Training in 2 minutes?
Maybe you can't unless it's to show someone how to turn on a computer and a monitor or operate the basic controls of a DVD deck. However, you can effectively plant a few ideas, some information, or some suggestions for changed behavior in a very short time, as long as you have good programming.
Time is in short supply in every life, every job, every function. That includes training. Organizations want more training in less time, with results equal to or better than they were previously. An organization can get unreasonable about pushing this equation too far. There's a hint of that in some employers' expectations that people will do some of their online training on their personal time. (Recent numbers show that few employees are willing to do that.)
Still, it's good to have some creative pressure, and, anyway, the trend to shorter training is reality. It's usually best not to fight reality.
As a short video format, meeting openers have been around awhile. In the current state of training, they have become more prominent for the obvious reason that they generally run under five minutes.
But that informal barrier is being broken down on both sides. One video reviewed here is all of two minutes, and the topic isn't how to open and close a document in Windows. It's diversity, a topic hardly known for brief presentations. Then there's On the Edge, which, at 15 minutes, is either a short training video or a long meeting opener.
It doesn't matter. The important thing is that much training is being disaggregated. It's delivered in a shorter time but often more frequently than in the old live training model of half- and full days. With meeting openers, you open--or close--a meeting with training on any number of topics, from diversity to motivating the sales staff. You can watch and then talk or just watch. Or you can hold 15- to 30-minute training sessions, beginning with the meeting opener video.
In this review, we evaluate short videos on a variety of popular training topics. We've arranged the products in the order of our overall evaluation, from highest to lowest.
For a search of all of our meeting opener reviews, go to the Member page of our website (www.tmreview.com) and click "Advanced Search." Use the topic menu to search on "Meeting Openers."
Do diversity fast
In 1997, a professor at Stanford's School of Medicine received an email that startled him. He did what most of us do with an interesting public message: he forwarded it to his email circle of intimates and professional acquaintances.
That was the genesis of the now famous "Village of 100" snapshot of world demographics. If the planet's population were shrunk to 100, it would consist of:
14 Residents of the Western hemisphere
80 people living in substandard housing
50 people suffering from malnutrition
These aren't all the numbers, but you get the idea--vividly and quickly. That's why the snapshot has drawn so much attention in the media, including this training video.
The tape has a sequence of diverse narrators reciting the statistics. That's all there is to it. It isn't going to win awards for production quality. But the content is enough to make a powerful statement about, among other things, the reality of diversity. Given the resistance to required diversity training, this little video could raise a few eyebrows that need to be raised. There are many other messages, such as the ubiquity of suffering in the world, but they don't relate directly to business (as much as we wish they did).
Meeting opener products
* "I wish my manager would just....," video, 2001, 4 min., VisionPoint Productions, $295. Other material: none. Review copy furnished by VideoLearning Systems (800-622-3610, www.videolrn.com).
* Leadership: Thoughts and Considerations, video, 2000, 6 min., The Training Edge (800-292-4375, www.trainingedge.com), $299. Other material: none.
* The Nature of Success Series: Perseverance, video, 2000, 6.5 min., The Training Edge (800-292-4375, www.trainingedge.com), $379. Other material: none.
* The Nature of Success Series: Vision, video, 2000, 5.25 min., The Training Edge (800-292-4375, www.trainingedge.com), $379. Other material: none.
* On the Edge: Managing High-Risk Situations, video, 2001, 15 min., Edge Training Systems, Inc. (800-476-1405, www.edgetraining.com), $695.
* Sign Now... Pay Later, video, 2001, 16 min., AGTS, purchase $550. Other material: none. Review copy furnished by VideoLearning Systems (800-622-3610, www.videolrn.com).
* Step Up, Speak Up, video, 2001, 14 min., Time Frame Productions, $595. Other material: leader guide. Review copy furnished by VideoLearning Systems (800-622-3610, www.videolrn.com).
* The Truth about Email, video, 2001, 4min., VisionPoint/Star Thrower, $495. Other material: leader guide, participant reference guides (5 copies), desktop tutorial. Review copy furnished by VideoLearning Systems (800-622-3610, www.videolrn.com).
* Village of 100, video, 1998, 2 min., A Step Ahead Productions (877-706-9671, www.astepahead.com), $125.
