REVIEW – Jeff Seckendorf Technical Seminar

Jeff Seckendorf at DEMA ShowI’ve worked in a corporate environment for 30 years and have spent much of the last 15 of those years mentoring and training others, as well as attending many trainings and presentations myself.  I’m always interested in watching how others perform these activities to learn new ways of engaging the audience.  I had the pleasure of attending a technical presentation on Side Mount Diving by Jeff Seckendorf at the DEMA trade show in November of 2017.  Jeff did an amazing job of not just conveying information, but of facilitating learning.  He guided his audience toward understanding until they had that “ah ha” moment.  I do not often write reviews but feel that Jeff brings a fresh approach to learning and so wanted to share my thoughts. 

 In the short time allotted for his presentation, Jeff was able to take a very complex subject and make it meaningful to a wide range of audience expertise.  He did a great job of engaging audience participation with strategic, open-ended questions.  There was an airline pilot in the audience who had no background in SCUBA diving, yet Jeff was able to get him to see how his experiences actually applied to the techniques used in SCUBA diving.  Jeff was able to break down complex concepts and make them meaningful to the audience at large in just a few minutes.  He used common ground and experiences from audience members to help them “connect the dots” to the topic he was presenting. 

In addition, all of the above was done in such a way that was enjoyable and custom fit to the audience.  This way, I feel, the participants, including me, retained more information, since it related to them. 

Not only does Jeff cover all the information required to make a presentation complete, but he is able to do it in a way that is memorable and enjoyable to the audience.  Jeff is a versatile speaker and would be great at passing along his facilitator techniques to those with minimal or no experience in training as well as those with existing presentation and training skills.

REVIEW – Teach the Teachers Workshop

I’ve been training for two years now and recently started a business that prepares people for whatever the next step in their career might be. It’s challenging to figure out how to connect with all the students of different backgrounds and learning styles. My training style is a mix of workshop, personalized coaching, and extensive troubleshooting (gaps in their performance) sessions. I view myself more of a mentor and my students as apprentices.  After all, my mission is to produce the people I want to hire. As such, we’re very hands-on in a super accelerated program designed to improve their skills and employability. Because of its fully applied nature, my apprentices’ understanding is challenged in different ways for everyone.  They come to me because they want significant boosts in their career flexibility and compensation. It is critical they understand all the material and can practice effectively with that understanding in mind.

It’s not a one-person job. I work with other mentors to help with the demand. The thing I care about most is our ability to find whatever the problem our apprentices have and bring them to resolve. These problems are usually the cause of not receiving job offers or promotions.

You can imagine my excitement when I had the opportunity to take a class with Jeff about “training the trainers.” It is directly applicable. I’ve trained with Jeff before. He’s an outstanding instructor who always manages to make me a better person in the end. I want to be like that. Now that I’m in a position to be growing others, of course, I’d jump at the chance to learn how he approaches training other trainers.

His workshop was straightforward. Some discussions and lots of exercises. The primary idea is that we should be able to teach someone a new (to them) topic within about 5 minutes and they should be able to go teach that same idea to others with the same clarity and confidence. This sounds simple in concept but is actually challenging to achieve in practice. The workshop was all about bringing out how to break an idea down to such simplicity and unwind the potential misunderstandings so we can resolve them.

It was fun to break out of my comfort zone and attempt to teach things I never thought about teaching and putting everything to the test. We covered other things but this is the primary piece that speaks to me.

This has changed the way I view on-boarding my own mentors. One of the key things that makes a good instructor is that they teach. My best teachers were those with whom I’ve overcome the gaps in understanding. My worst ones were the ones where I left feeling confused still. Jeff taught me how to apply a structure to resolve this critical part of the learning process. I will be incorporating these ideas into my own mentor on-boarding program so we can all recognize where our apprentices struggle and very quickly identify the root cause, fix it, and move on.

The coolest thing about this workshop is how domain-agnostic this is. I teach software programming. Jeff doesn’t. But his training system doesn’t care. It’ll help you learn the tools to teach other teachers effectively without any considering to what the topics might be. I can see this working in any kind of setting where you need to produce a cadre of other instructors that will work with the students.

I will be recommending him to others when I discover they need to train trainers (or already do but haven’t taken his workshop yet).