Insights on Management

Train the Trainer: Sharing Knowledge & Expertise on Creative Teams


You’ve likely seen the meme below on LinkedIn and thought to yourself “Yes, this is so true. But what can I do about it. I don’t have a budget for training and development”. Or maybe you see that meme and think about yourself and wish your boss could break with a little budget to send you to training too.

Well, you are not alone. For in-house leaders, training and development consistently comes to the forefront as a pain point in the annual In-House Creative Services Industry Report published by InSource, Cella, and Boss (often released at HOW Design Live). But with limited resources available, leaders find it difficult to provide the kind of development oportunities their staff needs in order to stay on top of industry trends, and to further their careers. Furthermore, the budget only allows for few on the team to go to conferences like HDL at all.

So what options do you have as a leader? Consider “train the trainer” opportunities for either yourslef, or your team in order to maximize training and development opportunities of classes and conferences.
What do I mean by that? There is so much great stuff learned at HDL, why not present what you learned – in a creative way – to your team when you get back?

Here is a real-world example I have from my own experience

A few years ago I was managing a small team of video producers, within my creative services department which was itself within a large crporate communications department. For several years before I came on board the team had gone through various staff reductions and sidelining to the point where too little of their actual daily work was being done for the company. Rather, their services were outsourced to the commuity, for free, and they were feeling unchallenged, unmotivated, and uninspired. Whats worse is that most people felt like they could not approach the team for branded videos, causing “rougue” video producers to pop up around the company and even our own larger communications department.

Some of my goals then were to reduce the “free” work we did that had nothing to do with our brand, get them producing videos that told our brand story, and earn a reputation for being THE professional video production resource in the company.
One day the team came to me and said that the annual braodcast/video industy conference was coming up, and they hoped that I would still be open to sending them. Of course I was, but when I learned that “going to the conference” in the past meant just roaming the exhibit halls to see what new toys were available, I blanched at the idea. To go to a conference – which included travel for one night – just for the exhibit flooor is not the best use of time or money. After all, what are they really going to get out of the experience other than seeing a few demos of hardware and software that would be added to the deparmtment wishlist? It turns out, they had only been going to the exhibit floor for one day for years, and never went to any actual training.

So I had them review the available sessions and breakouts offered over a 3-day span, and asked them to come to me with a schedule of training they would like to attend. I told them I would only approve the trip, if they agreed to my “big idea”. What was my big idea you ask? I told them that they could only go to the conference and training sessions IF they agreed that when they came back , they would demonstrate for everyone else what they had learned. They agreed immediately since no one had ever offered them actual training at one of these conferences before, and feared I would recind my offer.

A month after they returned I reserved a time slot in our quarterly communications department all-hands meeting for them to present what they learned. Of the 50+ people, most are professional business communications, PR, and advertising profiessionals. In other words professional story-tellers. A few were also producing videos for media and PR purposes, but at a lower production quality than what my team produced.

You have to understand that video producers prefer to be behind the scenes writing, shooting, and editing pieces together for broadcast. So when I told them their time to present what they learned was coming up, they became very aprehensive and nervous. Like, breaking out in hives, red-in-the-faced, hand-wringing, flop-sweat, nervous. I told them to relax. They were presenting to thier long-time colleagues, and it would be all firendly faces in the room.

Oh, and I never told them how I wanted them to present what they learned. So I suggested that since they are creative professionals, they should be creative.

So my video producers did what they do best… they made a 6 minute video showcasing for viewers what the conference is all about, what new technologies they learned about and tested, and what classes they went to and the new techniques they hard learned. The video even used much of what they had learned right in the video itself. From editing and lighting techniques, to titles and FX. They put it all in there in what was an entertining and instructional video. They never had to get up from their seats, and they did not need to worry about rehearsing a presentation. Yet they showed off what they lerned from the conference really well. And the audience loved it!

Most importlantly, they demonstrated how these production techniques could be put into immediate practice in our own work back at the office.

That of course was the most important element of this entire exercise. They needed to demmonstrate for me, and everone else, that going to training would have some immediate ROI on our business. And boy, the ROI was huge. The quality of videos produced immediately improved, and not just by my team but everyone who produced video content in the communictions department at large. My team earned some much needed respect for sharing their knowledge and expertise, and better projects started coming our way because of it. This also set my team up as the video production experts (AKA professionals) they were, with clients seeking them out for projects and project ideas.

So if you’re a manager and you’re looking to develop people, ask them to demonstrate what they learned during a confernce or class. If allows them to grow in more ways than just learning new skills. They develop leadership skills at th same time.
And if you are going to a confence soon – maybe HDL in May? – put some thought into how you can show your boss and team mates what you learned while you were there. It’s a great way fo demonstrating the ROI on the cost of sending you there, and also helps to poition you as an expert.

And don’t forget, you are a creative professional. Show off what you learned in a really creative way. No one ever said you have to use PowerPoint.

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