conclude by saying – therefore my opinion on this issue is …

Let’s say that your office is having a meeting to discuss its current space. The office is bursting at the seams and you need a bigger facility. A suggestion is made to relocate the premises to a larger facility. You do not want to move, at this time.

  1. Stop and think – I don't want to move from the current location. It is a convenient location for my clients.
  2. Rephrase – So you think that our office should move, because the space cannot accommodate the new hires.
  3. Buffer – Something else to consider …
  4. State What You Think – Rather than a move, I think that we should expand into the vacant space that is next to our office. It will save us time and resources, and our clients will not be inconvenienced. 
  5. Evidence – Yesterday I had a client who said our location is very convenient for her, as it is just a block away from a bus stop. Other clients have remarked on how easy it is to find parking. 
  6. Opinion – Therefore, I believe that we should stay in our existing location and expand our premises.

This 6-step structure will help us to organize our thoughts and ideas in a difference of opinion scenario. Structure is important, as it takes out the emotional side of disagreements and gives us something to positively focus on. It helps us to resolve the issue, saves time, energy and frustration, and keeps individuals engaged in the conversation.



The How To's Of An Individual Learning Plan

A question was asked by a Trainer in a workshop; Do you think you need a learning plan? The overwhelming response was, "Only if you want to achieve your career goals."

An Individual Learning Plan is completed by an employee at the start of a new position or during the performance review process. This plan can also be done if there is a major change in their duties, a restructuring of the business, or a transformation of the organization’s objectives and goals. The Individual Learning Plan is a formal document. It indicates the knowledge, skills and abilities as well as sources of learning and development required over a set amount of time in order to achieve the objectives of that position. The purpose is to identify areas for growth and development along with the action required to achieve their goals and objectives. The Learning Plan can consist of one of the following:

  • formal courses available from universities or other learning providers,
  • on-the-job training available through job rotations or on the assumption of additional responsibilities,
  • informal learning through mentoring or reading.

8 Steps to establish an Individual Learning Plan:

  1. Goal(s) - Reflect upon what you would like to accomplish. Pick one or two main ideas.
  2. Activities - What do you need to make this happen?
  3. Results – What you expect to happen when you accomplish the activities.
  4. Timelines – When will the activities take place?  This will usually happen over a year.
  5. Cost – Your Manager will be especially interested and can set aside funding for the special conference or course that you want to attend.
  6. Draft a Learning Plan.
  7. Discuss with your Manager, finalize and commit to action.
  8. Obtain feedback from your coach or Manager and revise as needed.

The Individual Learning Plan serves as a discussion point during the performance review process. It is a conversation between a manager and an employee about his or her current job performance and the areas that need to be strengthened as well as the employee’s areas of interest in future growth and development. Every employee should have a current Learning Plan that has been approved by his or her immediate Manager.

When Individual Learning Plans are gathered and compiled in an organization, they serve as the basis of the strategic direction of an organization’s master training plan and establish the financial commitment of the organization.



What's Your Learning Style?

Adults have different preferences and approaches while learning, taking in information differently and drawing conclusions. This concept is known as learning styles. Much research has been done in this field. Some studies indicate that everyone has a dominant learning style, while newer research shows that learners need access to a variety of learning styles. When providing training, It is important to observe your audience carefully, study their patterns and adjust as you go. 

According to the VAK/VARK Model, people have 3 different learning preferences:


People learn by listening. This phenomenon is why university professors are so fond of lecturing! The benefit is that a great deal of information can be distributed over a short period of time. The disadvantage is that if the material is boring, some people will be lost in the process. It is easy to daydream about the upcoming weekend activities, rather than concentrate on the material at hand. Lectures can be supported with slides or handouts that will help students retain the content. A way to reinforce the concept is by discussion of the topics, supplemented with practical case studies, scenarios and videos. This method will help participants better understand the concept and its applicability. 

Participants with an auditory learning style will focus carefully on the pitch and tone of voice of the presenter. Trainers may want to speed up their presentations, use lesser details and even dramatize some of the ideas to keep the attention of the audience.

When observing auditory learners, you will notice that they are loud and very outgoing; excitement is in the air. They will provide you with feedback, smiles and responses to your questions.

Some learners use the auditory method to memorize important facts or details. For example, some trainers will talk to themselves as they memorize a speech. Others will read out instructions as a way to better clarify the meaning of written information.


Other people prefer to learn by watching. They often sit at the front of the class to observe the body language and facial expressions of the trainer. Participants will write important notes in the margins of books or draw diagrams to visualize and link concepts. They seek a pattern.

When observing visual learners, you will notice that they are quieter and have a critical look on their faces. They tend to be introverted and are more passive learners.

