I have a new idea for “Survivor,” and you stand a good chance of making it onto my show. It's going to be called “Survivor — Trainer Version.” Here's how it will work. You must successfully deliver technology training in today's economy. You must operate in a harsh environment and navigate an almost impenetrable economic terrain. You have to reach your audience with limited access to the management tools you have had in the past (such as a substantial budget and travel). Feel as if your tribe is already in the second round?
Anyone who has watched “Survivor” knows that you need a strategy to win. So what's your plan? Training is critical to the survival of your company. Products must be introduced, sales reps have to be enabled, systems engineers need new skills. Do you have a strategy that will deliver successful training programs under almost impossible circumstances?
Webcasts, videoconferences, and e-learning are popular options. But what if your goals cannot be reached remotely? Here are three strategies that will help you get “face time” with your trainees.
Add More Value
To invest time in an event, managers need more than one reason to attend. Consider making your training part of another meeting. If there is an annual sales meeting, work with the managers to dedicate a portion of it to training. See if you can get some time on the agenda of the telesales “Lunch and Learn” to introduce the new volume-pricing agreements. Negotiate for time in the next hands-on technical training to offer some customer-oriented skills enhancement. When you add value, everyone comes out ahead.
Localize Your Thinking
Smaller, regional events that managers can attend without travel expenses can be targeted and effective. Customize your sessions by market or geography to attract participants. Trainees find personal attention from a trainer at a district office an attractive option. With local meetings, you also have the benefit of improved relationships and personal commitment.
Find a Partner
Chances are that you are not alone in your training dilemma. Share the stage (and the cost) by offering a training event in a partnership agreement. Companies with complementary offerings and your biggest competitors are often the perfect training partners because they have similar target audiences. Offering variety motivates more managers to attend than a single vendor training does, since trainees perceive more chance for educational value and less likelihood of a product commercial disguised as training. Finally, a group of related companies is likely to attract sponsors that are also looking for economical ways to reach the same markets. It all adds up to more value (and less cost) per attendee.
I experienced an example of these strategies at a regional event last fall. Several companies partnered to offer the InterChange Conference in Boxborough, Mass. Professionals from the fields of technical writing, publishing, corporate communications, and training were attracted to a substantial agenda of technical and nontechnical sessions. An exhibit area provided networking and marketing opportunities. In addition, sponsors gave away software, books, and other prizes. The result was a well-attended regional training event with a great deal of value to the attendees and exposure for the partners that might have been unattainable by a single vendor.
So consider strategies that add value, regional focus, and partners this year. They may be the secret to survival during these challenging times.
Janette Racicot is president of Racicot & Associates, Belmont, Mass., which specializes in helping companies create their most important training events. She can be reached at (617) 484-3201 or firstname.lastname@example.org.