Throughout the winter and spring of 2007 and 2008, I developed a wide flung network of professional friendships with trainers from around the country. We used blogs, email, conferences, and this new (to us) service Twitter to share information, resources, materials forming professional and personal bonds with my fellow trainers. Many conferences' casual conversations were always vital to creating the informal learning opportunities that are at the heart of rich conference experiences. I wanted to recreate that conference experience more than once or twice a year.
T is for Training could not have happened without the presence of another podcast Uncontrolled Vocabulary. Uncontrolled Vocabulary was hosted by Greg Schwartz of Louisville Free Public Library and was a weekly roundtable discussion of vital library topics of the day. This show was the inspiration to creating T is for Training.
I looked around for a podcast that focused on both training and libraries. I found no out there, so I created one. I am truly blessed to have the support of my library administration to pursue this great career development opportunity. I started T is For Training by asking my fellow trainers and blog readers if they would like to get together and discuss training topics on a regular schedule. Lucky for me a few of them said, “Yes, Let's Do This!” I started a blog to chronicle the show and picked a date and time (with the help of a Doodle poll.)
I set up a time based on that poll result, reminded folks to come and hoped for the best. Lucky for the show a few of my fellow trainers showed up and we were able to fill an hour with stimulating talk about training and learning. We were able to keep the conversational style of informal sessions yet had enough structure to make sure that we filled the hour with valuable content. This what in geek land we call a “killer app.”
Two weeks later I tried the same thing, inviting a few friends to the same time, and they showed up again. And two weeks later again with some new folks coming into the conversation. The show has been going strong with 67 hour or so episodes, a few live recordings and a couple of one on one interviews in the vaults.
How Do I Do It?
First, I make sure that the primary focus of my job, training Harford County Staff is done well. In addition to that part of my job, I need to stay on top of library and technology trends worldwide which I accomplish by a daily scan of the library and training environment. These scans ensure that my staff will have a deep understanding of and access to current library, training and technology resources. This means I usually have one or two show ideas to start the conversation each show. However, that does not mean that is what we end up spending the majority of the show discussing and dissecting.
I use a site called TalkShoe for my podcast for several for several reasons. First, it is free. Great price for a project with zero budget dollars. Second, it uses conference call technology, which is easy to grasp for new and old participants. Lastly, TalkShoe hosts the calls, stores the calls, and creates the RSS feeds, including iTunes feeds for easy distribution. Show participants come from a network of friends and supporters that come on the show when their schedules allow them to participate. The key for T is for Training's continued survival is developing a large enough regular group of “Usual Suspects” to decrease the chance that you will show up alone, trying to fill time all by your self. It has happened to me three times. You could avoid this by booking guests if that works with your work flow, but I live the truly "working without a net" aspect of live broadcasting. I also watch other people do interviews. I pull from a range of interview influences including James Lipton, Tavis Smiley, John McLaughlin, Johnny Carson, Barbara Walters, Ted Koppel, Bob Costas, Howard Stern, Roy Firestone, and Dick Schapp. They each have a way of improvising and riffing on questions and answers, involving others on their shows and being a ringmaster of information.
Remember that network?
Keep that network informed of upcoming shows, topics for discussion, further discussion after the show airs, through social media and email updates. My most effective method of communicating show topics is via the T is for Training blog. The blog automatically feeds into my personal twitter account, the show's twitter account and the show's Friend Feed page. I also take advantage of Google Groups to reach many of our Usual Suspects and show friends. I have created badge ribbons for folks to wear at library conferences.
The best way to promote the show is to be something useful and informative; let people know that you exist and do it on a regular schedule. It almost does not matter the schedule--as long as you are consistent, people will know when to expect new content from you or know when they should look to participate in creating the show experience. You can also promote your show by being a good guest on another podcast or blog. Provide a unique point of view or new idea to a new audience will drive people to your podcast to check you out.
Make sure that your show has value and meaning for your target audience. If you do that, everything else will fall into place. Do not create a show hoping to be famous. Do a show to enlighten, uplift and provide timely discussion and information to your target audience. The moment you do not feel that your show is providing you and your audience with added value, you may want to end the show and find another venue for your information and creativity. Until that moment arrives, have a bunch of fun and enjoy the ride.
A podcast is not for everyone. You need time, dedication, a good reason, room for failure, time for success and some desire to create and promote a show of your own creation. If you do, have fun with it and don't feel discouraged. If you try it out and find that it is not for you, your creative juices and information may just need a different outlet to shine.
Library Speaker, Trainer, Consultant and Change Agent
Organizer/Producer of T is for Training (the Library Training Podcast) at http://tisfortraining.wordpress.com
Maurice Coleman, Technical Trainer at Harford County (MD) Public Library in NE corner of MD. He has 20 years of training experience helping people use technology in the real world, hardware and software program training, technology planning and deployment, social media, nonprofit organizational development and fundraising, community organizing and presentation skills. He has presented at numerous conferences on technology implementation, presentation and training skills, social media and community development. For his work he was named a 2010 Library Journal Mover and Shaker and received the Citizens for Maryland Libraries Davis McCarn Technology Award. He hosts the library training podcast T is for Training and writes for the American Library Association’s LearnRT blog ALALearning.