This is not my idea of a fun topic for a hot summer day, but everyone tells me that compliance cannot be ignored. (It's also where the jobs are, in case you forgot.) So by popular demand (sadly, I'm not being totally sarcastic), I'm presenting some ways you can improve compliance training, courtesy of my pals over at Corporate Counsel.
To the credit of the authors (Ryan McConnell, a former assistant U.S. Attorney, and Gérard Sonnier, general counsel at Quanta Services Inc. in Houston), they know compliance is not everyone's drink of choice. So they're giving advice on how to liven up compliance training. They don't realize that they've chosen an impossible task.
Here are the six tips from Corporate Counsel (with my embellishments):
1. Engage the audience. "It is easier to learn through a conversation as opposed to a lecture. . . . Dialogue keeps students engaged, and the same concept applies to compliance training. The best training sessions involve audience interaction."
My suggestion: Use the Socratic method--it's the only surefire way to keep people "engaged." It'll also bring back some lovely memories of a lawyer's youth.
2. Explain concepts in simple terms. "This is sometimes difficult for lawyers to do. We understand complicated legal concepts and are used to talking to our colleagues who speak the same language."
Good luck with that.
3. Use hypotheticals. "Hypotheticals get the audience thinking about a problem in a realistic situation. If you are teaching a class about the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and discuss facilitation payments, you will get a lot more nodding heads if you first try to understand the context in which these types of payments come up and apply the training in the context of a hypothetical the audience understands."
Question: Do the authors mean "nodding heads" or "nodding off"?
4. Deploy humor carefully. "Many of us are not that funny. (We think we are funny . . .)"
If you need a reminder of the perils of humor, just think of the knock-knock joke by George Zimmerman's lawyer in Florida. Of course, he won, so maybe lame humor is better than none at all.
5. Don't rely just on the PowerPoint. "In compliance training, PowerPoint presentations can be a crutch for ineffective presenters. . . . Talk to your audience instead so they can ask questions and understand the concepts."
But why stop there? I'd use props—Muppet puppets, balloon animals, whatever it takes to effectively explain all the nuances of compliance.
6. Don't let the duds spoil the karma. "Some people do not like talking to other people. You know who they are. It does not mean they are not effective lawyers, but they should not do your training. Computer-based training always gets a bad rap, but the effectiveness of live training depends on your presenters. If you have a dud in your organization who can't talk to people, computer training may be the answer."
So after all the emphasis on human interaction, heart-pounding hypotheticals, and raucous humor—what do the authors ultimately advocate? Training by computers! What did I tell you? There's really no real way to make this most unlively topic lively.
So, if you're in charge of compliance training, just do what you got to do. And if you're on the receiving end, my advice is to take an Advil and attend the session. Treat it like a dental visit: It's boring, unpleasant, and seemingly interminable—but it's good for you and, given the job market, probably necessary.