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Love Train

Corporate Trainer Speaks at April 22 Newcomer's Meeting

By Dave Primm

You've seen them stand before you and lecture on everything from safety to the company 401(k) plan. They're masters of PowerPoint and the handout sheet, spend hours on their feet, and can field questions like a world-class lacrosse player. They are the corporate trainers, and they have more in common with tech writers than you think.

"Technical writers and trainers use many of the same phases to prepare their products," according to Jackie Damrau, corporate trainer and guest speaker at this April's STC Newcomer's meeting. Damrau, who manages an instructional design team for Perot Systems in Dallas, introduced newcomers to ADDIE, an organizing model used by her team to create training classes.

ADDIE's five parts—Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation, and Evaluation—are similar to the processes that tech writers use when approaching a document. Damrau pointed out that trainers, like tech writers, gather information and decide on their goals in an Analysis phase. The Design and Development phases are periods when trainers write and prepare the training content. The Implementation phase occurs when trainers hold their classes. The ADDIE model finishes with an Evaluation phase, during which trainers use surveys and other techniques to find out how effective the training was.

"Sometimes we actually observe someone using the training to do a task," said Damrau. "That way, we can see where they stumble, and figure out any adjustments we need to make to the training."

And have you ever wondered why you can't read and listen to Sheryl Crow at the same time? Damrau said this has nothing to do with the singer, but everything to do with your personal learning style.

"People have different learning preferences. Some people learn through seeing something, others through hearing, and some learn kinesthetically, which is a combination of the two. I personally am a person who turns off the audio portion when working with software that uses words and sound. We keep these sorts of things in mind when designing our training."

Damrau also said that trainers have begun to adjust their handouts to stay a step ahead of nimble readers. Trainers now vary the material in the presentation handouts from the presentation itself, which keeps readers from simply perusing the handout and tuning out the presenter.

During her final minutes, Damrau covered another topic well known to tech writers (at least those who want to avoid intimate lunches with the company lawyer): the use of copyrighted material. She advised that writers familiarize themselves with the Fair Use provision of copyright law, which states that writers must get permission to use copyrighted materials, except in specific and limited circumstances.

"If you use a quote that's more than thirty words long, you should get permission from the owners of the copyright. Many times one of our employees will place a three-panel cartoon in their PowerPoint presentation, thinking that it's okay to do so. We have to stop them because of the copyrights involved. Sometimes they complain about that, but it's part of our job."

Next Newcomers SIG Meeting: The Newcomers SIG will continue to meet over the summer months. We will be having a networking/open discussion meeting on May 27th from 6:00-7:30PM at the LaMadeleine restaurant in Addison to get your ideas for working on the official SIG year which starts in September. The summer meetings for June, July, and August are currently in the planning stage of acquiring speakers. Stay tuned to the IPIC, Lone Star Chapter Web site, or sign up for the Newcomers SIG listserv to get the latest information about our meetings. Send email to for more information about the SIG.

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