“So, what’s the WOW factor?” That’s how it all began. No pressure at all. This simple question came from my Vice President, regarding the upcoming coaching workshops and planted the seed that grew into an innovative and impactful training event – and, oh, yeah … it used the new iPad.

We were in the middle of designing a workshop for our National Sales Leadership Conference, an event that kicks off the next fiscal year. This meeting would involve about 100 Sales Executives and run for three days. To say it has been a difficult couple of years selling in this economy for this group is an understatement. This meeting was high profile. It was the first national conference for the new Senior Vice President of Sales. He wanted a high impact to motivate the audience, get them charged up about the next selling year, and persuade them to change their management style to better support their sales teams. “Wow Factor” was what we needed to take our workshops to a new level for this audience.

Developing the workshop

The workshop my team was designing would consist of approximately six hours of instruction with the topic centered on coaching. Not exactly rocket science, since this is a concept many participants have some familiarity with. The first day we were to introduce the fundamentals and we had materials from an existing workshop we could repurpose. The second day we would introduce a new sales profile that management was expected to coach their teams toward. We partnered with the Sales Executive Council (SEC) and had one of their speakers present on this new sales profile – the “Challenger.” The SEC had recently identified this Challenger Profile as key to successful selling in the new economic environment. After introducing this new concept, we were responsible for designing the second piece of the workshop that would blend the coaching fundamentals learned the first day and apply them to this new profile concept.

So, back to the issue of a “Wow Factor…” Our curriculum development team uses experiential learning techniques throughout our blended designs. So techniques, such as World Café, Graphic Facilitation, Open Space, and Appreciative Inquiry, no longer offer (in our opinion) a “Wow Factor.” (See Figure 1.) Oh, we would still be blending some of this into the design, but it was this elusive “Wow” that continued to be a missing ingredient.


colorful paragraphs

Figure 1. Experiential techniques we used in blended designs.


A phrase that I am particularly fond of is “Everything happens for a reason.” I live by this and believe in it wholeheartedly. So, after my morning call to review this project with my boss and attempt to sell her on a “Wow Factor” that basically didn’t exist, my head was literally swimming with ideas and frustration around how to add some “wow” to this event.

Luckily for me I was able to meet my college professor, Dr. John Strange, for coffee. John is a HUGE Apple geek. So, like all the other die-hard Apple Fans, John had just received his FedEx delivery of the brand-new iPad. Of course he HAD to bring it along and show it off over coffee. Lucky for me he did! If you’ve ever taken a puppy to a park you can visualize what it was like accompanying John into the coffee shop. We were barely in the door when the first person asked, “Oh, is that the new iPad? Can we take a look?” John (the professor) loves to teach (not a surprise), so of course he was more than happy to show off this wonderful new tool. Eventually, I had to drag him out of line, force him to leave his new friends, and sit down with me to chat over coffee as we had planned!

After instructing me on this new revolutionary device (and with me properly Oh-ing and Ah-ing over the unbelievable contribution it will make to the world as we know it), I was able to catch John up on what was happening in my world. I hadn’t yet put two and two together to “see” that the iPad was the “Wow Factor” for the upcoming management workshops. John, however, saw it immediately. There was no other option in his mind: “How fabulous!”

I walked away from my coffee break with my head still swimming, but now with ideas around how to add this into the workshop … and whether I should even consider it due to little things such as price and availability! But, another of my favorite phases is, “Ask. All they can say is no.” Lucky for me my boss expects this craziness from me and didn’t hang up the phone when I called to discuss the possibility of purchasing FOURTEEN of them for our workshop. (Oh, and yes, we’d need the keyboard charging stands too.)

Again luck was on my side. My Vice President LOVED the idea – she just wanted to make sure they were necessary to the workshop – not just there to look sexy on the tables. Did I mention that my boss had a very successful sales career prior to heading up our learning organization? Well, it came in handy as she pitched this idea to the new SVP of Sales. Once again, everything continued to fall into place. The SVP loves technology, loved the idea, and was able to gain support at the executive level. So, we broke out the corporate credit card, placed the order, and waited to receive FOURTEEN of the highly coveted iPads.

Purchasing iPads turned out to be the easy part. Do you remember I mentioned the need for these technological wonders to be more than just sexy? Well, it turned out to be a bit more interesting to design these into the workshops than I originally thought.

The rest of this article is devoted to all of you techies who want to hear just what we encountered as we designed, developed, and delivered a workshop that included the iPad as an essential component.

To give you a brief idea before we embark on the down and dirty techie stuff, here is a high-level overview of the workshop design. The workshop had twelve tables with approximately seven participants at each table. We had one iPad (with keyboard charging station) per table. We introduced the participants to the coaching tools they would need to use with their sales team after the meeting. These tools were Microsoft Word documents and tutorials on how to effectively use the tools. So, throughout the workshop, participants would be accessing three main icons on the iPad – one for the Videos, one for Pages, and one for Safari (the Web). In addition, they would be e-mailing their completed “Pages” to the instructor. However, they would learn how to accomplish this directly in the pages application. So, let’s look in more detail at the iPad set-up.

