Thursday, 30 April 2009

Singing the praises of voice coaching

By John Humphries, Training Consultant, Maven Training (as a follow-on from Singing Lessons for Trainers, posted in this blog by another of our Training Consultants, Joe French).

Voice lessons are invaluable. When I started freelancing I met a voice coach from a drama school. In three one-on-one lessons I had learned:

1) how good body posture (incorporating Alexander Technique exercises) helps projection
2) how better breathing helps volume, pitch, modulation and projectio
3) some hints on relaxation and that drinking water at room temperature rather than chilled is better for quenching your thirst.

By the fourth lesson I’d made dramatic vocal improvements and increased in confidence.

I now take refresher lessons every couple of years as a ‘voice health check’ and to work on improving articulation and diction. This is vital for ensuring that audiences can make out the words I’m saying, which is critical on our international classes and when delivering webinars. A single voice lesson takes about an hour and can be quite exhausting, but also strangely relaxing. There are many good voice trainers around. They represent really good value in terms of the benefits you’ll reap. There’s usually no commitment to engage in a series of lessons and you’ll know pretty quickly whether you’re both going to get on. That’s important when you’re expected to do some stuff which is going to put you well out of your comfort zone!

The learning and the exercises need to be embedded into your routine. Just be careful when you’re preparing your voice just before a class – you don’t want to unduly scare your students (or fellow passengers!

Singing ability isn’t on my CV. My voice is somewhat flat and I’m tone-deaf (which is odd, because I’m from Wales) so I don’t do karaoke. For me, the benefits of voice training are validated when I’m training with international audiences who are pleased that they have understood everything I have said (which is also odd, because I’m from Wales!).

Monday, 27 April 2009

Still on the subject of PRINCE2 for Girls…

Yes, we know we have been talking A LOT about this specific course of ours, PRINCE2® for Girls, but this is only because everyone keeps talking about it!

See here what one of the lucky girls who attended the very first event, Sonya Arora, has to say on the topic – and far below, lots and lots of links where you will find comments on this much talked about event!

Delegate Feedback from Sonya Arora

“I would just like to say a big thank you to everyone at Maven Training (now that I have my result!). From the moment of booking to the last day of the course I found that everyone was extremely helpful and welcoming. I had not originally booked the PRINCE2 for Girls but was called by Maven who offered the alternative course to me. I must say that I'm glad that I went for this course over the original PRINCE2 one – the classroom environment was comfortable and non-competitive (something that in previous courses I have taken I found intimidating). The trainer was great and made the whole subject relevant and more understandable, while making it feel like fun. The massage session was great and extremely needed by the end – I think it was a really good-wind down after an intensive week and also gave us the first opportunity to sit together and get to know each other without the pressures of exams over us. I will be recommending Maven Training to friends and colleagues! Many thanks".

External links

Maven Training blog post “we can’t get enough”
Maven Training blog post “Easter snippets”
Maven Training blog post “WiT”
also from Focus
Women in Technology

Friday, 24 April 2009

GETEX – Dubai 2009

By William Franklin, Client Relations Director at Maven Training.

"So, why do you want to take an MBA?" was our common response to the question from delegates of "Do you run MBAs?". After four days at the most significant educational and HR exhibition in the Middle East, we were able to gain an extraordinary insight into the psyche of their educational environment.

GETEX, the largest education fair in the Middle East & Asia, held in Dubai from the 15th to the 18th April 2009 in the International Convention Centre, was opened by H.H. Sheikh Nahayan Bin Mubarak Al Nahayan, Minister of Higher Education & Scientific Research. During his review of the exhibitors, he stopped to discuss the services Maven Training was offering to Emiratis as well as to the Gulf region as a whole. As can be seen from the photographs, the conversation was both engaging and amusing.

Delegates attending the exhibition over the four days ranged from school children to experienced professionals but all were looking for one thing: how to develop their own educational base to improve career prospects, whether in the U.A.E or overseas. As Maven Training was the only provider of internationally accredited qualifications that would be gained through undertaking short courses of only 5 days, our stand attracted a lot of attention. In particular, the concepts of PRINCE2® and PMI® were well received as these offer delegates access to Best Practice international project management skills for application both in the Gulf as well as facilitating moves to Australia, the UK or Europe.

