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Sales Training Handbook

Video Popularity with Training Managers

Video: Seven Reasons for its Popularity with Training Managers

There are many reasons to choose video over film: convenience, cost, sophistication, creativity, stability, flexibility, and the playback and the recording features.

Convenience. Most offices now have a television set and a VCR; even in pre-video days when film was the only choice for movement and sound, most offices did not have film projectors, screens, or rooms to accommodate them. Video takes a limited amount of space compared to film. And video is more transportable. You can carry a camcorder, video player, and a few tapes on and off places and in and out of cars much more easily than film reels and projector equipment.

Cost. Video is usually less expensive. Duplications of a video tape, often a necessity in a large training program, is also more economical than film, since blank VHS tapes sell for under $5.00. In addition, mistakes are much easier and less expensive to correct on video than film.

Sophistication. After years of commercial television, people are accustomed to the jazzy, artful, dynamic quality of video. Video is a part of everyday living, while going to see a film may only be a once-a-month or once-a-year event. People are comfortable dealing with a video, and they have come to expect the special effects that video makes possible.

Creativity. Much is being done with video character generation (producing words on the screen), and the process is becoming cheaper. Words can precede or follow action; words can appear adjacent to or overlaid on action. Graphics can accompany narrative. Many of the benefits of the lecture method still so popular with trainers can be combined with the added benefits of subliminal reinforcement. The combination of words, visual images, and graphics can dramatically increase retention.

Stability. On the whole, video withstands the abuse of travel, weather, and use. It is not fed through a machine loaded with mechanical gears. Video can be stopped and restarted with ease, where film cannot. Over a period of time, film may break and video may stretch, but stretching is much easier to deal with in the midst of a training session. If this happens, usually the tracking adjustment on the VCR will correct the situation until the tape can be replaced. If a film breaks, it must be removed from the projector, spliced, and then rewound.

If the heads on the VCR damage a tape during a presentation, the problem still isn’t as great as having a film break. And it is much easier to have a spare tape than a spare film.

Flexibility. A key advantage of video over film is the ability to reverse and fast forward to a specific spot with ease. Most VCR’s can search or scan quickly with the image on the screen. In a training situation, the relatively short time with which this can be accomplished is a great advantage, especially when the subject is behavioral skills. Trainers can use the scan feature of video to re-sequence course material to fit particular needs, even something as drastic as trimming a three-day course to one day. That’s tough with film.

Recording and Playback. As training moves into practice, video has its greatest benefit- on-site recording. Most of us do not have a whole sound stage handy, which is necessary for film. Video is more mobile, convenient and immediate.

Video facilitates practice of skills. You can tape a sales representative’s practice session and play it back immediately as part of several different training methods: self-study, assessment, group discussion, feedback, and suggestions for improvement. Fast-forwarding with the image on the screen can emphasize the simplest unconscious gesture or mannerism; an image is worth a thousand words in making sales representatives aware of need improvements. Studies show people learn more by observing body language and tone of voice. In this case, the sales rep learns from his or her own image. The immediate reinforcement provided by video is central in changing behavior patterns.

Along these lines, video can be beneficial in focusing on improvement of behavioral skills in general. By using a simple evaluation form that parallels the skills being taught, you have the perfect vehicle for discussion. A sample is shown in Figure 2. The form becomes a guide for self-improvement.

Video taping is also very effective for evaluating the organization and completeness of a sales presentation. Depending on the skills being taught, an evaluation form might rate a sales representative on his or her delivery alone (without regard to content). A form for these purposed is shown in Figure 3

Figure 2

5 = Excellent 1=Poor Comments
Eye Contact (strong/minimal)
Language (persuasive/weak)
Posture (excellent/poor)
Appearance (professional/careless)
Voice (energetic/.boring)
Self-Confident (poised/uneasy)
Gestures (expressive/minimal

Figure 3

Opening (focused/scattered)
Body (coherent/illogical)
Closing (forceful/inconclusive)
Strategy (persuasive/argumentative)
Enhancement (memorable/boring)
Visuals (reinforce/distract)
Time (appropriate/lengthy)
Audience (strong/minimal)

Again, when a form like this is completed by both the sales representative, and the trainer, you have a very useful guide for self-study, discussion, further practice and assessment. You can also measure and document improvement over time by using checklists periodically.

Potential Drawbacks. In spite of all its advantages, video does have some drawbacks. For one, it tends to have a passive quality – it can produce an impersonal one-way communication that lulls both trainer and trainee to sleep. Viewers are also at the mercy of the taped information, which is often targeted to the slowest possible student. Although the tape doesn’t have to be professionally produced, good production can markedly increase communication.

Like film, video is harder to update (for example, if the company changes its name) than are slides, handouts, and transparencies.

Video should be an aid, not a substitute. Perhaps we should view video as a very tasty dish on the cafeteria line of instructional tools. It is really up to us to decide whether it is the main course or dessert.

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