Idea Learning Group

"employee-development" Posts

IdeaLearning Group is On the Road in October

October is promising to be a busy month at IdeaLearning Group. Here’s a list of the events we’ll be attending and/or presenting at. Hope to see you there!

  • The Oregon Chapter of the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources (CUPA-HR) has invited Jillian to speak on the benefits of onboarding at their October 19th Fall Conference.
  • Finally, on October 25th Jillian and Jennie reprise their presentation “Your Brain is Not a Bucket: Learning Through Experience” for the ASTD Cascadia Annual Conference.

Register Now for IdeaLearning Group’s Train the Trainer on August 24th

Giving presentations produces fear and anxiety for many adults, and it can potentially hold you back professionally. There’s no need to give in to presentation paralysis. Engaging audiences during live presentations is a careful combination of art and science and can be easily learned through guidance and practice.

Jillian Douglas, Chief Creative Officer for IdeaLearning Group, is now offering a comprehensive Train the Trainer program that focuses on tried-and-true techniques for turning an inactive audience into a captive one. During this session, you’ll work in small groups and learn how to hook, engage with, surprise, and even mesmerize audiences during presentations. It’s the ideal session for those who have little or no experience giving presentations or who feel anxious when talking in front of a group!

In addition to the dynamic classroom session, Jillian also invites you to submit your own before-and-after filmed presentations. As part of your registration, Jillian will review the videos and meet with you for 30 minutes to provide custom one-on-one feedback.

During our four-hour Train the Trainer session at the IdeaLearning Group office in NW Portland, you’ll learn how to:

  • Demystify essential brain functions like attention, memory, vision, and pattern recognition.
  • Identify and connect with key audience profiles.
  • Discover practical tools to use when you feel stuck in front of an audience.
  • Use your voice, body movement, and visual aids to present on any topic.
  • Incorporate learning techniques such as chunking and repetition to drive home your messages.
  • Create smooth transitions between topics.

Register soon—only 20 spots available!

Date: Friday, August 24, 2012

Time: 8 a.m. – 12 p.m.

Location: Montgomery Park, 2701 NW Vaughn Street, St. Helens Room

Cost: $200 for this premiere session; existing IdeaLearning Group clients are eligible for the reduced rate of only $100!

How to Register: Contact or call (503) 208-3256 by Tuesday, August 21.

Session includes coffee, tea, and light breakfast options


Here are some highlights from feedback we’ve received from recent participants:

  • “The four hours went by really fast…which is something I never say about meetings!”
  • “She was able to answer our specific questions, she was engaging, and she willingly acknowledged every elephant in the room.”
  • “Really good—now I realize what I submitted for the sales meeting is not that great. It has really opened my eyes to how to make a presentation stick in somebody’s head and also how not to make the audience fall asleep or lose interest.”

How to Thrive When Giving Presentations

Presenting or speaking to an audience regularly tops the list in surveys of people’s top fears—more than heights, flying, or even dying. A common physical reaction is a release of adrenaline and cortisol into our systems, which has a similar effect as drinking several cups of coffee. When this happens, the “primitive brain” shuts down normal functions as the “fight or flight” impulse takes over.

That used to be me.

Today I give presentations all the time. I love to engage with a group of people and talk about topics that are meaningful for the audience. Some people tell me, “I wish I could give presentations, but I don’t have any natural talent for it.” Well, I have a funny story to tell about my early experiences presenting.

The first time I stood in front of a classroom, my presentation pretty much turned into a recitation. That’s right—I read from a book for six hours in a row. That night I went home exhausted and hoarse, and very aware that I needed to find a different approach. I bored myself to tears that day!

Over the next month or so I spent time reflecting on who the best teachers and trainers are and what I needed to do differently. I studied how I could emulate them and use clever strategies and tactics in my own presentations. I watched videos of expert presenters, read up on the topics, and practiced on my friends and family. And I had an epiphany: Learning comes from the participants, not from the presenter. I’m simply there to facilitate the process. In fact, the less I do and the more the participants do, the better the overall results.

