Lenn Millbower is a new ASTD Links field editor. Here, he shares some thoughts on workplace learning.
Q. How did you get started in workplace learning?
A. I was pushed into workplace learning by my former employer, Walt Disney World. I had been a stage manager at the Disney-MGM Studios. (“The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” was my show.) When cutbacks occurred I lost that spot. The company did a profile assessment on me and told me I needed to get into training. After six months of resisting, I gave in and quickly discovered that I was meant to be in learning. It was home. From there it was on to Disney University, Disney Institute, Walt Disney Entertainment, Disney Learning Solutions, and ultimately, my own Offbeat Training.
Q. What is brain-based learning and why is it important?
A. Brain-based learning is a sometimes overused phrase that suggests delivering information in ways that the human brain desires to receive it. Where the old-style methodologies featured a lecturer in front of the room, brain-based methodology focuses on an engaging, motivating, emotive experience. It’s affective and therefore effective.
Brain-based learning is important because the old methodologies can’t keep pace with the multitasked, distracted learners of today. And here is where it gets interesting. Brain research is a moving target. We know a fair amount about brain functioning, but what we know is dwarfed by what we have yet to figure out. The next few years will be really exciting as brain research expands our horizons and provides us with new teaching tools.
Q. What is your favorite part about training?
A. When I am the instructional designer, I love sitting in the back of the room and watching an activity play out just as I thought it would. As a presentation skills coach, it’s rewarding to see the “light bulbs” go off. As an author, figuring out what I think is exhilarating. As a professional speaker on Walt Disney and presentation skills, the audience interaction is what matters most.
Q. What makes someone an excellent presenter?
A. Many things matter and can build or destroy a presentation. Passion is a main component. The best presenters are the ones who become one with their content, who believe in that content so much that their excitement and energy is contagious. But passion itself cannot communicate a message. The practicality of the message matters. As does the performance ability of the presenter who delivers it. You get to presentation excellence through one more, somewhat painful, “p” word: practice. It’s in practice that you train your brain to deliver the content procedurally so that you can focus on connecting passionately with the audience.
Q. What do you wish you knew when you were just starting out?
A. Most people, myself included, start out not knowing where their real talents lie. We flounder around when we are young trying to figure out what we want to be. Some people never find that special ability within them. Little did I realize that my music composition and entertainment background were great training for instructional design. I will forever be thankful to my Walt Disney World leaders for helping me find myself in spite of myself. We learning professionals are in a unique position to help others find themselves. We may not protect people like the police, or pull people from the flames like firefighters, but we do save lives.
Lenn Millbower is a Disney speaker, presentation skills trainer, and author. He received his bachelor’s degree from Berklee College of Music and his master’s from Webster University. Millbower was honored by the Walt Disney Company with the prestigious Partner’s In Excellence lifetime achievement award. This internal employee award was granted in recognition of his training and leadership accomplishments as a member of the opening training team for Disney’s Animal Kingdom. He is a national board member of the International Alliance for Learning and the Contract Trainer’s Association, and a member of the National Speaker’s Association and ASTD; email@example.com.
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