“So, what’s the WOW factor?” That’s how it all began. No pressure at all. This simple question came from my Vice President, regarding the upcoming coaching workshops and planted the seed that grew into an innovative and impactful training event – and, oh, yeah … it used the new iPad.
We were in the middle of designing a workshop for our National Sales Leadership Conference, an event that kicks off the next fiscal year. This meeting would involve about 100 Sales Executives and run for three days. To say it has been a difficult couple of years selling in this economy for this group is an understatement. This meeting was high profile. It was the first national conference for the new Senior Vice President of Sales. He wanted a high impact to motivate the audience, get them charged up about the next selling year, and persuade them to change their management style to better support their sales teams. “Wow Factor” was what we needed to take our workshops to a new level for this audience.
Developing the workshop
The workshop my team was designing would consist of approximately six hours of instruction with the topic centered on coaching. Not exactly rocket science, since this is a concept many participants have some familiarity with. The first day we were to introduce the fundamentals and we had materials from an existing workshop we could repurpose. The second day we would introduce a new sales profile that management was expected to coach their teams toward. We partnered with the Sales Executive Council (SEC) and had one of their speakers present on this new sales profile – the “Challenger.” The SEC had recently identified this Challenger Profile as key to successful selling in the new economic environment. After introducing this new concept, we were responsible for designing the second piece of the workshop that would blend the coaching fundamentals learned the first day and apply them to this new profile concept.
So, back to the issue of a “Wow Factor…” Our curriculum development team uses experiential learning techniques throughout our blended designs. So techniques, such as World Café, Graphic Facilitation, Open Space, and Appreciative Inquiry, no longer offer (in our opinion) a “Wow Factor.” (See Figure 1.) Oh, we would still be blending some of this into the design, but it was this elusive “Wow” that continued to be a missing ingredient.
Figure 1. Experiential techniques we used in blended designs.
A phrase that I am particularly fond of is “Everything happens for a reason.” I live by this and believe in it wholeheartedly. So, after my morning call to review this project with my boss and attempt to sell her on a “Wow Factor” that basically didn’t exist, my head was literally swimming with ideas and frustration around how to add some “wow” to this event.
Luckily for me I was able to meet my college professor, Dr. John Strange, for coffee. John is a HUGE Apple geek. So, like all the other die-hard Apple Fans, John had just received his FedEx delivery of the brand-new iPad. Of course he HAD to bring it along and show it off over coffee. Lucky for me he did! If you’ve ever taken a puppy to a park you can visualize what it was like accompanying John into the coffee shop. We were barely in the door when the first person asked, “Oh, is that the new iPad? Can we take a look?” John (the professor) loves to teach (not a surprise), so of course he was more than happy to show off this wonderful new tool. Eventually, I had to drag him out of line, force him to leave his new friends, and sit down with me to chat over coffee as we had planned!
After instructing me on this new revolutionary device (and with me properly Oh-ing and Ah-ing over the unbelievable contribution it will make to the world as we know it), I was able to catch John up on what was happening in my world. I hadn’t yet put two and two together to “see” that the iPad was the “Wow Factor” for the upcoming management workshops. John, however, saw it immediately. There was no other option in his mind: “How fabulous!”
I walked away from my coffee break with my head still swimming, but now with ideas around how to add this into the workshop … and whether I should even consider it due to little things such as price and availability! But, another of my favorite phases is, “Ask. All they can say is no.” Lucky for me my boss expects this craziness from me and didn’t hang up the phone when I called to discuss the possibility of purchasing FOURTEEN of them for our workshop. (Oh, and yes, we’d need the keyboard charging stands too.)
Again luck was on my side. My Vice President LOVED the idea – she just wanted to make sure they were necessary to the workshop – not just there to look sexy on the tables. Did I mention that my boss had a very successful sales career prior to heading up our learning organization? Well, it came in handy as she pitched this idea to the new SVP of Sales. Once again, everything continued to fall into place. The SVP loves technology, loved the idea, and was able to gain support at the executive level. So, we broke out the corporate credit card, placed the order, and waited to receive FOURTEEN of the highly coveted iPads.
Purchasing iPads turned out to be the easy part. Do you remember I mentioned the need for these technological wonders to be more than just sexy? Well, it turned out to be a bit more interesting to design these into the workshops than I originally thought.
The rest of this article is devoted to all of you techies who want to hear just what we encountered as we designed, developed, and delivered a workshop that included the iPad as an essential component.
To give you a brief idea before we embark on the down and dirty techie stuff, here is a high-level overview of the workshop design. The workshop had twelve tables with approximately seven participants at each table. We had one iPad (with keyboard charging station) per table. We introduced the participants to the coaching tools they would need to use with their sales team after the meeting. These tools were Microsoft Word documents and tutorials on how to effectively use the tools. So, throughout the workshop, participants would be accessing three main icons on the iPad – one for the Videos, one for Pages, and one for Safari (the Web). In addition, they would be e-mailing their completed “Pages” to the instructor. However, they would learn how to accomplish this directly in the pages application. So, let’s look in more detail at the iPad set-up.
Email and iTune registration
The biggest hurdle we ran into was registration of the iPads and assignment of an e-mail address. We needed to assign a generic e-mail address for each of the iPads. Participants would e-mail their activity results to the instructor, so each of the 14 iPads needed a unique e-mail address. If we had had more time, we would have worked with our IT department to set up ADP-specific e-mails – but the approval process would have taken time we didn’t have. So, we determined Gmail was the best route. The plan was to create one main Gmail address with alias addresses for the remaining machines. These addresses would then tie to their own iTunes account.
As it turns out, iTunes sees all Gmail alias addresses as the same address. In addition, Google doesn’t like you to create too many e-mail accounts from the same IP address. So after creating our limit of Gmail accounts, Google kicked us out of e-mail creation and we had to pop over to Yahoo. We ended up using several different computers to create ten unique Gmail accounts and four unique Yahoo accounts. Way too much time and effort later, all fourteen iPads had a unique e-mail address and iTunes account. Now we could move on to loading our apps and workshop materials.