I recently attended a number of training sessions for self improvement purposes. All were presented by very intelligent, enthusiastic and hard working trainers. They spoke clearly, knew lots about their topic, and were well qualified in their field. Yet the training was mind-numbingly painful.
Why? Because they were presenting, not training.
Attendees struggled to stay awake as information was fired at them over a period of hours, often without a break. I imagine that the trainers went home exhausted, as they had to work so hard to keep the momentum going.
If you have to run a training session in the near future, make sure that your attendees aren’t made to suffer. Training should be fun. When people are enjoying themselves, they will learn more and you will enjoy it too.
Here are three steps to making your training less painful for all concerned:
Step 1: Use an ice-breaker to warm up the group
You know what it is like at the beginning of a training session. Lots of awkward silences. The atmosphere is formal, even chilly. Break the ice within the first few minutes, by putting attendees in pairs and asking them to do an exercise. For example, allow them ten minutes to clarify with their partner what they want to take away from the session. After this they can explain it to the group as a whole. The fact that people are talking melts the ice and relaxes the attendees. And it gets them involved and thinking from the get go.
Step 2: Resist the temptation to impress
People can only listen for a maximum of 20 minutes. So even if you are in full flight, watch that you have some form of interaction after that time. Here are some suggestions: show a short video, discuss a case study, give a practical demonstration, arrange a small group exercise (which involves moving people out of their seats). It has to be relevant to the topic.
These are just some ideas that will change the momentum and keep up the energy level in the room. It helps to arrange your material into bite sized chunks, and to let people know when you are moving on to the next point.
Step 3: Learn the art of probing
It is very tempting to present a list of your favourite learning points to the group. Try turning these points into thought provoking, relevant questions instead. The group are likely to come up with a better list of points than you would have given them. And they will regard you as a great trainer, even though they did all the work!
As a trainer, you may avoid this approach, as it means you have less control. You might be afraid of where the discussion might lead to (if anywhere). But if you want to be a memorable trainer, you will need to take risks, and with practice you will find it gets much easier. So the next time you have to deliver a training session, surprise your audience with a well prepared, interactive format that they can enjoy – without suffering!
Contact me if you would like details on our in-company trainer skills programmes – both for beginners and more experienced trainers.