My previous post discussed the first five of 10 items I think learning professionals need to include in a “New and Improved Trainers Toolbox.” Here is the list again to refresh your memory:

  1. blog
  2. use Dropbox or Evernote
  3. develop and sustain a PLN
  4. curate and share information
  5. send large files
  6. use a hashtag
  7. manage your online brand
  8. know the variety of different delivery mechanisms
  9. trouble shoot technology
  10. subscribe to and manage: Slideshare, YouTube, or other dynamic digital media.

Keep in mind that this list was created in no particular order, and perhaps you have other items you feel are as equally or more important. And that’s okay. The goal of the list is to set the foundation for the 21st Century toolbox. Some items are small and others more complex, but all are important to moving the needle. 

So, let's pick up where we left off.

#6. Use a hashtag

Hashtags aren't just for Twitter anymore. There are two questions generally associated with hashtags:

  1. What are hashtags?
  2. How do I use hashtags?

An entire blog post (and then more) could be written to answer just those two questions alone, but that's not our goal. In short, the hashtag is the way you (as well as the online tool you are using) parses information. Given the growing flood of data and content that hits the Internet every minute, any tool that aids in semantic parsing is a welcome addition to my toolbox.

Here are three reasons why you should be using hashtags. 

  • Use a hashtag to connect communities. By using hashtags you can keep an eye on developments and build networks of influence or support. Or, you can support crowdsourcing by using hashtags to track conferences such as #DevLearn or #ASTD2014. You become connected with other people talking about the event, and thereby connecting you to conferences.
  • Hashtags are trackable, linkable, and repurposeful. Because I linked to the ASTD 2014 International Conference & Expo hashtag (#ASTD2014) above, you can go back and see all the conversations regarding this conference—even though the conference is long since over. This is generally referred to as “accessing the backchannel.” Many social media tools, besides Twitter, allow you to track hashtags or generate RSS feeds, constantly delivering new results for your viewing pleasure and curation. 
  • Hashtags are a powerful tool for parsing information. This means using a hashtag allows the Internet to automatically process the meaning of content along with the ability to make meaningful connections and links among information. Essentially, this makes search tools especially robust. Searching within Twitter, for example, using the hashtag produces results that helps the user spot patterns in what could be overwhelming noise. Here’s more of what you need to know about Twitter hashtags.

#7. Manage your online brand

The brutal reality of life in the 21st century is we are all expendable. Yeah, it sucks, I know. This is why being able to manage your online brand is important because it is about promoting YOU.

I know this is an uncomfortable topic for most people. The idea of self-promotion seems somehow, well, cheesy. Regardless, managing your online brand is critical.

If you are trying to move up the ladder, find a better ladder to be on, or expand into writing or consulting, your online brand is a reflection of you. When you apply for new job, submit a proposal, or make a new connection, the person on the other end will likely hit Google to try and find you. They will certainly search for you on LinkedIn and may even check your Twitter feed or try to find you on Facebook.


Managing your brand is another area to which whole books are dedicated. Here are 4 tips to managing your online brand: 

  • Use a professional (looking) picture. I shake my head at the people on LinkedIn who do not have an associated picture. This does not tell a prospective employer or client anything other than you cannot do the basics of completing a profile. Is this the message you want to convey? The other key word used here is “professional.” Your LinkedIn page is not where you have the picture of you and your dog—as cute as he may be. You don’t even have to pay big bucks for a professional picture. Tools like picmonkey make photo editing a dream. So please, replace the “shadow stalker dude” of LinkedIn with your professional self.
  • Run a search on yourself. This is not only to discover where you land, but also to find out what is being said about you. The easiest way to do this is to set up a Google alert, which will deliver to your email box any Internet-related material that specifically mentions your name. This is just one of the benefits of having a Google email account. I know, who really needs another email account, but it's free and you can set up Google alerts, open an account with Google Plus, Youtube, and have access to a host of other SEO positive goodies. Bonus: connecting with all things Google will improve your overall Google ranking.
  • Put all your content in one place. There are a few sites to achieve this, and is a great one-stop-shop. Within your profile you can link to your blog, all of your social media accounts, slideshare account, and LinkedIn, and you can add the address to your blog, email signature, and personal business cards. You can even incorporate graphs, charts, images, cartoons, professional photos, and video. My last piece of advice: your About page should have some kind of call to action, so think about what the next step should be for visitors. Should they check out your work? Contact you directly? Hire you? In other words, remind them why they visited the site.
  • Participate in speaking of social media. Even if you feel like you don't have time to be active on social media sites, join them and take the time to fully fill out the profiles. As most of us know, the major sites are Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Google+. If you can make the time, also join Pinterest, which is a great site for curating information of all types. Remember, though, you don’t have to be active daily, but also don’t be completely dormant. Add new content at least once a week, and once a day for Twitter (it’s only140 characters, so you can do it!). Your content can be as simple as attaching an article and writing a short comment about why it interests you.