Trainers can use slides with photographs, diagrams, important facts and theories to reinforce key ideas and concepts. Handouts can be given out. Others use flipcharts, whiteboards and blackboards to illustrate key thoughts and ideas. If there is a large amount of technical information, trainers need to slow down their speaking rate to give participants a chance to comprehend the material.

Learners and trainers often use mind mapping, as an aid to help them "see" the main concepts. Visual learners tend to take copious notes, while some people will use their electronic devices.

Others will make up a movie in their mind as a memory aid. If we draw a picture to cement the ideas, we will have higher memory recall. The mind has a sense of humor and the funnier the pictures, the higher our memory recall.


Many learners need to use their hands and be involved in activities as they learn. They can be easily distracted and need activity as well as exploration to maintain their attention. They require an active, hands-on approach.

Classes with labs are most effective. For a computer software course in the workplace, the learner needs to sit at a computer and work through the various applications as directed by an instructor. Tactile learners prefer to touch the keyboard and apply the applications. They will learn the application and remember it through the process of attempting different combinations with an occasional error.

Many of us have watched or actually assembled a barbeque at some point in our lives. The tactile learner prefers to assemble the barbeque without reading the instructions. Only when they run into a problem will they seek the instructions as a last resort. No wonder they often end up with extra parts!

This learning method works well for manufacturing or assembly types of positions where individuals are required to perform the work with a high degree of accuracy. Using this method, the learners watch the instructor perform the task and listen to his explanation of what is being done. Then the learners perform the task, based on what they have seen and heard. The instructor monitors the results and provides immediate feedback.

In this case, they have used the 3 methods of learning: visual, auditory and tactile.

Kinesthetic learners often use a highlighter pen to mark the most important parts in a book and also take down important notes. They hold the book in their hands, rather than rest it on a table or their lap. Others may even walk around with the book, as if they want to feel the words.

Tactile/kinesthetic learning is a form of experiential learning in which participants learn by doing. We use this method to learn how to walk, drive a bike or sing a song. 

Other models to explore include work by David Kolb, Peter Honey, Alan Mumford, Anthony Gregorc, and Christopher Dovakhin. Each model has its own way of looking at how different adults learn.



5 Easy Steps to Use EI (Emotional Intelligence) Rather than IQ For Success

Sammy was a fierce leader in an executive position. He had a clear direction of where he wanted his organization to go and how to get there.  He was surrounded by the best and brightest people. But he had a problem, his staff could not relate to him.  He operated in the old command and control style. Do as I say and do not question anything. Sammy believed that there was no place for emotions in the workplace. He was a "screamer" and it was common to see grown women and men leave his office in tears. It did not take long before his senior managers resigned and it trickled down to his middle and junior staff. The organization was facing a downward spiral and major changes were required to offset a disaster.

Sammy needed to have a close look at himself and his style of leadership to bring this organization back on track. It was essential for him to make some drastic changes to his management style and use emotional intelligence to gain the support of his staff.  But there is help out there ... Enter the world of emotional intelligence (EI).

These are the 5 steps of EI which will have more impact in your personal and professional life.

  1. Self Awareness – This is the foundation in which you listen to your inner dialogue (how you talk to yourself), look for patterns and tune into these patterns. Recognize and be more aware of your physical symptoms. For example, I get a queasy stomach before each Monday morning meeting. Be honest with yourself. Why is my stomach getting upset?  Are you getting the responses that you expect from different interactions? Sammy thought that he was approachable, but most staff members did not feel that way.
  2. Self Regulation – This is about being able to manage your thoughts, assess your response to an action or behavior and act appropriately. For example during a difficult conversation, take a deep breath, take a break or go for a walk, then respond assertively. EI users are able to recognize stressful symptoms and are able to manage properly and "let go" at the right time.
  3. Self Motivation – Set and work towards specific goals. Build a network of supportive friends, family and peers. Have a sense of purpose as to what drives you and work toward these goals.
  4. Empathy – Understand where other people are coming from and put yourself in their place.
  5. People Skills – Strengthen interpersonal skills by using assertive language and "I" statements. Know and respect boundaries of others and handle conflict constructively.

By using the EI approach, rather than only IQ, Sammy will be able to get back on track with his employees, exert his leadership role and meet the goals of his organization. Staff will be more engaged and actually want to be at work.

Do you want to know more about how EI can work for you and organization, contact Helen Dyrkacz for a workshop or coaching program near you.

More details available at Emotional Intelligence at Work.



10 Ways to Engage Your Audience in Training Workshops

Robert was excited to attend an Essential Skills for Supervisors workshop. He came in with some expectations and looked forward to sharpening his skills as a new Supervisor. But after the first 20 minutes he was tempted to check his emails and update his Facebook status.

