A Clear Vision for Internal Training

Internal training is an excellent option for companies that want a focused, cost-effective solution that empowers talented people within the organization. It’s an excellent way for high-potential professionals to deliver results through teaching and leading their colleagues.

Internal training faces one main hurdle; most of it is not very good.

Your training is only as good as your participants’ actions after your program:

  • Have they acquired new skills and knowledge?
  • Will they use their new skills and knowledge?

Whether your training is internal or external, participants are often handing off, deferring or postponing important work to be in your training. Participation may or may not be their choice. They’re investing their time and attention and deserve value for their investment.

Optimal internal training includes:

  • Highly prepared trainers
  • Action-oriented training material

Highly Prepared Trainers

Clearly, I believe they should be excellent presenters. But being a good trainer is most importantly being a good mentor. It means having a vision for your participants and placing your knowledge at their level; not above nor below. It also means coaching in a way that motivates participants to improve, balancing praise and corrections. Highly prepared trainers are speakers, listeners and observers—Always alert and focused on guiding their participants toward learning objectives.

Action-Oriented Training Method

When you choose or design an internal training method, evaluate:

  • What specifically do I want participants to know/do after the program?
  • What are my criteria for choosing participants?
  • Does it continue or counter a past practice—if so, why?
  • How/when do I measure success?

We have been fortunate to facilitate and witness the success of excellent internal trainers. Few things are more effective to build the confidence of trainers and the skills of their participants.

The Vocation to Train


Training wasn’t my first choice. I spent much of my youth collecting heroes and role models; Salvador Dalí featured prominently, so I pursued a life in the arts. I loved, and love creating and pursuing art. When it comes to Business Communication Training, I’m a legacy. My parents are excellent trainers. I also belong to a family of great educators and communicators. I mention this, because part of my adolescent rebellion was moving away from this world. Something changed in Mexico.

During my four years at Parsons, I would mostly spend September-May in New York and May-September in Caracas; where ERC, my parents’ company generously supplied me with summer work as a graphic designer for their training material. Early on, I approached my work with the ignorance and arrogance of youth.

The summer after my junior year, my father invited me to join him on a training trip to Guadalajara, Mexico. My job was to film participant videos and to assist him. He was delivering our presentation skills program. It was a two-day course. By the time we took a lunch break on day one, I was shocked. I had witnessed changes that I hadn’t expected to see at the end of the program, a quarter of the way through.

Education equips you with new lenses to observe the world. I remember that after one of my first drawing classes, I was never able to see the horizon the same way again. I always looked for the curving at the edges, observed what was above and below it and connected my fingers in L-shapes to frame what I saw. After Guadalajara, I observed my teachers, looking for their strategies to maintain focus and inspire action. How would they present? What role did anecdotes play? Would they show their own work or other artists’ work? Why? Drawings, quotes and notes on education were filling my sketchbooks.

I have worked full-time in training for 13 years. One of my favorite jobs is developing new colleagues; training trainers. My guiding philosophy is defined by a simple statement: It’s not about me. My success is defined by my participants’ experience and success.

Delivering training is an easy way to pad your ego. Great presentation skills, results and applause can go to your head. But, just like when you’re a presenter, the audience is the star (hat tip to Nancy Duarte) — when you’re a trainer each participant is the star.

Its wonderful when I see the vocation take hold in a new trainer’s eyes. I’m inspired by the skill, confidence, sensitivity and passion that I see in people who are prepared to change lives, through teaching new skills and giving participants new lenses to experience their world.

From Business Book to Training Program (Part 1)

When we least expect it, life sets us a challenge to test our courage and willingness to change; at such a moment, there is no point in pretending that nothing has happened or in saying that we are not yet ready. The challenge will not wait. Life does not look back. A week is more than enough time for us to decide whether or not to accept our destiny.
— Paulo Coelho, The Devil and Miss Prym

Five years ago, I embraced a challenge that changed my professional life.

I received a PowerPoint deck that our friend Andréa had presented to a Professional Women's association in Brazil. She shared stories and case studies that were at the heart of her book: Valor Feminino (Published in Portuguese – translates to "Female Value").

The deck was filled with interesting insights and detailed facts; but, it took me a few views to understand what the presentation was about.