The most surprising outcome from the exhibition was the level of enquiry surrounding our internationally recognised 3-day Change Management course. Approximately 70% of the qualified conversations we had were from individuals or organisations looking to address the massive organisational changes being experienced in the Gulf at the moment. What they found attractive was that through a Best Practice approach to addressing change, they would be able to maintain stability, if not growth, in the current economic climate. Unusually, we were even able to obtain commitments to training on the day rather than the usual 4-8 week buying cycle usually associated with exhibitions.

On the subject of MBA's, when most delegates were asked to qualify what they would get from one, most could not. So, if any of you reading this are thinking about spending your time and money on such an in-depth qualification, make sure you understand what you will get out of it and how you will apply the learning when you re-enter the work place. Many delegates found comfort in discussing their outcomes and also saw the benefit of taking an international qualification alongside their MBA to further improve chances of career development.

Overall, GETEX 2009 was a successful event and we wish all those that came to visit us the best for the rest of 2009.

Thursday, 23 April 2009

The Importance of Being a Weekender

By Melanie Franklin, CEO, Maven Training

I was working at our Training Centre last Friday when I met up with the delegates for our latest weekend course. It was really interesting hearing about what had made them voluntarily swap Saturday and Sunday with their friends and family for training, revision and exams – especially as those taking the Practitioner part of the course come back on the second weekend take the Practitioner exam.

A popular reason is that delegates have contractor roles which mean that if they attend a course Monday to Friday they will have to give up five days of their daily rate, which is never an appealing prospect. Another reason is that employers will not release staff for training, but people still want to update their CVs and get qualifications that evidence their skills and experience. I think a lot of people feel vulnerable to redundancy at the moment, and up-to-date qualifications is essential when applying for new positions. Some delegates are taking the course in their own time, and the weekend course means they don't have to keep up their holiday allowance to get new qualifications.

These courses have proved so popular for PRINCE2® that we are now offering them for MSP™ and M_o_R® and the response has been overwhelming.

If any of the factors I have mentioned relate to you, have a look at our course schedule to book your ”Weekend Away with Maven Training” – it might not be as much fun as a city break or a trip to a spa, but the results are a lot longer lasting!

PRINCE2® Weekend courses
MSP™ Weekend courses
M_o_R® Weekend courses

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

The Project Management Market – a survey by Arras People

Our friends at Arras People – project management & project office recruitment specialists – have carried out their fourth annual survey of the UK project management market. Having interviewed 1,200 project managers, and building on the picture from previous surveys, this one shows how the current economic climate is affecting salaries, aspirations and professional issues.

Arras People estimate that there are nearly 80,000 people working as project managers in the UK alone, and it classifies it as “an occupation which has evolved from short-term ‘task force’-type activities to a fully fledged professional career based on the effective management of change”.

Recession bites: according to the survey, it is only beginning to get tough, with 47% of contractors saying that the number of available contracts decreased in 2008 and 60% expecting cuts and redundancies in their sector. The number of employees who expect their salaries to remain unchanged – or even fall – in 2009, increased from 35 to 60% from last year’s survey.

Accreditations and qualifications: previous Arras People surveys have noted a continuing trend towards accreditation through qualification and/ or membership of a professional body.

Programme Office – has it caught on? Over 60% of respondents reported that their organisation had a PMO, with 35% of them working within one.

Salaries: there are both high and low earners in most roles across genders, but there is a pecking order: programme managers earn more than change managers, who earn a little more than project managers, and they all earn more than project staff. Higher salaries are on the private sector, the lower band is in the public sector, but the middle band has the same weight on both. And there is a gender gap: more males are on the higher salary brackets and more female in the lower ones.

The overwhelming majority of interviewees (a resounding 84%) believe that they have “a significant contribution to make in turning the UK economy around”. We think they are absolutely right in following Sir Winston Churchill’s advice: “When going through hell, keep going!”

If you would like to check the full report, just clck here.

Friday, 17 April 2009

PRINCE2 for Girls – we can’t get enough of it!

It is official: our first PRINCE2 for Girls course is a total HIT.

For starters, it generated a lot of news (we've even made some noise Down Under!) …and polemic: everyone was asking if it is fair to single out one gender from a course. Well, we never wanted to cause such stir; our aim was to offer all the ladies working in Project Management a chance to take part on a girly event! Now, boys, if you think there should be a PRINCE2 course just for you, just let us know your ideas and thoughts!