So I went on to teach a workshop for a couple hundred people. I call this my “middle ground” era. I’m not sure that it was obvious to the audience how incredibly debilitating my internal stress was, but speaking in front of a large group was still a nearly paralyzing experience. I found comfort in rituals. Just before presentation time, I would lock myself in the restroom stall to close my eyes and collect my thoughts. What will my first 10 minutes look like? What will I say to connect with the audience? And then I began to do what some athletes do: I visualized success by going through the activity and imagining a positive experience. I could get myself to this calm place where I could, well, just do it.

As I put myself out there more often, I slowly improved my technique, and the stress diminished with each new presentation. Here are some techniques I’ve embraced over the years:


  • The most important rule for effective presentations is to plan and practice. This is the only way I feel in control and more confident.


  • It’s hard to imagine anyone trying to memorize a presentation word-for-word. Recall takes so much energy that you would have little left for relating to the audience. So I never even consider memorizing. Instead, I use notes unobtrusively and effectively. If I know the content, there is no reason to feel anxious or concerned.



  • If I’m using PowerPoint as a presentation tool, I don’t rely on it for my notes. Because when you read the notes on the slide, you turn your back to your audience.



  • I like to untether myself by using a clicker instead of standing next to a screen with a mouse the whole time.



  • I ask questions to encourage participants to share their own perspectives. I find that this involves everyone and helps to draw people out—not just the “talkers.”



  • Every 10 minutes or so I change course to keep things interesting. I do this by providing some startling information—something that makes sense in the context of the presentation. This helps to bring people back to the moment and the content.



  • I don’t skimp on breaks. Research proves that short, frequent breaks increase retention. Breaks can be physical, like a stretch or quick walking activity, or they can be mental, such as a brainteaser, trivia, or other unrelated content. Even a five-minute break can provide enough of a brain shift to spur cognition.



  • They say that kids are sponges, but what about adults? We may have stronger filters, but we eagerly soak up new information if it’s compelling and engaging. Formal learning needs to be seeded with informal learning opportunities, like exchanging stories, observing behaviors, and playing games.



  • If I see things starting to wane, I pull out what I call an “energizer”—a physical opportunity to engage, laugh, or have an experience together to keep things interactive. I always have these energizers up my sleeve and ready to go when needed.


Aside from techniques, it’s important to cultivate your own style too. Here’s what I’ve discovered about my own style:


  • I see facilitation as partly a performance. People are sitting there. I might as well entertain them! It helps the learning come more easily. So it might not surprise you to learn that my presentation style is animated, with lots of movement. Standing in one place gets both boring and predictable and the audience ends up doing other things instead of listening or responding.


  • My style can be fluid or structured and dialed up or down, depending on the situation. I spend a lot of time thinking about what the audience needs when cultivating my approach. During retail presentations I tend to move at a fast pace, using humor and wit to engage the audience. But when I worked with a group of fish scientists, for example, my approach was more low-key, more deliberate, and more grounded by data.


If you’d like to learn more about my approach to giving presentations, check out the Presentation Skills session I teach as part of the ASTD Cascadia Fundamentals of Training program .

I’d love here from our blog readers about your own experiences with presentations. What do expect from your facilitator in a classroom experience? If you give presentations yourself, what rituals to do you go through to get ready? Feel free to send us your comments in the box below!

IdeaLearning Group selected to speak at ASTD Cascadia Annual Conference

Jillian Douglas and Jennie Thede of IdeaLearning Group have been selected to present at the 2012 ASTD Cascadia Conference. Their session is titled Your Brain is Not a Bucket: Learning through Experience.

The brain is not a finite container that you fill up. Instead, the brain is a complex system of dynamic connections that interpret, process, and organize an amazing amount of information. Most of our learning takes place through direct experience as opposed to formal instruction. In this session, we look at the shortcoming of traditional lecture-based training and education through the filter of brain-based learning research. What roles do experience and sensory intake play in learning? How can we implement brain-based learning principles to get back to the basics and create richer, long-lasting learning experiences? This hands-on workshop will inspire you to reframe the way you train using practical brain-based tools and strategies with your learners.

NEW BUSINESS Contact us with business inquiries or to discuss your project needs and vision.
CAREERS We always enjoy connecting with talented professionals in the learning and development field.
CONNECT 503.208.3256
LOCATION 2701 NW Vaughn St #103
Portland, OR 97210

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