My initial assignment was to redesign the presentation, so that she could deliver it in other venues. I had been doing a lot of this kind of work, taking an "okay" presentation and making it look better. This project required a different approach – This presentation wanted to be a training program.

Structuring the presentation like a course would support the publication of the book, empower the author and give actionable life lessons to the audience.


Step 1 – Active Listening

Listening to understand is not easy. It's a skill that requires curiosity, concentration and self control. It's difficult to turn off the part of your brain that wants to interrupt, add your two cents or make a proposal.

Listening leads to good work, by reducing the time and energy that is wasted in correcting misunderstandings, especially when they are revealed late in a project and require big changes.

We made listening and exploring Andréa's needs for her program a team effort. We knew we had to align our results to her goals.

We used verbal probes to align our efforts to:

  • Her Objective: Share powerful tools for Brazilian women to succeed in business
  • Her Audience: Brazilian women

This meant boiling the message, the case studies and the stories to specific skills that she could teach and that they could make a part of their lives.


We will publish part two of "Turning your Business Book into a Training Program" Wednesday, May 20.

Five Power Tips for Presentation Designers

Five Power Tips for Presentation Designers - Created with Haiku Deck, presentation software that inspires

Our last Haiku Deck for 2014: Five Power Tips for Presentation Designers

The tips in order:

  1. Bottom Third = Back of Head
  2. Kill Your Darlings
  3. Cut Two Slides from the End (I have two in mind)
  4. Blank Slides
  5. Know the rules = Know how to break them

We also outlined some basic principles that should be a part of every presentation.

I am also honored to be a part of Haiku Deck's The Most Inspiring Presentations of 2014

Massimo Vignelli – An appreciation for Presentation Designers

I like design to be semantically correct, syntactically consistent, and pragmatically understandable. I like it to be visually powerful, intellectually elegant, and above all timeless.
— Massimo Vignelli

Massimo Vignelli is gravely ill. His son, Luca, announced the news, and invited the world to write his father with their appreciation for his influence.

Lella and Massimo Vignelli belong to a generation of designers who formalized the language of Design and Visual Communication. They found beauty in the elegance of Swiss Design and mainstreamed it into products, images and ideas that are inseparable from our experience of life and society.

I had the privilege of taking a weeklong class at La Escuela de Diseño Altos de Chavón in 2006, delivered by Mr. and Mrs. Vignelli and by designer, Domingo Milani.

As someone who had stumbled into design (from the somewhat parallel world of illustration), and had adopted a shallow understanding of the profession, I found the course challenging. I found freedom in grids, typography and space that I had formally found restraining. Restraints became constraints that clarified and expanded my thinking.

It has taken a long time for these lessons to show up in my work.

These lessons are the backbone of the training` I teach professionals around the world to aid in improving their presentations. I quote the Vignellis' book – Design is One:

Semantically correct. In other words, search for the real meaning and the correct signs that connote the object you are working with.
Syntactically consistent. Every detail must be consistent to itself and to the whole. No borrowed elements. The language is one and every detail should speak the same language.
Pragmatically understandable. Otherwise, design is a failure, no matter how beautiful it is.Design is not art, design should express its meaning and that should be universally understandable.
Design should also be:
Visually powerful. Otherwise it has no penetrating value. There is no middle ground. Powerful or nothing. Nothingness is not perceivable; therefore it is not retainable. Period.
Intellectually elegant. Not elegant as mannerism, but intellectually sublime. The opposite of vulgar, because vulgarity is ignorance.
But, above all:
Timeless. Because we have a responsibility to our clients, ourselves and the society in general to design things that will become obsolete, because obsolescence, particularly planned obsolescence, is a social crime whose ultimate goal is only profit for the few over the masses. And designers should not be a part of this despicable conspiracy.
— Massimo Vignelli's Foreword to "Lella and Massimo Vignelli: Design is One"

Farewell, MV – Timeless.

The Vignelli Canon
By Massimo Vignelli
Starring Erik Spiekermann, Matthew Carter, Massimo Vignelli, Michael Bierut, Neville Brody

Our latest Haiku Deck is About Us

We are in Haiku Deck's 'Featured Decks' Gallery: http://www.haikudeck.com/gallery/featured