Speaking of the ladies, we heard from them that they had a great time on the ‘girls only’ environment and that they loved the post-exam massages, nibbles and nice music – we’re sure it helped them unwind from a difficult morning. However, the best news of them all is that ALL OF THEM PASSED THEIR PRACTITIONER EXAM WITH FLYING COLOURS! Congratulation, girls, we are really happy that you achieved this!

Our trainer Narinder Dhaliwal, a regular writer for this blog, trained these successful chicks and is sharing her thoughts with us today. Read on!

"What an interesting week I had back in March. I was running a PRINCE2 course for girls, how exciting! Well I must say having run the event it was all I had expected it to be and more. The week was full of fun, humour and plenty of questions! The ladies were all from professional backgrounds, and more interesting for me I had ladies from various parts of the world all sharing their own experiences from back home. This is what I love about training, it’s not just about training them on what PRINCE2 is, it’s also about us learning from them how they do projects now, and what experiences they have had of PRINCE2.

That week was no ordinary week for them either, as we had the G20 summit happening too, so as you can imagine not only were we focusing on PRINCE2, but we also talked plenty about what was happening outside on the streets – and we all know how close the Maven Training Centre is to the two main protest sites (Bank of England and Bishops Gate)! Well, I am pleased to say that all the ladies made it in every morning without fail, and we had no real problems at all.

To finish off I would like to say that from training perspective I found the training very interesting, as the ladies most certainly asked more questions compared to other courses I have run, when the guys can at times be the ones who ask the majority of the questions. I also found that the group mixed very well and it was clear to see that from day one. I would most certainly recommend more courses like this!"

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

BCS Debate – Making IT Projects work

We have just come back from the recording of the BCS Debate, “Making IT Projects Work”, where our CEO Melanie Franklin was a panellist along with David Hicks, CEO, RADTAC and Paul Major, CEO, Program Framework.

The debate, chaired by Brian Runciman, Managing Editor of the BCS , concentrated on discussing problems and solutions revolving around IT Projects. The high level of the participants brought interesting answers and comments on Project Management itself – amongst the questions answered was “Are project failures a perception or sheer reality?”. They discussed the real chances of acquiring more information about failed projects, the difference between projects and programmes (and the definition of both frequently seeming a bit “hazy”), projects that work, projects that don’t and why, and the benefits of a dedicated project office. However, it was the panellists’ years of project and programme management experience that drove the conversation to the human side of project management – knowing how to deal with the people who work in a particular project is as important as having a structured approach to managing it. The focus was on the migration of “techies” to project management, PM “lingo” on the way of success, how to engage people – including management of board expectations.

The debate will be available within a couple of weeks and it will be available as a vodcast on this blog and on the Maven Training, BCS, IT Training Magazine and Computing Magazine websites – WATCH THIS SPACE!

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Singing Lessons for Trainers

By Joe French, Training Consultant

Like most other trainers, when not delivering courses, I spend a lot of time learning the subject matter, course materials, student activities, exam developments etc. But it was only at the beginning of last year that I realised I had never done anything to develop the tool I use more than any other: my voice.

As it happens, I am quite musical, and I fancied improving my (musical) voice anyway, but I thought I could also take the opportunity to get some advice about voice technique for training. I found a nearby singing teacher/voice technician and, trepidatiously, went for my first lesson.

The first surprise was that we hardly did any singing at all for the first half hour! We looked at posture, back position, exhaling and "getting in touch with the animal within" (it got quite drama-schooley at times!)

After floor exercises, breathing routines, and a few fine adjustments to posture I found, as if by magic, that the note that came out when I finally did sing was about twice as powerful as I had ever sung in my life. It was quite miraculous!

In total I only had three lessons, but that has given me permanent benefits in terms of singing, and has, I believed, improved my abilities as a trainer. Hard to measure, but for those parts of a course when one has to talk through slightly dry subjects, I find I command delegates' attention a little more than before, and have received positive feedback on that aspect of my training.

The singing led me into the Alexander Technique: a general approach to posture and movement which is used by all sorts of people but especially singers, musicians and actors. Whether or not singing is for you, I would recommend the Alexander Technique, to anybody. You will be amazed at how much it can improve all sorts of aspects of your professional and general life.

I once read a training article which said that the greatest visual aid any trainer has is his/her own body. I wholeheartedly agree. Add the amazing audio aid we have all been given in our voices, and you wonder why so few trainers emphasise developing these aspects of their work!

