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iManage, Issue #012 -- 3 Steps to Pain-Free Workplace Training Sessions
July 04, 2010

Do your Training Sessions Hurt? 3 Steps to Pain-Free Workplace Training

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 clip, discuss a case study, give a practical demonstration, arrange a small group exercise which gets people out of their seats. Make sure that what you choose to do is relevant to the training 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

When I first started training, I would list all the important bullet points on a flipchart and proceed to explain them. Attendees were soon asleep, despite my best efforts. The next time I was in front of a group, I tried something different.

I prepared what I felt were thought provoking questions relevent to the topic, and used these to start a discussion. After this the group came up with a better list of points than my own. And I received better feedback as a trainer, even though the group did all the work!

Trainers often shy away from 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 Us if you would like details on our in-company Trainer Skills programmes - both for beginners and more experienced trainers.

Or download the How to Train Others Ebook for lots of practical training tips.

Ann Halloran

Practical management skills advice for business owners and managers. Get best practice tips on a wide range of topics such as time management, leadership, communication skills, managing change and more.

Content based on 30 years management/consultancy experience gained in a wide range of business sectors.

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