Trainings are an essential part of every professional’s life. Have you ever had a particularly great training session, which made you eager to take part every step of the way? You must have also had at least one that seemed endless in its tedious length, and had you counting down the minutes until you could make a getaway.
Maybe the trainer wasn’t clear, they treated it like a lecture, or simply went on without a break. Hang on– it wasn’t you who conducted such a session, was it? Even if it was, and your trainees came out wondering if they learned anything at all, we are going to give you tips to make sure they excel the next time around.
The Expected Outcome
It is imperative that the goal of any session is to give a clear message to their attendees. What are they going to get out of it? At an effective training session by General Motors for its employees, every attendee was expected to train the individuals who reported to them back on the job.
To be able to train others after a training session is a good standard to measure your teachings, and an excellent motivator to keep your trainees on their toes for better retention. It also helped that the trainer
was a senior executive from their own company, so they knew he had the sufficient knowledge and experience they could learn from and implement at their own levels.
The better the participants are able to relate the knowledge to their real lives, the better their retentive capacity. Consequently, this spells an effective training session.
Involve Your Participants
At a training session where the trainer is largely setting the tone of the show, the participants are likely going to be glazed over soon enough for they aren’t engaged in the session anymore.
Becca Hammer, the Director of Training at Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and JS Online, says that a participating audience retains the training material better. She gets them to break into groups and initiate active discussions, or get up and move around the room for a ‘gallery walk’ to observe charts placed there by herself, or the trainees’ own work during the session proceedings.
It is a good idea to get the participants to read the comments out loud (perhaps posted by them on the gallery walk, or written down as part of an activity), or draw an inference on some case study for instance. This ensures that the trainees stay alert and hungry for more, since they know they can be called upon to share.
Many trainees have valuable experiences to share, and stories to relate from experiences that can keep the session varied and interesting. The different voices bring fresh perspectives and allow everyone to relax while they learn some more and come back to the session refreshed.
How else will you find out if they are learning up to, or just sitting without learning anything? Becca Hammer says she calls them to speak/give their input, but it is difficult to find out how your trainees are doing in case of an online session, so she prepares short quizzes for review throughout the training. They can be anything from quick revisions, polls, etc. that break up the monotony and make it a result-oriented session.
Trainers usually opt for evaluation forms towards the end of a training session. You can have more than one too. Make a quiz to evaluate your attendees’ learning, and get feedback that can help you become a better trainer too.
Skim through a few random ones to get an idea of where your trainees are at (perhaps during a quick rejuvenating break?), and then modify your outline slightly to cover the ground that feels shaky from their responses.
Evaluation forms meant for your personal feedback as a trainer are meant to be viewed after the session when you have wrapped up and have some peace of mind. A few negative responses here and there don’t matter, but a great number should compel you to look over your methods and material so more of your trainees can excel in the future. Each session is an opportunity for the trainer to learn and improve too.
Deliver in chunks
Divide your sessions into deliverable chunks that lead smoothly from one to the other, based on clearly outlines objectives. Small amounts of training delivered in chunks are better for learning and keeps your trainees hungry for more, because they are not overwhelmed, and allow easy implementation and practice.
If possible, you can also schedule your sessions in a series spread over a week or month, allowing your participants to put their training concepts into practice on the field, and come up with questions afterwards at your next session.
Continuous reinforcement of learning is ensured this way, and also allows the trainees to exchange their experiences with you as the moderator to facilitate learning and to nudge them in the right direction.
Become a First-Class Noticer
This was the title of an article by Harvard Business Review which talked about how critical noticing is to leader, be it a trainer, or a regular employee. It is most crucial to a trainer for you are expected to notice if everybody is in tune with the session, or somebody seems to have given up on you.
Use your senses to keep in tune with the changes happening around you; which resources get the job done in a simple yet efficient manner, which individuals are the ones who contribute the most, who are the silent ones that you need to coax out to check whether they are on the same page, which ones have an incredible idea to share, who are the disruptive ones and what signs do you need to watch out for before they ruin your session?
Sometimes, the attendants are merely there because they have been told to be there. Such reluctant
trainees may be more difficult, and consequently present a bigger danger to your session than any other. Difficult as it may be, your job is to try to get them to turn around.
Humor goes a long way towards breaking the tension in the room. However, it is never a good idea to call someone out in front of their peers. You can use a mix of activities to divert their attention and get more involved in the session. Go for a break if things get tough but if your focus is truly to get your trainees to excel, you may have to change tactics altogether to train those who truly want it.
Becca Hammer has some interesting tips for trainers: she says there is nothing under the sun that helps you see where you stand better than videotaping yourself during a session. Also, that you should try to go for fresh and new perspectives every time. The same training material ought not to be delivered the same way; sure, some strategies are time-tested and work best for a certain learning, but otherwise it is always a better idea to keep things moving and interesting.