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Pre-Easter News Snippets

Extra! Extra! There is always an awful lot happening in the world of Maven Training and ever since we launched this blog we haven’t been short of news and articles to share with you. I suppose that’s what we get for being such a dynamic, innovative organisation!

So, dear readers, here are three important pieces of information we would like to talk about before you all (and us as well!) disappear on the – hopefully sunny and relaxing – Easter holidays.

PRINCE2:2009 – Official launch date announced

Best Management Practice – consisting of the OGC (Office of Government Commerce), the official accreditors APMG and official publishers TSO – have announced the 16th June 2009 as the official launch of PRINCE2:2009. More information can be found within Lead Author Andy Murray's official PRINCE2:2009 blog .

PRINCE2 for Girls – it was HOT!
By Nick Tipping, Marketing Executive at Maven Training – and not a girl, despite the hours of intensive hair care.

We ran our first ever PRINCE2 for Girls course last week from the 30th March – 3rd April and it was an astounding success!

Working in Marketing at Maven Training I went to our Training Centre myself at the end of the course to chat to some of the delegates and we received some very positive feedback. Appreciating the fact that the girls had been on a very intense long week of training and had undertaken two examinations, we decided to create a post-event “wind down” session, which consisted of massages, music and little nibbles laid out for them to indulge into. On top of this they had a chance to chat and ask questions about anything they wanted – from Maven Training’s services to the meaning of life! The brilliant Narinder (Girl Trainer Extraordinaire and contributor to this very blog), who trained the course, was there to network – and we even had a special guest appearance from Elizabeth Harrin from pm4girls, whom a couple of delegates knew about and whose blog they were regular readers!

It was a great chance to learn a lot more about the delegates’ experiences and hear their thoughts on the PRINCE2 for Girls concept. The overall view was that it gave some of the more timid members of the group the power and confidence to interact more freely with their other colleagues. The ‘girls only’ learning zone created a nurturing and inspirational experience and made some delegates more relaxed. What I also found interesting was learning what people’s expectations were – not just for a PRINCE2 course but for a ‘Maven Training PRINCE2 course’. After speaking to some of our delegates who had taken courses with our competitors previously, it was great to see they held us in such high esteem and would recommend our company to their friends and colleagues.

A few hours – and glasses of wine – later, people were starting to drift away to make their journey home but it was great to see them smiling, in a great mood and ready to go home for the weekend. If anyone is interested in the next course, this will be taking place on the 22nd June with more massages, more wine and more relaxation post-course!

Maven Training joins the BCS Debates

A week from now, on the 15th April, our CEO Melanie Franklin will be a panellist on the next BCS Debate, “Making IT Projects Work”.

The BCS Debates are part of the BCS website. They run every three months (it has been running for around a year now) and are based on topics involved with the IT Sector.

BCS is the UK’s leading industry body for IT professionals and the awarding body for Chartered IT Professional (CITP) status. Established in 1957, they now have over 65,000 members in more than 100 countries. They send out weekly newsletter to people in project management, women in IT, young professionals, Security, students.

We have also worked very closely with IT Training, a sub-branch of BCS in the form of a magazine and e-newsletters. IT Training have even chosen us as one of the Top 50 IT Training organisations for two years in a row (2008 and 2009), and Melanie has conducted two interviews with IT Training Editor Helen Wilcox – one in 2008 and the last one finished last week.

In the debates they have carried out so far they have had CapGemini, QA, Totaljobsgroup, University of East London, Cisco, Kyocera Mita, Computer Aid, Memset, IBM, 7safe, Trend Micro, TSO, eLearning Network 2e2, Matrix42, Brightwave, Towards Maturity.

Watch this space for further news!

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Project Management Careers Clinics

Our friends at Arras People are celebrating their seventh anniversary this April and, to commemorate, they’re offering a series of several free Project Management Careers Clinics on the 27th April. Normally offered throughout each and every weekday at a nominal cost, the PMC Clinics were first offered for free at the Project Challenge Spring Show 2009 last month in Birmingham, to widespread acclaim and praise from those who participated.

"In a month where we have a lot of good memories to look back on, we felt that offering the clinics free of charge for one day during our birthday month would be the best way of saying thanks to the people who have been instrumental to our development these last seven years," said Dan Strayer, Marketing Co-ordinator at Arras People. "And when you get down to it, the Project Management Careers Clinic is one of the most popular tools we have to show that we are here for our candidates as well. Any way you cut it, everybody is a winner this month with Arras People."

