Skills for journalists in print and digital media

Outside speakers & training

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When travel and tuition money for outside training opportunities disappears, newsroom managers may turn to guest speakers as a local alternative.

Making the best use of a guest speaker takes some effort. Not making that effort can result in poor training that wastes time, accomplishes nothing, and gives training and the topic a bad name.

Here are ways to make the most of training provided by a guest speaker. And most also hold true when tapping staff members to provide training, be it for writing, editing, video and multimedia, software skills, management, beat background, or any other topic.

  1. Learning objectives: No one has time for long-winded presentations on broad topics and generalities. Consider what you want people to learn and be able to do when the session is over. Instead of bringing a local college professor in to talk about “good writing,” identify a couple specific skills related to good writing and build the session around those skills. Many guest speakers are not good at this kind of concrete skill focus. Some talented performers even have trouble breaking down what they do into a clear process. So it falls to the newsroom manager arranging the session to drive that discussion. This is a crucial first step.
  2. Time: Most newsroom training tends to fall into the 60-90 minute category. So when having the discussion in #1, keep the time fame in mind. If you have the luxury of several hours or even a day, still break that time down into 60-90 minute modules and build a strong sequence. Attention to time will help in framing clear learning objectives.
  3. Civilians & Journalists: Journalists like to ask questions. Training or education in most other settings is far more passive and lecture-oriented. Prepared a guest speaker who is not from the newsroom culture. Let them know there will be questions and that people will freely challenge assumptions or statements. That way, when it happens, the speaker will not take it personally or panic.
  4. Exercises: Having a chance to do what is being taught is an essential part of effective adult learning. An exercise provides a structured opportunity to practice new skills and receive immediate feedback from the speaker or other participants. Often this is where the real learning takes place. When working with an outside speaker, help that person develop an exercise that reflects real-work situations in the newsroom.
  5. Participate: Top managers should not only attend the sessions they’ve helped plan, but also participate. Join in the exercise. Offer feedback. Open and close the sessions by mentioning how this new skill will help people and the organization. This sends an invaluable signal of importance about the topic and job expectations after the training.

More: How to Build a Training Module


Written by mroberts8

02/10/2010 at 5:34 pm

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