We've all been there. Dull, boring, bland. Some training sessions just make us want to go back to our office and take a nap under the desk George Costanza style.
Fortunately, there's a better way. As a training session facilitator, here are three ways to increase engagement and impact in your events.
Understand the level of knowledge of the participants in advance
Nothing causes people to disengage more quickly than training that's above or below their level of knowledge. Think about it, if your level is algebra 2 and out of the gates the training starts at calculus 4, it's unlikely you're going to get much out of it. Similarly, if your level is algebra 2 and the session begins with simple addition, you'll probably find every excuse to do something else like Words with Friends or go for a water break for the 17th time.
How do you prevent this from happening? First, understand the level of knowledge of your participants before training begins. That way, you can tailor the training to better meet their needs. If all the participants are at the same level, it's easy to match the training to where they're at. If the participants are at different levels, your job as the facilitator becomes harder. This is where creativity comes into play to ensure all participants get value out of the training session. Generally, the training should be geared more towards the lower skills levels in the group rather than higher skill levels. Some ideas for this type of situation are:
Higher skilled participants can act as mentors or guides for the less experienced participants during interactive parts of the training. Setting up this pairing in advance will help the training run more smoothly and show the higher skilled participants you're considering their needs in the session.
Higher skilled participants can be asked in advance to help with parts of the training. They may be able to showcase work they've done related to the training topic and show how the skills from the training can be applied in everyday tasks.
Include examples of higher level application of the content from the training to engage higher skilled participants and show lower skilled participants what's possible as their skills progress.
Use humor to convey the message
Most training sessions focus solely on the topic at hand. Facilitators want to make sure they convey all the important points. However, people engage more readily when they're having fun or are entertained. A good way to encourage this is to weave humor throughout the training session. I'm not saying a facilitator needs to moonlight as a comedian, but adding some fun to your session will bring a lot of value. There are plenty of options and here are a few I've found to be effective:
Use memes (the equivalent of political cartoons of the past) and comic strips (think Dilbert or Pearls Before Swine) to break the ice or when returning from breaks. For a simple example, reference George Constanza and The Nap above. Be careful when selecting these as you need to be sensitive/respectful of the participants. Avoid things like politics and religion.
Use relevant stories to emphasize points. People don't need to hear about the person that cut you off in traffic, but they may find value in how you applied one of the training topics to solve a manufacturing problem, for example.
Incorporate amusing videos to break up the monotony and demonstrate a point. For a great example of this in action, watch Derek Sivers TED talk about How to Start a Movement. Note how he incorporated a video of a dancing man to teach the principles he wanted to convey.
Build interaction into the session
Sitting in a seat watching a screen for multiple hours is boring (unless you're binge watching a series on Netflix with a pint of Ben and Jerrys, apparently). A facilitator needs to find ways to get participants involved. This is even more challenging now as many training sessions are done virtually. Fortunately, there are ways to get past this:
For virtual sessions, require participants to attend the session with their cameras on. It's not a guarantee to increase engagement, but people are more likely to pay attention when they know people can see them.
Incorporate small group breakout sessions into the training. This could be done to work through examples of the content just learned or practice application of the content through mock scenarios (ex: learning how to coach someone during an LPA may be the topic of the session and you could have participants practice coaching each other). Doing this in a digital environment is getting easier as breakout rooms are being incorporated in software like Microsoft Teams.
Utilize brainstorming, affinity diagrams, go and sees, and other interactive approaches as much as possible in sessions, where appropriate. Content is more readily assimilated when people apply the principles they're learning. If brainstorming is done, utilize Mind Maps or similar approaches to make things more interactive and interesting. If you do a go and see, have people take notes on Sticky Notes and have them post them in like groups on a white board. For a virtual session, utilize SaaS like Miro to allow the team to create their own sticky notes and engage in the session.
Training is only as valuable as what the participants get out of it. If the session bores the participants to tears, their time was wasted and morale took a hit. The good thing is all this can be avoided with a little preparation and foresight. As a facilitator, it's your job to make the training worthwhile and value add. The three methods listed above are a good starting point to make your sessions that much better.
If you need help improving your existing training content, developing new content, or want a turn key solution facilitated by The Quality Awakening, reach out to us by filling out the contact form on our training page to see how we can help you increase the value of your training initiatives.