In a recent project, we were asked to squeeze an interactive 2-day training into one day. This reminds me of a bachelor event we put together for a soon-to-be-married pal. Before someone accuses me of binge drinking on the training budget, let me clarify this analogy.
The theme of the bachelor event was inspired by Ocean’s Eleven (and later in the evening: Twelve and Thirteen). At first, this theme had inspired us to stuff 24 hours with as many exiting activities as we could possibly think of. I’m glad we were so clever to leave out half. This freed up the time for a decent build-up of every activity. For the same reason, I’m glad we didn’t stuff 16 hours of training into 8.
We often think of a training session as a one-way transfer of knowledge. The agenda is composed of content blocks. In order to facilitate successful learning, we need to think of the learning dynamics too. The more content we want to ‘process’, the more dynamics are likely to be pushed out.
Here are 5 common ‘shortcuts’, but what they cut most is your learning experience:
- “Skip the warm-up, it’s not a team building.” Before they are receptive for new content, people need to disconnect from their day-to-day jobs, to commit to the learning group and be prepared to have an open mind. Without the open mind, we are likely to block new insights and for instance perceive an empathy exercise as “nothing new from a closing-the-deal training” we’ve attended previously.
Don’t start without a decent warm-up. A warm-up doesn’t have to be a game or something silly. There are enough warm-ups that you can link to the actual content of the training. (I’ll dedicate another blog to that soon)
- “Shorten the intro, they’ve read the invite.” If you have 15 participants, you have 15 different ‘why we are here’s’ and 15 different sets of expectations. Plus, it would not be the first time participants have not been decently briefed on the actual training content. Because of this, some participants will sit out an entire training, only to evaluate it against the ‘wrong’ expectations.
So first, frame the reason for the training and make it clear what they can expect. Also take 5’ to agree on learning or collaboration rules. Then, let’s talk content.
- “Don’t share the experience after each exercise, they know what they did.” I agree when sharing means repeating everything you just did. But the purpose is to share what you discovered when you applied a new technique or skill. In a role-play exercise, how dit you experience the impacts on others (and how did they)? How did the relationship alter between ‘an employee’ and ‘a client’? Sharing is needed to make observations explicit and to gain a maximum of different insights from everyone in the group.
- “They can reflect in the car during the ride back home.” Reflection is not a gadget in a gift bag. Reflections in between exercises or blocks of content help insights ‘sink in’ (thank you #hyperisland). Introverts, still one third to half of the population, need this time to process. Or to put your mind to rest (‘a whitespace moment’). Extraverts are welcome to exchange in duos if the silence is killing them.
- “One more thing… While you put on your coats, tell me how you will apply all this.” Key to the success of a training session is its training transfer: how acquired skills or knowledge can be put into practice. This starts with the simple perception that the transfer is possible (hence the need to debrief and reflect). You need to think of concrete situations and conversations in which you’ll apply what you’ve learned. Think of a way to measure and talk it through with a coaching buddy. Training transfer starts in the training.
Next time you organize a training, build it around half of the topics you initially intended to.
P.S. Should you feel tempted to squeeze in more, think of a XL guy in a L shirt: it’s too tight to be comfortable and it’s hard to breathe in.