(7 + 1) Training Tips: Creating Amazing Learning Experiences

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If you’ve ever sat though a university lecture, you know that in less than forty-five minutes a professor will skim over tons of theories and concepts, jumping from idea to idea, leaving you in a state of bewilderment. Students are provided with the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle and then left to their own devices to make sense of it. The problems continue in the business world, where jargon filled PowerPoints flood the boardroom. There must be a better way.

Developing and delivering training that will make a measurable impact requires a fresh approach. There’s no cookie-cutter formula, but here are 7+1 lessons to get you thinking.

1. Less is more

Stop thinking about what topics you need to cover and start asking what messages just can’t be forgotten. Distil the one thing that must be remembered when all other things you have taught have been forgotten — and, rest assured, all other things will be forgotten. Instead of bombarding people with volumes of information, share with them a small number of digestible and insightful messages. As a very rough guide, allocating one key message per hour of training is a good start. Think about how you can best spend that hour reinforcing that message.

2. See it, hear it, feel it

Embrace the fact that different people learn in different ways. Forget the traditional teaching approaches used in universities, schools and corporate training rooms, and take note from kindergarten. Use visual language to supplement your written slides — or be brave and ditch the slides altogether. Bring sessions to life using games, role-playing, and interactive group discussions. Your sessions may require more thought and preparation, but you can be certain that messages will be deeply embedded. Ask any student what they learnt in school and they’ll draw a blank, yet the same student will be able to list all the games and activities they used to play in class.

3. Failure is the only option

When teaching new groups, make it clear from the very beginning that failure and making mistakes is totally acceptable — not only is it acceptable, it is encouraged. Measure the success of a participant by how many times they try something new, rather than how well they execute a task. A training environment should be a safe place where real learnings takes place, and people learn best by making mistakes. As the trainer (or the expert), put the onus of ‘getting it right’ on yourself, not on the participants — if they keep on ‘getting it wrong’, then ask yourself how you can teach it differently. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different teaching approaches yourself. To really embrace failure, make sure a component of each training session is experimental, where you’re trying something new that may or may not work. You know your experiment has paid off when a room full of people are nodding their heads saying, “I finally understand what you’re talking about.”

4. Decipher the code

Einstein said it the best: “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” Even the most complex ideas can be conveyed in everyday terms and be accessible to everybody. We often fall into the trap of using jargon, assuming that others understand what we’re talking about. Have you ever heard the term value proposition dropped in the office? Ask an entrepreneur, a consultant and a marketing executive to define value proposition and you’ll suddenly realise it means something different to each of them. As a test, try explaining a complex business concept to a teenager — if they tune out, then there’s a good chance your audience will too.

5. After hours service

The most crucial learnings occur outside of the classroom. What seems easy and logical in a training session, suddenly becomes a mess of confusion when participants begin applying what they’ve learnt to their businesses. Think of a training session like a fitness class. For forty-five minutes participants work on their fitness and learn a number of exercises — they come out motivated to be more fit and healthy. Two days later their motivation has run out and every attempt to recreate the fitness class experience in their living room has failed. If only the instructor was still there. Combining training with one-on-one mentoring is the best way to ensure that lessons and momentum from the classroom are creating an impact in the real world. Mentoring can be as simple as a fifteen-minute video call, or a quick email to answer a few queries.

6. It’s not about you

It’s always about your audience — it’s never about you. Know what’s on your audience’s mind, and make sure your training is relevant to their needs. When using examples, try relating it to the work they do, rather than work you’re comfortable talking about. You wouldn’t cook dinner for a group of people without knowing what they do and don’t eat. If you spend an entire training session without answering the questions on your audience’s mind, don’t be surprised if they’re as displeased as vegetarians who have just been served steak for dinner.

7. Learn from outsiders

Athletes are known for cross-training. Great tennis players don’t just fill their days hitting balls, they run, cycle and spend hours in the gym to improve their strength and agility. Try introducing cross-training into the world of business. If you want to help entrepreneurs be more confident in presenting to CEOs and VCs, then why not introduce concepts from, say, stand-up comedy or theatre. Even better, invite a guest speaker from outside the business world — their style and language will be refreshing.

7+1. Get excited!

Have you even been to a shop where the salesperson genuinely loves what they’re selling? Odds are you walked out buying something. What’s more, you’ve probably been back there. When you’re excited about what you’re teaching, your audience will reward you by being engaged and excited; excitement is contagious. Get excited!

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