* Zea: A Study in Perception, video, 1981, 5 min., Salenger, $310. Other material: none. Review copy furnished by Monad Trainer's Aide (800-344-6088, fax 718-352-1305).
Strangely, no one knows where the statistics come from. After forwarding the email, the professor forgot who sent it to him and disclaims any responsibility for them. He often wears a tee-shirt that says, "it Wasn't Me." Lately demographers have been saying the numbers are plausible. So the video producer got lucky. A Step Ahead took the stats on faith and made this tape in 1998. The gamble appears to have paid off.
Email user guide
The Truth about Email is a fun video with a snappy score, oddball visuals, and a useful list of email dos and don'ts. It's more than a meeting opener because it delivers a good deal of specific advice. But it's got the same brisk pace and lightheartedness typical of good meeting openers.
"THE PROFESSIONAL ORGANIZER AND HER-WORKER ALLIES LOOK JUST LIKE NORMAL WORKING-AMERICANS, BUT THEY SOON TAKE ON THE SLIT-EYED MENACE OR THE OVERLY BRIGHT STARE OF THE POSSESSED. AS THINGS GO BADLY FOR THEM, THEY LOOK EVEN MORE DESPERATE AND DANGEROUS."
The advice covers a wide range of concerns. There's serious stuff. Every email message is a part of a company's permanent records. Every message can be exhumed from the system archive and used as evidence in court. (You probably don't need to worry about their use in Congressional hearings, as have several recent occupants of the White House.) Email can even be a tool for sexual harassment.
There's light stuff too. For example: a special place in hell is reserved for those whose cc list is longer than the message. And: your email signature shouldn't be more than five lines long. To this advisory, the video adds, "If they want a bio, they'll ask for one." I would tack on another rule: outlaw all cute quotes after signatures.
Not a word is spoken in the four minutes of this video. The content is delivered by on-screen type and images. The latter include a conga line of British barristers in their lambs-ear wigs.
For a short video, this one has a robust support package. We didn't receive review copies, but we can guess that they're helpful based on the producer's previous releases.
Human beings are prone to be ruled by their perceptions. Something might look, walk, and quack like a duck, but if an individual thinks the creature is donkey, a donkey it will be. If the person has influence on a group, they may all see a donkey.
Joel Barker and others have made their living in training by working the simple but fruitful idea that perceptions can be a powerful obstacle to innovation and creativity. How would you like all of that work condensed into a five-minute video?
Zea: A Study in Perception does suggest the whole escape-from-our-paradigms lesson with a video gestalt. You watch a mysterious scene while listening to an evocative piece of music, Vaughan Williams' "Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis." You immediately start to guess what the scene is. (You'll find no hints here because surprise is the key to the video's effect.)
You'll probably guess wrong. But the point isn't strictly whether you've guessed right or wrong. It's that you have checked your perception against the scene and have run through a variety of different interpretations of it-hypotheses--and found that they all fit to some degree. If we were as wise in our daily work life, we would be far more alert to possibility and potential.
Although it's true that accidents kill or injure many more workers, fatal violence at work has a special horror. Don't you sit up and take notice when the news media report another shooting at a company? The lurid nature of shootings and other acts of violence shouldn't blind us to the fact that they're as preventable as accidents.
On the Edge: Managing High-Risk Situations, a new version of a program released in 1996, joins a fairly small set of training videos on the topic - small because of low sales. That's usually the case when a subject is underserved. Yet, it's hard to-believe organizations aren't interested in giving training time to preventing violence. The statistics on deaths may be low, but the actual level of violence, intimidation, and bullying in the workplace is surely too high.
The video is 15 minutes long. The content isn't any more complicated than that of the shorter tapes; it's just more richly illustrated with dramatic vignettes. At this length, though, it will take up a good chunk of a meeting, and after watching the action, viewers will want to discuss what they saw.
"YET, IT'S HARD TO BELIEVE ORGANIZATIONS AREN'T INTERESTED IN GIVING TRAINING TIME TO PREVENTING VIOLENCE. THE STATISTICS ON DEATHS MAY BE LOW, BUT THE ACTUAL LEVEL OF VIOLENCE, INTIMIDATION, AND BULLYING IN THE WORKPLACE IS SURELY TOO HIGH."