A challenge that presenters and trainers often face is that we need to transfer new knowledge, but the same old methods are used and participants are easily bored.

In this age of rapid fire technology, participants are uninterested with the traditional methods of training such as pour and snore lectures (the lecturer pours the information into the heads of participants while they snore) and habitual classroom instruction. It’s no wonder that participants soon pull out their i-phones and start to surf the net. Not good!

According to Dorothy Parker, "The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity."

In the Trainer's Inside Edge book and Train the Trainer workshop, several key ways are used to connect with participants and keep them engaged long before they even think of checking Facebook updates.

  1. Game Shows – Prepare questions/responses and play the game, "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" or "Jeopardy". Some software is free or it can be purchased online.
  2. Radio Show Host – Participants role play a radio show interview in front of the class.
  3. Make up a Poem – Participants prepare and present a poem that represents the key topics.
  4. Learning Circle – Participants prepare and present a main idea or topic, while standing in a circle of participants.
  5. Dummy – Use a doll (similar to a ventriloquist) and carry on a conversation between the dummy and workshop leader about the topic. This method is similar to the radio show interview, however the dummy asks the trainer questions.
  6. Crossword Puzzle – This one has been around for years. Prepare a crossword puzzle. Participants are given clues about the topics discussed during the course. It serves as a good review of key topics.
  7. Interactive Games – Use games to reinforce and apply ideas or concepts. For example a tower building exercise with index cards can illustrate the ideas of leadership, working together, planning, organizing, directing, controlling and celebrating success.
  8. Gamification – Use game thinking to help participants solve problems. Learners compete against one or more individuals in an interactive experience that rewards the learning experience in some way. For example, use a video game that has a story, in which they learn the subject matter, interact with the game and practice what is learned.
  9. Role Plays – Participants assume a role in a make believe situation to actually apply a concept or process. It is beneficial for skill development and dealing with real life situations.
  10. Case Studies – Participants use case studies to test concepts, analyze situations, and problem solve difficult issues. The case study can simulate an actual situation.

If you have some creative ways to transfer learning – we would love to hear from you!



5 Key Training Workshop Energizers

Have you ever been to a training session in which participants say, "I cannot believe how quickly this day has gone by?" What did the trainer do to make this workshop so engaging?

As a rule of thumb, participants (and trainers) need some activities to provide variety to presentations, especially if the content is highly technical. Put in an energizer every 30 to 40 minutes, especially after lunch and in the late afternoon.
The following are five options:

  1. Time to stretch – Tell participants to stand up. Clasp the hands together and push the palms towards the ceiling, while pushing the shoulders down. Hold for 15 seconds. Reclasp the hands with the opposite thumb on top and repeat. Now roll the shoulders forward 4 times and roll backwards 4 times. (Participants will feel that the upper body is more relaxed.)
  2. Walk About – Tell participants to stand up, turn right and walk around your table. Then turn left, walk around your table and sit down. (Participants appreciate being able to stand up and stretch their legs.) 
  3. The “What is” Game - Each participant has a colored index card. Tell them to write down one response to a question (i.e. What is your first job, most unusual job, worst vacation location, a phobia or proudest achievement?) Collect the cards, shuffle them and then pass them out. Participants need to guess who is the owner of the card. A variation is to read out 3 or 4 cards throughout the day. (Participants will get to know their class members better and share some laughs.) 
  4. Sitting Down Exercise – Tell participants to tilt their head to the right 4 times, then to the left 4 times. Roll the head to the right 4 times, then roll it to the left 4 times. Roll the shoulders 4 times forward, then roll the shoulders 4 times backwards. Place hands on shoulders (like chicken wings) and roll the arms forward 4 times, then backwards 4 times. Squeeze butt and hold for 15 seconds (will generate some laughs). Do this 4 times.  Raise the right leg and point toes forward 4 times, then raise the left leg and point toes forward 4 times. Raise both legs and point toes forward 4 times. (Participants will feel refreshed and energized while staying seated.) 
  5. Bouncing Balloons – Tell participants to stand up and spread out. Give everyone a balloon. Bounce the balloon with the right hand for 1 minute, bounce the balloon with the left hand for 1 minute, alternate between left and right hand for 1 minute. With a partner, bounce one balloon back and forth using the right hand for 1 minute, bounce the balloon using the left hand for 1 minute, then bounce the balloon with a partner alternating between the left and right hands for 2 minutes. This exercise will involve balloons flying off course and plenty of laughing. (Participants will feel energized and ready to tackle more difficult tasks, after the bending, stretching, reaching, teamwork, and hand-eye coordination.) 