The clinics themselves are 30 minute, 1-2-1 telephone consultations with the project management recruitment consultant are ideal for any project professional looking for advice on their careers. These career consultations can be accessed by anyone looking for help and advice in these areas:
• Facing redundancy - gain advice on refreshing your CV, applications, advice on what to do next
• Just started looking for a new role - is your CV doing the best it can for you?
• Long-term unemployment - gain advice on your CV and how to find your next role
• Looking to get into project management? Gain advice on your CV and practical tips on breaking into PM.
• Looking to switch careers? Gain advice and practical tips on getting into a project management role.
• Frustrated with your job search? CV health check and advice on what recruitment consultants are really looking for.
• Need to understand the job market? Advice on current salary and day rates in the UK project management market.
• Need advice on project management training? Understand more about the accreditations and courses UK employers look for.
• Careers development advice - Need external benchmarking information to help prepare you for an internal performance review or salary review? Not sure which direction you should take your career?
The Project Management Careers Clinics have been a popular and useful service to over 600 project management professionals over the last three years. Sign up here.

Monday, 6 April 2009

PRINCE2®, Curtains and Taxis

Graham Devine, Training Consultant at Maven Training and a regular contributor to this blog, shares with us the stories of two recent events he took part in. They both show how PRINCE2® is everywhere (and to think that Graham once wrote a post stating that PRINCE2® was Dead …)

Event 1
The situation is me in a taxi going from my hotel to a client’s training venue to start a PRINCE2® Practitioner course….

DRIVER – “Morning mate, where we goin’?”
ME – I give venue address and directions
DRIVER – “What are you doing today then Sir?”
ME – “I’m a trainer, going to start a course with a client”
DRIVER – “What’s the course about?”
ME – “Oh, it’s a Project Management professional method…well known in some circles…the client wants to use it to become better at managing changes to its work”
DRIVER – “Is that PRINCE2® then sir?”
ME – slightly taken aback…taxi drivers with knowledge of PRINCE2® is unusual….”Er, well, yes…it is actually…”
DRIVER – cutting in…”We used it in my last job in the Post Office you know, me and some of my colleagues were involved in many PRINCE2® projects….”
We arrive……

Event 2
My wife, bless her, recently started curtain design & making classes at the local Adult Education Centre (we’ve just moved house you see, and she has always fancied doing her own bespoke interior furnishings)

ME – arriving home….”Hi dear….how was your day? Curtain class fun today?”
WIFE – “The kitchen blinds are nearly ready to be put up and I’ve just started the door curtain too”
ME – “That’s good…perhaps we can put the blinds up on Saturday”
WIFE - “Yes. The girls (that’s the curtain making girls in her class) and I went out for a coffee and a sandwich after our class – they are a hoot you know. I got talking about us and what you do dear…..”
ME – “Oh yes….that’s nice….” I wasn’t really listening intently I’m afraid, I was already in my mind working out dimensions for curtain battening and thinking what size masonry drill to use on Saturday…(that’s boys for you!).
WIFE – continuing….”…three of the girls know all about PRINCE2® you know, two of them have partners who are city-based Project Managers and the third took a PRINCE2® course for professional certification because she is a consultant….”
ME – I’m thinking what the odds are of four people in a group of eight curtain making ladies knowing PRINCE2® intimately!

The presence of Project Management knowledge and its application has seen tremendous rise in the last few years and PRINCE2® has been the preferred ‘method’ for most – top tier organisations have known about the benefits of a structured project management approach for years, the middle tiers are well past 50% ‘uptake’ and the SME chunk is catching up.

PRINCE2® as a qualification and appropriately project management skilled staff is now a ‘must have’ competence for many organisations and individuals.

Freelance, consulting and contracting workers especially, know that they have to have the qualification on their CV – if not then they know they will not get past the first filter ‘cut’ for jobs or contracts.

If PRINCE2® is indirectly supporting 50% of the domestic revenue of households (based on my small curtain making sample group) and a taxi driver knows of it, then there must be something in it!

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

That’s quality, that is!

By Sarah Hammond, Quality Manager at Maven Training

Maven Training is pleased to announce that following our annual audit we have been awarded the ISO9001:2008 quality standard. In fact we are one of the first organisations in the UK to achieve this accreditation for the new standard. This is a testament to the dedication that the whole team at Maven Training has to ensuring that we continue to provide the best possible service to all our clients.