The tape resembles other programs produced by Edge. The content is concise, the vignettes are well scripted and acted, and the photography is pleasing. The show isn't one of Edge's more imaginative productions, and the narrator sounds a little too scripted and boomy at times. On the other hand, the program doesn't get in its own way.
The statements and actions depicted in the vignettes are usually blatant. I guess the key point is whether anyone chooses to do anything about it. The rationalizations that we're likely to fall back on in these situations are probably the critical piece. That, and the advice given here that virtually every violent episode is foreshadowed by a pattern of behavior.
Tolling managers what they need to hear
A trend in meeting openers is to use words, music, and images only. No spoken words or filmed action. These programs can be effective if the writing is sharp and the running time is brief.
"I wish my manager would just... speaks to a management audience. What it says is what many employees say about, but probably too rarely to, their supervisors and managers. Things like, "Ask me for my opinion-and take it seriously." Or, "Be consistent." And, "Compliment me. Daily."
Just showing this to a bunch of managers isn't going to accomplish much of anything. Some may reflect on how they treat subordinates, but most will get over it. To rise about the level of slogans, the video needs some reinforcement, the more the better.
Promoting workplace respect
Greg Alan Williams, the host of Step Up, Speak Up, has practical credentials for speaking about intolerance. In the 1992 LA riots, he pulled a Japanese-American driver away from an angry mob of black men, probably saving the other man's life at the risk of his own. Williams devotes this 14-minute program to a single aspect of the respect issue: why and how to intervene when you witness disrespectful behavior.
Williams makes clear that he's a realist. He warns viewers that in work groups and teams, it's easy to turn your back on abusive words and actions. But, he argues, the eventual consequences of doing nothing are far worse than those of taking a stand.
According to this video, "taking a stand" doesn't mean showing anger, lecturing, or identifying the person while others are present. Williams recommends making simple statements ("I thought the joke you told in the lunchroom wasn't funny") in as neutral a way as possible and then moving on--no arguments, no prolonged conversation.
"THE CONTENT IS DELIVERED BY ON-SCREEN TYPE AND IMAGES. THE LATTER INCLUDE A CONGA LINE OF BRITISH BARRISTERS IN THEIR LAMBS-EAR WIGS."
Although narrowly focused, the content is useful. The video production is uninspired, however. The vignettes aren't particularly compelling or well done, and the visuals are low budget. The video has leader guide, but it wasn't furnished for review.
Work virtues and leadership
The Nature of Success Series tapes, Perseverance and Vision, and Leadership: Thoughts and Consideration are all from The Training Edge. They dispense various nuggets, pity quotations, and wise sayings on a variety of topics important to organizations. Or at least the topics should be important to them.
The content of Perseverance and Vision is more interesting than that of Leadership. They make use of quotations by notable people, from Helen Keller and Albert Einstein to Babe Ruth. Leadership presents unattributed wise sayings, and they tend to be more "spiritual and inspirational" than those in the other two shows. I mean the kind of inspiration that's warm and fuzzy, not compelling.
For visual content, all of them use a genre favorite: pretty stills and occasional video clips, what they call "B roll" in the trade. Perseverance and Vision offer spectacular views of the American West; Leadership has garden and general nature shots. AU have New Age or muted rock music soundtracks.
Sign Now... Pay Later is reminiscent of 1950s films portraying Communists attempting to prey on innocent Americans. Here the Commies are union organizers and the innocent are nonunion workers.
The professional organizer and her worker allies look just like normal working Americans, but they soon take on the slit-eyed menace or the overly bright stare of the possessed. As things go badly for them, they look even more desperate and dangerous. The NLRB signature card asking for a union representation vote becomes something like a legal document that, in a movie melodrama, would soon trigger the loss of your house and the ruin of your reputation.
As the vignettes continue to flow and the tactics escalate, you begin to have another idea. The union organizing is just a front for a vampire assault on an organization of warm bodies.
My point isn't that companies shouldn't put the no-union case before their workers--when it's legal to do that. Of course, they should. Nor is my point that unions are bands of angels fighting only for justice and a living wage. The issue here is how effective the video is in persuading viewers of its point of view.
The version I watched is intended for executives, managers, and supervisors. They'll quickly note the rhetorical problem: the video is at times outlandishly one sided and comic in its exaggerations. This is bound to sow doubts in viewers' minds about the reliability of the message. Note: the video comes with a choice of a Caucasian or a black narrator.
