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Saturday, October 24, 2009

"How was school today?" is a Tough Question to Answer.

I caught a presentation by Dan Schawbel on Personal Branding.

Great topic, great speaker, great overall experience.

Judging success of service experiences is tough in general, but judging success in a learning environment may be the toughest of all.

Students, parents and banks pay vast sums of money to schools at all levels, despite the assurance of quality of the end result being based on more faith than measurable results.

Still, schools can point to established track records, standards and the academic credentials of the teachers as references. They reinforce experience quality through the admission-to-graduation progression, with grades, degrees & diplomas, and rite-of-passage ceremonies involving ridiculous costumes.

Evaluation of professional educational services is much harder, with a high degree of variability between the exceptional professional teacher and the too many marginally-credentialed presenters that poorly represent material that they’re not truly experts on.

Professional developmental education doesn’t have as much established history to lean on, but teachers like Dan Schawbel can still provide experiential cues that reinforce the value of the material.

Schawbel was set up for success with me before he ever entered the room, due to some postive interactions with another customer, BrainZooming’s Mike Brown, who in discussions before, during and after the Schawbel presentation enriched the material with his own extensive insight. Dan couldn't have known this, but it is enough to know that the experience of the audience will have an impact on each person in it.

Dan himself was an engaging speaker, but more, his presentation included concrete steps that, if taken would result in tangible near-term results. (He also walked his walk. After advising that you have to be willing to engage anyone, because one never knows who will hold the keys to your next phase of development, I tested his talk. A few hours later, Dan was my newest LinkedIn contact.)

It will still take time to evaluate success of the experience, but delivering applied practices that yield early physical evidence of results is a great step to validating the material and the teacher.

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