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Longer Contact = Greater Impact!
follow up can offer big returns for little effort
There's no return on your investment in training and employee communication if your participants do not apply what you tell them about best practices. Whether you're a staff person trying to boost employee performance, or an independent professional guiding a client organization, the payoff comes after the course or meeting.
With a small investment of additional time and resources, you can bring participants to your event prepared to get the most out of it, and work with them after the event to maximize retention and application of the best practices you covered at the event.
If you limit your interaction with the participants to the event itself, you limit the impact of the event on your participants' behavior, on whether the event produces change and better outcomes.
Three Ways to Learn More about Extended Contact
I cover this idea in some detail on this site, so I've given you options to learn more by:
On this page, I'll discuss:
It doesn't matter whether it is an important policy meeting, a regional conference, a series of online lessons, a sales workshop, or a training seminar -- when your participants reach the end of the material you've prepared for them, they are ready to apply their new best practices in their daily work. Most of your participants mean to apply the best practices you promote.
Then life happens. When you look at how they're doing things after the event, you often see the same old behaviors you tried to change or eliminate.
People are busy. While they have been at your event, or taking their on-line course, work has been piling up, the in-basket has been groaning under a new load. And when they step back into the old environment, the one where they learned the original, less than optimal practices, they are surrounded by cues that undermine their new, good intentions.
They need you. They need you to stop by and remind them that it will take a little effort to build new habits of the best practices that just acquired. They need you to get in touch, and to simplify things for them by pointing out a couple of easy first steps they can take to be more effective, more efficient. They need you to give them a "booster shot" of your enthusiasm, to give them that extra little bit of energy they need to climb out of their old ruts and into their new behaviors, new ways of working that will benefit them and their organization.
If only you had the time to follow up with each of them . . . well, maybe you do! It's more a question of design than time, of building in extended contact as you create the core event.
It takes a change in thinking about your training or communication. Instead of thinking of a 'seminar" or "conference" or "regional meeting" or "online lesson" as your communication tool, think of those items as elements in a larger project focused on a particular set of best practices. That is, extend the boundaries of your training or communication event to include what happens before and after your participants arrive in the room, or take the lesson, or read the manual.
Elsewhere on this site (and in The Training Tipsheet) I've asked the question, "Where's the Bun?", that is, how can you extend your contact before and after the core event to maximize the impact of your message? Could you make contact with your participants a couple of times before they come to the core event or take the online lessons? Could you follow up with them after the event to remind them of how to apply your information in their real work lives?
If you're an experienced communicator, the power of this kind of follow-up is obvious. Its greatest value is ensuring that an important message, one that your employees embraced when they left your event, doesn't get lost in the confusion and hubbub of life at their desks, or on the road. It gives your message another chance to move from intention to action.
There are many ways to manage this, more than we can discuss on this page. But here are some suggestions for enhancing the return on your investment in a training/communication event by extending your contact with participants:
Create the content of your extended content as part of the process of creating your event.
It doesn't matter whether you're mailing, e-mailing, or calling participants, whether it is before or after the core event. You'll have the greatest impact if "the bun" is an integral part of designing the entire communication "sandwich", instead of something thrown on after the fact, for several reasons:
Find the small amount of extra time to incorporate design of extended contact into the design of your event. It will save you a ton of time, and produce better results. Trying to do it separately will not only waste time and resources, it often means that you'll never get to it at all.
Of course, after you've created those messages, you have to think about how to deliver them, and that's when a lot of us start to sing a familiar tune . . .
Okay, this is a great idea, but how do you implement it without investing a lot of time and resources?
The trick is to delegate and automate. Here are some examples:
Whether a helper on your staff, a hired assistant, or a technological tool handles the delivery, delegation and automation do more than just assure messages get out. They can ensure timeliness that actually increases the impact of your messages.
Let's say you have regional best practices conferences at the beginning of May, June, and July. If you just sent out a follow-up message at the beginning of August, it probably wouldn't do much good for the first two sets of participants.
But with a properly set up system, you can make sure that each group participants hears from you in the month immediately following their own event. Each group hears from you when they need to hear from you, when it can do the most to boost retention and enhance application of best practices.
It isn't that complicated, if you incorporate it into your communication design process so you have time to plan your system and the content of your messages. And it is definitely worth it.
If you're still having trouble seeing how this could work for you, I've listed some typical applications below. And I encourage you to experience extended contact for yourself, to put yourself in the participant's place, by enrolling in my simulated follow-up. That will help you think about ways to apply similar techniques to your own situation.
Use extended contact, beyond the boundaries of the specific event:
There are many other ways to use a series of routine contacts to enhance the impact of your communications with employees, clients, and customers. Whether you're in a corporate environment or an independent contractor, people and tools are available, through delegation and for hire, to make timely delivery of your messages very easy and efficient . . .
. . . and the communication and training you provide is sure to become more powerful as a result.
© 2007 Best Training Practices -- Will Kenny
Follow Up for Impact
© 2002 - 2010 Best Training Practices -- Will Kenny