#8. Know the Variety of Different Delivery Mechanisms

So many tools, so little time! Despite the "sky is falling" predictions of previous years, we can all agree that the classroom isn't going away. However, that is not to say that we have to treat classrooms or any other training event as if it's 1972. Let's mix up learning delivery among these five possibilities:

  • Video: There have been great developments in video and video editing. Most of us own a small production studio within our smart phones. Between the video function and a tool like audacity you can have a short video up, running and displaying positive customer service behaviors in no time. 
  • Blogging: We discussed blogging in Part 1 but it bears repeating. You can have a lot of fun creating a blog to support your class be it online or face to face. Use it for pre-work, post-work, projects, book reports, book reviews—the list is endless. 
  • Social media: Social media tools can be a great tool to support your learning initiatives. Using Google+ Hangouts to start a group discussion; use Pinterest to curate information for new hires; use LinkedIn to start a discussion group about sales techniques. The benefit of social tools are that people are already there—you have a built in audience. The only thing holding you back from truly innovating your learning courses is your imagination: For more ideas, check out Social Media for Trainers. 
  • QR codes: QR code development and readers are now common place. Rather than people carrying around 1000 dead trees worth of job aids, what if you placed a QR Code on the visor of a company car with instructions on what to do if you were in an accident? Or a QR Code on the front of the employee survey that linked to a leadership video expressing the importance of gathering information? Again, imagination leads to innovation. Here are 111 more QR Code ideas. 
  • Webinars/virtual training: Webinars have gotten a bad rap, and most of it is justified. But now is the time to learn how to conduct a proper webinar, not a PowerPoint driven conference call. Understand how to set up one, work the chat feature, use the whiteboard for collaboration, poll to gage understanding, and create activities that encourage participation. Learn how to check the volume and set up speakers. Buy yourself a proper microphone, and arrange a training session with your webinar provider so you look and sound like the professional you are. Here’s more webinar tips here from Cindy Huggett—the definitive source on virtual training. 

#9. Troubleshoot technology

A true learning professional should be able to trouble shoot their own technology. I can't tell you how many times I have had a facilitator come up to me to "fix" their speakers, get the screen to show from the projector, or fix the display when the screen is all wonky. Frankly, it is simply unprofessional to not know how to troubleshoot these very simple issues.

How do you remedy this? By spending some time with your technology and create a learning aid for yourself if necessary. You should be able to conduct the simplest of decision trees: are you're plugged in, powered on, are the settings appropriate or turned on, do you have the latest browser update, pop-up blockers on/off, etc? Good place to start for technology tips? Mike Taylor's Work Smarter, Not Harder

#10. Subscribe to and manage dynamic digital media

For this purpose, I'm classifying dynamic digital media as those sites where information is often sourced and content-rich. Sites like TED Talks, YouTube or Slideshare are great examples, and you should subscribe to all of them. For example, I've seen Slideshare called "the quiet giant for content," and I believe this is true for several reasons:

  • Slideshare is highly searchable. Not only is it a great way to share samples of your work and expertise via presentation decks, but you also can use it to share documents, videos, and infographics. Most importantly, Slideshare really should be seen as a place to publish content, not just posting content, as you can easily repurpose content from other websites to Slideshare.
  • You can make public and private groups in Slideshare, which is handy for sharing PPT decks to groups of colleagues or for a class. Imagine you have the deck for the next leadership meeting uploaded to Slideshare; you can get people to review and then you can make changes all without having to send out multiple emails.

Pretty cool, huh? It’s definitely something every L&D person should be aware of and use. Watch this video to learn more about this nifty program

So there you have it. My 10 tips to building a new and improved toolbox ready for the 21st century. Tell us, what would you add if it were your toolbox? The more we share the better we all become. Let’s learn and grow together.