Village of 100 ****
Using this video, you can suggest the inescapable fact of diversity--in two minutes. It's the trainer's dream in a time- and attention-constrained era. I'd hesitate to recommend the video if the statistics it presents were based solely on a mysterious email forwarded into Internet fame. But recent judgments that the statistics are probably reasonable relieves that doubt. The show will make an impression on all viewers and shake some of them up. What more can you ask of training on diversity? Where you take things from there may be a challenge, however.
The Truth about Email *** 1/2
Training on email is one of those gruesomely narrow topics that can set up a contest in who's more bored: facilitator or trainees? This little video whips through the pertinent dos and don'ts in under five minutes with spirit and occasional tongue-in-cheek humor. Valuable meeting time can then be devoted to reinforcing the points that really matter, e.g., the ones that can get you fired, sued, etc.
Zea: A Study in Perception ***1/2
Few things are timeless, but this warhorse of a video is. Produced in 1981, there is nothing that gives its age away. On offer here is a puzzling scene that challenges the viewer to identify it. Knowing what the scene is has little value. Knowing you can shape and reshape your perceptions is the major benefit. You can only show this video once to a given group, but it can become an enduring counter example to conventional thinking and groupthink.
On the Edge ***
Preventing workplace violence isn't pleasant or popular training. It runs up against denials on the part of employees and management. Yet, even if you don't feel you have to worry about somebody "going postal," your workplace may suffer from aggressive behavior that threatens violence or leads to physical confrontations. This video may make its most valuable contribution when it warns of how complacency can lead to disaster. And just by showing a well-produced program like this, an organization makes a graphic statement that written policies can't.
"I wish my manager would just.... **1/2
Can a four-minute meeting opener video do much? Well, it certainly can put forward rules of the road for managers that will make most employees happier and more productive. It's up to you to provide the additional effort, incentives, etc., to make the words that dance across the screen come true.
Step Up, Speak Up **1/2
Respect is rapidly become a hot training topic. You'd like to think that adults come into the workplace with a strong notion of respectful behavior, but that apparently isn't true. This video limits itself to a single issue related to workplace respect, and it gives it a persuasive treatment. Nevertheless, the very average production values could make this video a tough sell to trainees, above all, to those who resist or resent this type of training.
Conveys some thoughts worth remembering about a neglected virtue in the age of get-rich-quick fantasies. For younger generations, the whole notion of staying with something for a long time may appear to be unnatural--and who can blame them for thinking that? Even for elders who have adopted the tough skin of job hoppers and here-today-gone-tomorrow attitudes, this video could do some good work.
This tape will tell your viewers some things about the imperative of. vision. I think the best audience is probably managers or firstline supervisors who have to convert the organization's vision into the daily reality of work and who often are more immersed in the work than the vision. You could help them out with this brief reminder. Still, the formula nature of the production will make itself felt.
Leadership is one of the most important training topics in organizations these days. It's hard to see how the feel-good abstractions of this video will enrich your leadership training efforts, though. I'd rather have more concrete and more challenging prescriptions.
Sign Now...Pay Later *1/2
Companies have every right to tell their employees that they think unions aren't in their best interest. This video sells a hardline antiunion message that you may find appropriate or not based on your situation. Its key failing is lack of believability. The acting, script, scenarios, and even the music are all contrived to make unions look like vampire conspiracies.
Bill Ellet (email@example.com) is editor of Training Media Review.
