Working with and watching a trainer as talented as Edmond Otis in action offers lessons far beyond the topic on the table.

Edmond, presenting a recent Infopeople webcast on “Setting Boundaries With Library Patrons,” offered guidance to library staff members on a variety of interrelated topics, including how to deal with library users who are problems because they are so nice. Faced with the nice person who is taking up more time than we have to offer, we are not without options, he reminds us in the webcast. Edmond first suggests that we ourselves are culpable in letting the situation persist, then offers tips on how to professionally—and humanely—resolve the problem: be honest and tell them that we have others who need our assistance; be nice since those who are nice deserve reciprocal treatment; and value the magic of the rapport we can develop and maintain by treating others with respect rather than lashing out in frustration. He emphasizes the need to consistently apply the rules, policies, and procedures we are expected to follow. And he reminds us to be empathetic, attentive, warm, respectful, engaged, flexible, and responsive—which pretty much describes how Edmond himself operates as a trainer.

The presentation, at that level, can serve as a trainer’s manual for other trainers even though it is as far as one can be from the Beyond Bullet Points approach which Cliff Atkinson is so justifiably popularizing among those employing PowerPoint slides in their workshops, webcasts, and webinars. One of Edmond’s viewers, in fact, took the time to write and thank Edmond for effectively incorporating his slides (viewable from the page where the webcast is archived) into his presentation. It’s not, as we can see, just about the way the slides look; it’s as much about the trainer’s ability to engage an audience and leave it with a lesson to be treasured and employed to everybody’s benefit.

A fully integrated presentation—in this case, the sound of Edmond’s well-modulated voice, the sight of him speaking during the webcast, and the presence of slides which provide a simple roadmap to the presentation and also serve as printable hand-outs to be retained and used as a handy cheat sheet—do not require lots of fancy graphics; if it is from the heart and meets the audience’s needs, it’s going to be effective.

The reminder here for all of us involved in staff training is that there are numerous ways to approach learners onsite or online. The wonderfully creative way Atkinson approaches PowerPoint is, in fact, very attractive, and I’m among those who are experimenting with it and enjoying it. This doesn’t mean that any of us need to see this as an either-or, to-bullet-or-not-to-bullet, choice. Bullet points can be effective and attractive if the presenter is as engaging as Edmond is in this webcast, and students will, as we have seen, respond appreciatively. And the more tools we have and employ, the more we’re going to have to offer those who want to learn from us.

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