Authors, editors, publishers and booksellers all know they have to compete for readers' attention -- beginning with enticing that potential buyer to pick their book off the shelf. What's this got to do with law enforcement training? Most of you have "captive" audiences -- recruits or officers who have to attend your training -- right? So why bother coming up with a title that piques curiosity and has recruits or officers wanting to know what comes next?
First, trainers know that officers will perform as they train -- each and every step. The same is true of trainers. That's right -- you. If you're working to make your training engaging -- from the start --you're more likely to keep working that way throughout. You, too, will perform as you train -- each and every step.
Second, coming up with a title that connects with recruits or officers makes you focus -- from the very beginning -- on what? The learner. That's a good thing. Instead of focusing on what you're going to say, the focus should be on what your learners need to be able to do and what the training must give them so they can do it. There's no better time to begin focusing on learner benefits than at the outset.
Finally, whether we acknowledge it, we compete for our learners' attention. The fact that recruits or officers may have to attend our training, doesn't ensure they will:
These four things have to occur for our training to have any real benefit. Motivating our learners to listen, learn, remember, and then -- out on the job -- to act can begin with a title that sparks their curiosity and emphasizes the benefits of the training for them. It's much easier to put information into a mind and heart that are open and engaged.
There's one more reason to work on a training title that interests and enlivens. It's more fun -- for you and your learners. So, let's look at a few tips from the publishing industry, combine those tips with the learner benefits of your training, and have some fun. (These tips work just as well for a training article -- like this one.)
Top 5 Secrets to Attention Grabbing Training Titles.
(Do you see an idea here for a title?)
A common problem with training titles is they are boring. The other problem is they focus on the subject matter -- what is going to be said -- rather than what the learner will gain. In his book The Freelance Success Book -- Insider Secrets for Selling Every Word You Write, (a title that leaves no doubt about the reader benefit), David Taylor looks at patterns for winning titles. Let's see how we might apply some to law enforcement.
- The "How to ... and ... " pattern puts the entire focus on the benefit to the learner. Amongst Taylor's examples are:
- How to Eat More and Lose Weight
- How to Make Money and Stay at Home
- Magic Words
in a title/subtitle pattern like Secret, Breakthrough and Revolutionary grab attention, while the subtitle delivers the goods. Here's some more advertising words you can begin to work with: Powerful -- Latest -- Best -- Proven -- Easy -- Guaranteed -- Special -- Superior Versatile -- First-rate -- Successful -- Instant -- Surprising -- Unique -- Handy Phenomenal -- Unusual -- Reliable -- Tested -- Startling
Magazine ads, TV, the Internet, radio or a thesaurus can provide you plenty more. Applying magic words to this article produces: Powerful Training Titles: Tested Secrets Guaranteed to Make Yours a Hit or Breakthrough Being Ordinary -- The Complete Guide to Sensational Training Titles. You try it.
- Ask a question. Questions open minds. They invite you to think. Open, thinking minds are good things for a trainer to create. It makes the next step so much easier. Which sparks more interest: Patrol Procedures to Enhance Officer Safety or What If You Went on Patrol and Never Came Home? Police Report Writing or What If a Defense Attorney Fed You Your Report Word by Word in Open Court? Take your subject and turn it into a question about what might happen to officers without your training.
- Use a flag that hails. A flag cries out to the learner to stop and look. For example, Attention Officers! Cut Your Report Writing Time in Half or Run for It! Proven Techniques for Cover and Concealment. After the flag, follow up with the training benefit. Applied to this article: Trainers -- Look! Don't Miss These 5 Secrets to Attention Grabbing Titles. Give it a try.
- Solutions. Our culture touts fast, easy solutions to many challenges -- obesity, relationships, addictions, success. While "easy" rarely applies to policing -- offering solutions isn't a bad thing. Applied to this article, we might see: Proven Tips for Great Training Titles that Don't Strain Your Brain. Solutions focus on benefits for learners. A specific number can provide an overall structure to the training. Instead of Cold Water Survival, how about Ten Tips for Staying Afloat When the Water's *&%#@% Freezing! Trooper Ryan Loudermilk of the Kentucky State Police has a great example. He changed the title of a training he provides civilians from Common Sense Personal Safety to Prepared Not Paranoid.
Applying this pattern to this article yields How to Write Titles That Make Officers Beg for More. Try the "How to ... and ... " with one of your topics.
There are two "yeah, but"s to this article. The first is a cop out. The second is VERY important.
First, to naysayers who raise the obstacle, "Yeah, but, POST expects to see lesson plans with the titles they're used to seeing. They won't certify my engaging title," I have two responses. One, these bureaucracies are way behind the adult learning theory curve and you can tell them I said so. One of the basic tenets of adult learning theory is the need to focus on learner benefits. Training titles that stress learner benefits are the quintessential application of adult learning theory. If telling POST this works, you have to let me know. But the improbability of success in a direct approach with a bureaucracy does not excuse you from being an innovative, effective trainer. So here's my second response. Give POST what it's comfortable with, even though it contravenes adult learning theory. That doesn't have to dictate what you say or do in your training, handouts or PowerPoint. You can appease the powers so they don't have to stretch their bureaucratic comfort zones and still do the wise and engaging thing with your learners.
The VERY important "Yeah, but," is to give your titles the "courtroom test." This test has you on the witness stand being cross-examined by an experienced defense attorney in a criminal case (or plaintiff's attorney in a civil lawsuit) whose sole, white-hot focused purpose is to discredit you. Are you comfortable with what you've done?
Beat 'em, Bop 'em, Whop 'em and Stop 'em -- Teaching Dirt Bags the ASP Baton Blues may spike EEGs, but it's problematic. However, you can still apply humor to a serious subject, as in ASP Baton Ballet -- Becoming a Prima Ballerina. If a defense attorney wants to try and make hay out of that, as a former prosecutor I'm comfortable responding,
"Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury, these officers go to work every day knowing they may not go home to their families at the end of their shift. They know the work is serious. If a little humor helps them shoulder that risk, Defense Counsel needs to lighten up."
Humor in training can be a good thing. We usually like to spend time with people who make us laugh. When your learners want to spend time in your training, it's not only effective; it's gratifying.
Win a Hummer or Glock. It's Easy. Just Enter This Contest.
Send your old title along with your new, improved title to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I'll arbitrarily judge them and pick a Grand Prize Winner and some runners up. Feel free to send multiple entries.
If you're still having trouble coming up with a new title, here's another adult learning theory tip. Ask the officers or recruits you train for their ideas. Adult learners want to participate in their training. It's called ownership.
Remember what I said about humor? Actually the prize for you winners will be to appear in a future column of mine along with your photo (if you want), your old title and your new title -- and to be hailed and mailed to The Letterman Show for a Top Ten Police Training Titles. Get those entries in!