Very good ***1/2
Above average **1/2
Below Average *1/2
NA Not applicable
NR Not rated (usually not enough information)
the best of TMR Product Medium Outstanding **** Cardean University Online Ethics Matters Seminar Flash 5 Software Fostering Team Diversity Video Internet Development Teams Online and Technologies Series Lotus Notes 5 Fundamentals Online More Than a Gut Feeling III Video Six Pillars of Character Video Very Good *** 1/2 Art of Coaching in Business, Video 2nd ed Different Like You Video The Global Country Series Software Harvard Business Online Interactive Series Quest 6.0 Software Remeber Me, Video 3rd ed Value Selling Online Zea: A Study in Perception Video Product Producer Outstanding **** Cardean University UNext.com, 877-405-4500, www.unext.com Ethics Matters Josephson Institute of Ethics, www.josephsoninstitute.org Flash 5 Macromedia, 800-326-2128, www.macromedia.com Fostering Team Diversity Visual Quest Meida, 800-503-5903, www.visualquestmedia.com Internet Development Teams DigitalThink, and Technologies Series 888-590-1710, www.digitalthink.com Lotus Notes 5 Fundamentals DigitalThink, 888-590-1710, www.digitalthink.com More Than a Gut Feeling III Provant Media, 800-776-8268, www.provantmedia.com Six Pillars of Character Time Frame Productions, 888-282-3020, www.tfvideo.com Very Good *** 1/2 Art of Coaching in Business, Greylock Associates 2nd ed 888-279-4857, www.greylockassociates.com Different Like You Edge Training Systems, Inc., 800-476-1405, www.edgetraining.com The Global Country Series AcrossFrontiers International, 888-370-7017, www.acrossfrontiers.com Harvard Business Harvard Business School Publishing, Interactive Series 800-795-5200, www.hbsp.harvard.edu Quest 6.0 Mentergy, Inc., 800-325-7850, www.allencomm.com Remeber Me, CRM Learning, 3rd ed 800-421-0833, www.crmlearning.com Value Selling DigitalThink, 888-590-1710, www.digitalthink.com Zea: A Study in Perception Salenger; review copy furnished by Monad Trainer's Aide, 800-344-6088 Product Summary Outstanding **** Cardean University Online MBA with substance and rich feedback. 5.2001 Ethics Matters Keeps participants aware of the need to continually weight the differences between prudence and virtue. 5.2001 Flash 5 Delivers both expanded functionality and increased ease of use. 3.2001 Fostering Team Diversity Great starting point ot improve the effectiveness of diverse teams. 3.2001 Internet Development Teams Content is deep, and the feedback and Technologies Series and collaborative features break the usual self-paced mold. 5.2001 Lotus Notes 5 Fundamentals Gives students real world practice in the use of the program. 5.2001 More Than a Gut Feeling III How to conduct behavior based interviewing. 3.2001 Six Pillars of Character Concrete foundatinos for workplace ethics. 3.2001 Very Good *** 1/2 Art of Coaching in Business, Uses the tried-and-true celebrity 2nd ed approach to providing seasoned advice on a topic. 5.2001 Different Like You Mostly about attitudes towards difference that can lead to workplace trouble. 5.2001 The Global Country Series An abundance of relevant information about living and working abroad. 5.2001 Harvard Business Highly useful learning tool, Interactive Series but not much interactivity. 5.2001 Quest 6.0 Fairly good object oriented authoring tool. 5.2001 Remeber Me, Latest editio of compact package 3rd ed teaching a few customer service basics, each indispensable. 5.2001 Value Selling Good course, high price tag ($600). 5.2001 Zea: A Study in Perception An enduring counter example to conventional thinking. 5.2001 Meeting openers compared Rating "I wish" Nature: Nature: On Edge Category Preseverance Vision Holds viewer interest *** **1/2 **1/2 ***1/2 Acting/Presenting NA NA NA *** Diversity NA NA *** NA Production quality **1/2 ** ** ***1/2 Value of content *** *** **1/2 *** Instructional value **1/2 **1/2 ** *** Value for the money **1/2 ** *1/2 *** Overall rating **1/2 **1/2 **1/2 *** Rating Leadership Sign Step Email Village Category Now Up Holds viewer interest *1/2 **1/2 ** ***1/2 **** Acting/Presenting NA *1/2 **1/2 NA **** Diversity *** *** NA **** NA Production quality ** ** ** ***1/2 ** Value of content *1/2 * *** **1/2 **** Instructional value *1/2 *1/2 **1/2 ***1/2 ***1/2 Value for the money ** *1/2 ** ***1/2 **** Overall rating ** *1/2 **1/2 ***1/2 **** Rating Zea Category Holds viewer interest ***1/2 Acting/Presenting NA Diversity Production quality ***1/2 Value of content *** Instructional value **** Value for the money *** Overall rating ***1/2
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|Publication:||Training Media Review|
|Article Type:||Video Recording Review|
|Date:||Jul 1, 2001|
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