Magazine article Training & Development Journal

How to Talk to a Talking Head

Magazine article Training & Development Journal

How to Talk to a Talking Head

Article excerpt

How To Talk to a Talking Head

Fact or fiction?: Videotapes in and of themselves can effectively teach and change behavior. The truth is that instruction must be active to be effective. The key to the effective use of videos in training programs is to create an interactive circuit made up of the videotape, the instructor, and the learner.

During the 1980s, few trainers could resist the allure of the thousands of new training videotapes being offered. Tapes were inexpensive and titles plentiful. Using the tapes in training had a certain glossy appeal and the cost was easily justified. But looking back, did they serve their purpose? Consider the following hypothetical interview.

Interviewer (to trainer): Briefly describe your experience using training tapes during the past decade.

A movie instead of a lesson?

How often have we been in a training session and heard the trainer say, "Now we're going to watch a videotape"? Invariably, we're mentally transported to fifth-grade geography class, when we were happy to be getting a movie instead of a lesson.

Trainees typically react to the announcement that they're going to see a videotape by stretching, relaxing, and settling back into their chairs. When the tape ends, trainees look as if they have just been aroused from a deep sleep. Indeed, an atmosphere of lethargy pervades the room. The trainer asks, "How does what we just watched relate to. . .?" Often dead silence ensues as trainees avert their eyes and fumble with their notes in the desperate hope that they won't be called upon.

Then there's the inspirational tape, in which emotional outbursts by the lecturer/performer are accompanied by jazzy music and razzle-dazzle production designed to enthrall viewers.

When the tape ends and the trainer asks the wide-eyed group for comments, a trainee typically says, "It was really good, the best tape I've seen." Then the trainer asks, "How does this relate to our topic?" And once again, trainees avert their eyes and fumble with their notes. Why? Because the trainer relied on the emotional content of the video to teach. An inspirational tape usually gets trainees' attention but accomplishes little else.

Making videos more interactive

Videotapes alone cannot provide the instructional benefits of new interactive videodiscs using laser technology. But there are ways to integrate existing videotapes into training programs to make them more interactive: post-video discussion, discussion during the video, case studies, searching and skipping, and the use of print materials.

Post-video discussion. Most trainers follow a video training session with a question-and-answer or discussion period. Few trainers, however, use advance questions to enhance post-video discussion.

Here's how to do it: prepare and present discussion questions before you show the videotape. After the video, conduct a structured round-robin discussion and hold each trainee accountable for some contribution.

There are several benefits to the use of advance questions: * Advance questions set learning objectives. They alert trainees to the learning possibilities that will be available. * Advance questions tell trainees what to look for. They alert trainees to the areas of the training that are germane to the organization, and can also help organize the material in advance, highlighting tape content and elevating attention levels on those areas. * They let trainees know what will be expected of them. Post-tape discussion can be significantly enhanced when trainees know before they watch the video what contributions they will be expected to make.

Discussion during the video. Use the "pause" function on the VCR. But remember that the spinning tape head can damage the tape if left on one section too long. Most VCRs have a safety device that shuts down the machine or advances the tape after a moment or two on pause. …

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