WordPress Backend and Workflow from Frank Stallone on Vimeo.

There has been some pretty  extensive changes going on in our department lately. We use WordPress Multisite and have published over 4,000 sites for clients. Keeping up to date on plugins or even the WordPress core means hours of testing on another server in order to know things are going to work before they go live. When updating a WordPress core with changes that require two levels of support teams, inside and outside of your company to bring up to speed and make comfortable with changes takes a lot of thinking and I have come to the following conclusions:

  • You will never hit the nail on the head with everyone.
    It is impossible to expect that your Keynote presentation walking even a small group of individuals is going to be the right way for that person to learn what you are teaching.
  • They think it’s about teaching them, when you’re the one doing all the learning.
    You have been working with a crack team of professionals crafting to make the best user experience possible for months now, you know what your teaching… Now you are learning how others are receiving these changes especially when the level of comfort can be at extreme opposites.
  • Reading the room and listening helps you adapt.
    The only thing consistent about any of the trainings I have done so far is the Keynote slides. Every since presentation has been adapted for the audience. Lucky nobodies eyes were glossed over but I constantly ask if things make sense, and I take questions throughout the entire presentation.
  • If you can, train a small group of individuals.
    Sometimes people get apprehensive, and even if you are asking if anybody has questions, large groups of peers can be intimidating. Break down large groups into more intimate groups  and people will let down their guard.
  • Questions will happen 10 minutes after the presentation
    Ever walk into a room and forget why you went in there? Yeah, as humans we have pretty horrible short term memory, and it’s great to know that.

Coming into a conference room fully prepared and knowing that you have the best you can is worthy of patting yourself on the back. Going a step further and knowing that even know you did your best, you’re probably going to miss the mark with some people allows you to really see what is going on in the room and judge whether further training or a further breakdown of what your teaching is required.

After my second of an entire weeks full of training, I quickly realized that there is a subset of people who would like to be in front of a computer, logged into WordPress and doing what I am teaching them right then and there. There is a group that is more hands on, just like there is a group that is fine with Wikipedia step-by-step article, just like there is a group that is comfortable with a video screencast walkthrough. Realizing that you didn’t fail, but instead you found a better way is the key. Since those first sessions I have already been making the first moves towards a more hands on training, but before I started I never thought that may have been a better way to go to begin with.

Really this is a consistent theme in my life. Maybe having the mentality of knowing everything is going to work out in the end affords me the ability to not only prepare as much as possible but also understand that it isn’t enough, and to expect misunderstanding. This allows me the adapt, to be quick on my feet and think of a solution on the spot. It also makes me a better presenter and more interactive. Hopefully these tips have been useful for you. I plan to write more specifically about my trials and failures with screencasting, and maybe even writing how-to articles. Cheers!