Email and iTune registration

The biggest hurdle we ran into was registration of the iPads and assignment of an e-mail address. We needed to assign a generic e-mail address for each of the iPads. Participants would e-mail their activity results to the instructor, so each of the 14 iPads needed a unique e-mail address. If we had had more time, we would have worked with our IT department to set up ADP-specific e-mails – but the approval process would have taken time we didn’t have. So, we determined Gmail was the best route. The plan was to create one main Gmail address with alias addresses for the remaining machines. These addresses would then tie to their own iTunes account.

As it turns out, iTunes sees all Gmail alias addresses as the same address. In addition, Google doesn’t like you to create too many e-mail accounts from the same IP address. So after creating our limit of Gmail accounts, Google kicked us out of e-mail creation and we had to pop over to Yahoo. We ended up using several different computers to create ten unique Gmail accounts and four unique Yahoo accounts. Way too much time and effort later, all fourteen iPads had a unique e-mail address and iTunes account. Now we could move on to loading our apps and workshop materials.

App issues

So, let’s talk applications (“apps”). This was an essential factor in our use of the iPad.

Pages app

The main application the workshop participants would use was Pages, the iPad’s word processing application. The workshop activities would introduce several coaching tools. These tools were Microsoft Word documents that the management team would use once back on the job. (See Figure 2.) We investigated the possibility of converting these documents into Adobe PDF forms to keep formatting and allow for “locking” those areas of the document we did not want participants to accidently edit. However, PDF was not an option on the iPad. Ultimately, we had to re-create the Word documents in Pages because the formatting did not completely transfer over to the Pages version of the tool. We also broke the coaching tool document into separate Pages documents so that the workshop participants could easily access them on the iPad. Because of the way we designed and set-up the materials on the iPad, participants had no issues accessing and completing the Pages documents during the workshop.


learning page

Figure 2. Participants were able to use actual coaching tools, converted to the Pages app, on the iPad.


E-mail and Contacts app

We asked participants to e-mail their completed documents to the instructor. We determined the best way to effectively facilitate this was directly from the Pages application. So, instead of exiting Pages and then having to access the e-mail application, participants simply e-mailed their completed form using the e-mail option within Pages. (See Figure 3.) During set-up, we added the instructor’s e-mail address using the Contacts App. This simplified it for the participants during the workshop. They could simply start typing the e-mail address, and after a few characters, the instructor’s e-mail would pop up for them to select. Once again, this set-up allowed participants to seamlessly e-mail their activity results to the instructor. These results were then collected during a break, reviewed, and displayed during debriefing of the activity.


how document look on the ipad

Figure 3. Participants were able to e-mail documents to the instructor directly from Pages.


Video app

To assist participants in correctly completing the coaching forms, we created an e Learning tutorial. Due to the iPad not playing Flash files, we had to do a bit of research and testing of our instructional video during development. Some development tools do not publish to a format other than Flash. However, we were able to use Camtasia since it allows publishing of content in a movie (.mov) format that works on the iPad. The instructional movies, once tested, were simple to create. Since we already use Camtasia as one of our e-Learning development tools, it was simply a matter of publishing to a different format and we were off and running. Each of the coaching documents, available on the iPad via the Pages icon, had a corresponding instructional movie available via the Video icon. Once again, our participants located and played these movies without difficulty.

Safari app

Participants would be using a survey created with Survey Monkey during one of the activities. This required them to access two different surveys via the Safari app (Safari is Apple’s Web browser). To once again make this experience seamless, we created two bookmarks for the participants to quickly locate and launch each survey. The most complicated set-up for this functionality was the initial programming of each iPad to access the wireless internet connection in the conference room. Although a bit time consuming, once again, this worked flawlessly during the event. Of course, we did test each of the iPads prior to the workshop to verify their connection!


Okay, since we knew this iPad was incredibly sexy and was going to offer a huge distraction for our participants if not handled correctly, we decided to remove as much temptation as we possibly could. So, using the security feature on the iPad, we removed all the icons from the desktop of the iPad, except those we would need during the workshop. The iPad provides the option to set a password so no one can go in and change the settings. We used this option, and “locked” participants out of access to any other apps on the iPad. This removed the temptation, as well as made it very simple for participants to locate activity materials. As I mentioned earlier, the only three icons available to participants on the iPad were Pages, Video, and Safari. (See Figure 4.) We even removed the E-mail icon so they would be sure to use the e-mail option available within the Pages application. Once again, this made it super easy for workshop participants. We did however catch a few participants surfing the Web. What can I say – some people just can’t resist temptation!


iPad with a NAS splash wallpaper

Figure 4. We set up the desktop of the iPad to restrict participants to the apps they needed for the workshop, and no others.


