17 weeks of orientation = 4 lessons learned

When you run an orientation program that lasts for 17 weeks you tend to learn a lot about yourself, program design, and program facilitation. Here are the 4 biggest takeaways from running over 75 sessions this summer:

1. Presenting vs. Preaching

You either present your material or you preach it. Presenting is no different than a server reading off the daily specials. Here is the information I need to make you aware of, please listen and let me know if you have any questions. You can get fancy if you like with slides, demonstrations, and even singing but you are still presenting information. Preaching is not presenting. Preaching takes effort. Preaching is exhausting. Preaching is you fully believing in what you are saying to the point that you find your heels leaving the ground as you make a point. Preaching isn’t sharing knowledge, it is creating it. Preaching is what gets people to nod, to clap, to laugh, to shout out “AMEN!”. Preaching creates knowledge as the audience feels attached to the words, sayings and research being shared.

Don’t present your material, your idea, or your training. Preach it.

2. Autopilot Blinders

When you are doing the same presentation for 17 weeks, you tend to go on autopilot with a routine. Print this, click that, set this up, e-mail that. Lather, rinse, repeat. While that may seem great for efficiency and effectiveness it really does the opposite. In the process of setting up processes and routines at the beginning, I didn’t leave time for reassessment of those policies at any point. Thankfully, student volunteers and colleagues chimed in halfway through and suggested some tweaks to the process. Those tweaks would have never been noticed by me because it would have been like reassessing menu options in the middle of a dinner rush with food on the tables already. Getting comfortable with routines and processes could make you ignorant to other possibilities.

3. Know Your Numbers

I checked my orientation numbers every day. Attendance rates, registration rates, number of reservations for the upcoming week. More often than not, if I was stopped in the hallway and asked how orientation was going I would throw out the numbers. While this isn’t a great assessment of how it truly is going for the students, it is a great assessment on production. While I am big on storytelling and narratives, most of senior management will want to know the bottom line to be able to mention it quick in a meeting. Knowing your numbers means you will know your trends. With a quick glimpse at my numbers, I could tell you which day, time, and month was the most popular for orientation. That means I can now look at what has happened and use that to attempt to predict what will happen. If you aren’t already doing this, start now.

4. Week 1 = Week 17

The only thing that changes from when I present in week 1 and when I present in week 17 is timing and tone. After presenting the same thing close to 100 times, you begin to notice how much impact timing and tone has on an audience. My presentation is usually getting refined and tweaked until around week 3 (about 12 sessions in) when it comes to timing and tone. The challenge is to never get bored. Which means, the energy and excitement you had in week 1 needs to be there in week 17. The jokes need to be delivered with the same enthusiasm and the serious points need to be brought with the same weight. This is easy as long as you do not get bored with your material. Like I tell anyone in a customer-service oriented position, the person asking you a question you’ve heard twenty times already is still asking you for the first time. You may have given the presentation 5, 10, 100 times but for your audience it their first time, act accordingly.