Workshop Trainers need to manage and pace their energy. If we are bored with the material and speak in a dull, monotone voice, participants will become easily distracted and bored as well! Go for a brisk walk during the break, do some jumping jacks (behind closed doors) and visualize a fun workshop and Happy Training! 
If you have some workshop training energizes that really work – we would love to hear from you!



Productivity Boost Model

Mary was frustrated. Each morning she came in with a work plan, but within the first 20 minutes she was pulled in different directions with urgent requests and a constant barrage of disruptions.  Mary knew that she had to do something.
Then Mary adapted the Productivity Boost Model as a daily habit. She became more organized, focused on the most important tasks and shut the computer off at night, knowing that her day was productive.
Do you want to save time? This model will help you become more productive, reduce time wasters and get the most important things done.
The 5-Step Productivity Boost Model:

1. Triage (like a hospital ER) what needs to be done

  • List the items on your “to do list”
  • Determine what really matters
  • Establish your work requirements
  • Decide on what is most important

2. Schedule it

  • Determine how long the task will take
  • Order and prioritize the most important tasks

3. Focus on getting it done (think of Maxwell Smart’s cone of silence)

  • Maintain laser sharp focus
  • Collect the information by doing research, attending meetings, and checking e-mails
  • Avoid distractions
  • Stay away from multi tasking

4. Analyze what happened, after the work has been done

  • What worked well?
  • What could have been done differently?
  • Were there any people or process problems?
  • How could time be saved, if you had to do it again?

5. Take Care of Yourself

  • How is your energy level?
  • Are you getting enough rest, exercise and eating properly?

By following the 5 steps, you can get more done and feel a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day. 

Other tips to save you more time and energy are available in the Time Management Essentials Workshop: How To Save Time – When You Don’t Have The Time. Learn how to better organize, plan and manage your time, increase productivity, and reduce stress.



7 Tips to Manage Interruptions

You sit down and start to work on a task. Just as you nicely get into it, the phone rings, followed by a "ding" announcing the arrival of an e-mail and a co-worker pops into your cubicle to catch up on the weekend activities. How do you minimize the interruptions, not offend anyone and still get the work done?
The following 7 tips will help you maintain production and get things done. 

  1. Come in extra early or stay late to avoid the busiest time of the day (and while most interruptions occur.)
  2. Wear a headset and listen to soothing music or white noise.  It will drown out interruptions and help minimize your stress.
  3. Position your workspace away from favorite socialization areas such as the lunch room, coffee pot or photocopier machine.
  4. Set up a physical barrier such as a bookcase, plant or screen to block people from seeing you as they walk past your work station.  As the saying goes, out of sight, out of mind.
  5. Temporarily set your phone to automatic messaging. 
  6. Keep your daily "to do" list in front of you.  Whenever an interruption comes up, look at the list and remind yourself of your top priorities.
  7. After keeping your nose to the grindstone and getting things done, remember to REWARD YOURSELF.

Other tips to save you more time and energy are available in the Time Management Essentials Workshop:  How To Save Time – When You Don’t Have The Time.  Learn how to better organize, plan and manage your time, increase productivity, and reduce stress.



Time Management Essentials

How often have we said, "Where did this day go?" E-Mails, meetings, and telephone calls place demands on our time. We only have so many hours each day to get our work done.  Time management skills have a direct effect on our efficiency, quality of work and stress levels. 
Handling E-mails can be a big time consumer. Every time we hear a "ding" indicating that a new e-mail has arrived, many of us are programmed to leave what we were doing and open up the new e-mail. Unfortunately, with each distraction, we temporarily stop what we have been working on and switch to a new task. While some e-mails are urgent, most are routine. For a person who receives 80 e-mails a day, it could mean up to 10 distractions every hour. 
Action Required – Please note that these tips will require personal self discipline and behavorial modification – but totally worth the change if you are serious about saving time.

  • Turn off the new e-mail notification. This will save you disruptions and allow you to focus on the task at hand.
  • Check messages only 3 or 4 times every day. First thing in the morning, before lunch, 2 pm and before you leave the office. Once again, it will allow you to focus on one task at a time. Studies have shown that multi-tasking does not work.
  • Clean out your inbox each day. File messages by subject or action required.
  • Process each e-mail only once when you open it ie:  Action it immediately, forward it to someone else, file it for future reference, or delete it
  • When sending a message, state the action required in the subject line ie:  To be actioned by (date), For Information Purposes Only, Share with Others. 

Other tips to save you more time and energy are available in the Time Management Essentials Workshop: How To Save Time – When You Don’t Have The Time. Learn how to better organize, plan and manage your time, increase productivity, and reduce stress.


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