Wallpaper (yes, wallpaper)

The final consideration regarding set-up focused on the event theme and table set-up. As my boss always says, “What does it look like in the classroom?” So, the final touch that pulled everything together was the creation of the graphic that we would use as the wallpaper on each of the fourteen iPads. (You can see the wallpaper in Figure 4.) The theme for this meeting was “Challenge 11” and we were already using it on all the PowerPoint templates, participant agendas, workshop handouts, etc., so it made perfect sense to make this sexy little iPad match this theme. So, after creating our graphic and loading it to a photo album on iTunes, we were able to load to our iPad and use the option in the settings for Brightness and Wallpaper to customize our iPad to “fit in” with the Challenger theme! (Perhaps I should say “stand out,” because the iPad definitely did not “blend” in with the rest of the theme materials! You probably noticed this in the video at the beginning of this article.)

Finishing touches

Additionally, we purchased the keyboard charger for each of our iPads. These made it easy for participants to type and complete the coaching documents during the activity. Finally, for the “wow” factor, we didn’t unveil the iPads until after lunch when the workshop began. So, participants returned to the room to find their tables proudly displaying this new and exciting technology. This generated excitement for the workshop before it even began!

Well, to say this event provided participants with a “Wow” factor is an understatement. My team is known for the high-impact events we deliver and it is difficult for us to find ways to go beyond what we’ve done before. However, I had confirmation directly from one of the sales managers participating in the event that we had indeed “Wowed” them and made an impact. Now, understand this manager is not known for giving praise lightly – or at all. But when he went out of his way to find us and let us know, “This was hands-down the best event you’ve ever delivered,” I knew we had done it. We had found a way to weave in the sexy technology of the new iPad with an impactful learning event that resulted in management coaching their teams, using the coaching materials, and moving toward a new sales profile – “the Challenger” in FY’11.

Back to the beginning

So, back when I first pitched this iPad idea to my boss, her concern was that we focus the event on “learning” and not on the “iPad.” Yes, we needed a “Wow” factor, but the “Wow” couldn’t come from the technology alone. How did we obtain “Wow” beyond the iPad? Well, we preceded our workshops with executive presentations based on solid research and exciting concepts that engaged the audience and had them ready to dig-in and begin applying these new ideas. Then, during the workshops, participants had exposure to, and hands-on experience with, the new tools they would be using to coach their teams. The activities provided real-life scenarios that the management teams were able to relate directly to their sales associates, and discuss best practices and possible solutions within their table groups. So, as sexy as the iPad is, we were able to simply use it as a tool to facilitate learning. Okay – yes, a really COOL tool! But, at the end of the day, it wasn’t about the iPad, it was about the materials on the iPad, the conversations, and what happens beyond these workshops.

At the conclusion of the workshop, we introduced participants to a new Coaching Community available on the learning management system that contained all the tools introduced and used during the workshop. This community was only available to sales management. Expectations were set regarding how management would be using this community moving forward, as well as the visibility it would provide to senior management. This community allows senior management a quick view into the established coaching contracts, the scheduled coaching conversations, and the coaching results. The visibility provided by the reports within this community allows the District Vice Presidents and Senior VP to have associate-specific conversations around coaching with their management team. They can agree on goals, track progress, and determine development strategies – all based on activities within the coaching community. What can I say? Wow!

In conclusion, I have to thank an incredible team of learning and performance professionals it has been my pleasure to work with. Almost everyone on our learning and development team touched this project, including all the IDs, the trainers, and management. The only one who escaped the craziness was one of my IDs that had his computer crash (nothing to do with this project). If that hadn’t happened, we would have pulled him in to assist with some of our scenario recordings too. From design, to development, and ultimately to the delivery, this team was amazing to watch work together and make the event come off flawlessly – 18 total people (plus a few from some other teams pulled in to help where necessary!).

This project could never have made it off the design table without the talent of Jenna Kay, a Senior Instructional Designer on the team. Her amazing writing skills created the simulated team and situations our managers would use to test their coaching skills. If not for her, we would have had nothing to put on the iPads. She also ran our train-the-trainer event to introduce the eight facilitators to what they’d be doing in the workshop.

Hollis Burnett, another Senior ID on the team created all the tutorial movies – testing and re-testing to verify they would work well and look great on the iPad.

Jim Abbinanti, newly named Manager of Evaluation and Business Impact for ADP’s National Account Services client and associate L&P team, is our resident measurement and evaluation guru. He was responsible for the design of the new Coaching Community. If not for his insight and results-focused attitude, the impact on the organization may have ended once participants left the workshop. Instead, with the creative design of the new community, sales management now has an online environment to foster and support their coaching efforts.

David Hoch was the other talented player on this team. I can truly say that without his persistence on this project to find ways to make it work we would have never gotten there. Since the iPad is so new, much of what we planned to do no one had ever done before. David spent countless hours on the internet researching, talking with Apple’s tech support, and testing our ideas on the iPads to make sure they worked.

Finally, a special thanks to my boss, Lynn Ritter. She never removes her focus from what is relevant to the audience and the ultimate results to the business. Thank you, Lynn, for always pushing the boundaries to make us go where we’ve never been before and add that elusive “Wow” to everything we deliver.