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10 Ways to Toughen up Your Training

Offering tips to professional trainers about training feels a bit like a punch-line from one of those, ͞No, but I slept at a Holiday Inn Express commercials.

We soldier on anyway, because in our quest to be informative we may inspire you, and in turn, help you inspire others. Plus, information on the topic changes quickly (in part because of new technology), everyone can benefit from a refresher, and it’s a topic appropriate for our audience.

Marathon Athlete in wheelchairMost of the tactics on the list below share a commonality – they attempt to steer the trainer clear of a pitfall in the practice, that of talking at an audience for an hour or four. Experience tells us that more info will be absorbed and retained if participants (think of the trainees that way) are engaged in the training.

So, approach training with these tips in mind:

1. Tell Stories
The idea goes that through relevant, meaningful material presented in story mode – perhaps a mix of visuals, compelling characters and enticing narrative (true or fictional) – your learners can become more emotionally connected to what they are learning. And by tying emotions to content, that content becomes easier to recall. Plus, who doesn’t like a good story? Google storytelling for training to find useful resources (workshops, templates, books, etc.) on how to get started.

2. Make it Conversational…and Let the Conversation Roll
The simplest way to engage the trainees is by talking to them, not at them. A back-in-forth exchange demands engagement. And don’t be too quick to cut off conversations. You don’t want to alienate your audience or miss something of value, and most times such discussions find a natural ending.

3. Pace for Short Attention Spans Even if you read this far, you are probably aware that while attention spans vary, they seem to be growing shorter as the stimuli for our attention increase. Per Wikipedia, our transient attention (short term distraction/attraction) may be as short as eight seconds, while our selective sustained (focused) attention span is 10 minutes. Either way, present your material in manageable pieces. Change your cadence. Use visuals. Move around. And break up your session with some of the tips listed here (stories, conversations, etc.).

4. Know Your Audience and Speak Their Language
One day in our future perfect society, this item won’t make the list. But, sometimes we don’t do our homework. Or, sometimes the audience is just too generic to identify. Still, try to get a picture of who you are training and adjust your material and terminology accordingly. Use sales lingo for sales folks, or tell IT stories to your IT trainees.

5. Make Your Content Timely and Relevant
In a somewhat similar vein, find a means to make your material timely and relevant to your audience. Tying it, say, to current events is going to improve recall. Explain changes in your HR benefits in light of the impact of the Affordable Care Act, or new practices on the assembly line as part of a broader effort to pursue (more) lean manufacturing.

6. Ask Questions
Sure, this one is ͞old school͟ tried and true. But you will keep your audience more engaged if you periodically prod them with questions. No one wants to be that person who wasn’t paying attention and as a result fails to answer the simplest of questions. Also, if a participant asks a question, throw it back out to the group to see who might have the answer. You might create viral engagement.

7. Use the Element of Surprise
Ever see those YouTube videos of kittens playing accompanied by happy music, interrupted abruptly by a scary face that pops on the screen with a scream behind it that may be the soundtrack, or it may have come from you? Don’t do that. But do try to work in a surprise here or there. It might be using humor, setting up a big reveal, or bringing out a special guest. Done wisely, surprise will encourage participation and aid in recall.

8. Try Gamification
Using game-type thinking and competition in non-game contexts have proven effective in engaging participants to learn and solve problems. Naturally, it’s taken off in areas like marketing and education. But, you don’t have to buy an app and point every trainee to it on their mobile devices to pull this off. Go to a bookstore or and you can find resources to show you how to incorporate game-type activities to augment your training programs.

9. Incorporate Polling
Technology would be helpful for simple, instantaneous polling of your audience using questions presented on an app on their mobile devices. However, you can still conduct informal polling periodically during your training sessions to keep your audience engaged and thinking about how they feel about the content presented.

10. Smile. Be Energetic. Be Personal and Approachable– and Happy to be There
What’s the saying about catching more flies with honey than vinegar? It mostly applies here, except that you probably shouldn’t bring messy food like honey to your training or view your audience as insects. But be enthusiastic. And act like you want to be there. Your learners will read into anything less and be more prone to disengage.

These tips for engagement are meant to complement good training content presented professionally. Forget that part and these tips are just sizzle.

If you would like to share your thoughts on great ways to make training engaging,  contact us.  If you have questions about Learning Stream or class registration software, feel free to call toll-free (866.791.8268 ext. 0) or reach out anytime.

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