If you have been working for any length of time you’ve likely had to attend one of those awful training sessions.
You know those workshops. The boring, compulsory ones.
The ones where you learn about the latest privacy regulations or get hammered about your department’s lack of compliance.
Maybe the workshop is to introduce new safety standards.
Perhaps it’s a new computer system.
Whatever it is, I’m sure you’ve attended one before and noticed one stand out feature of the session: it’s universally hated by attendees because it is boring and feels like a waste of time.
The only thing worse than being an attendee in one of those things is being the facilitator.
What if you get asked to deliver one at your workplace?
How do you deliver a useful session, but keep attendees engaged?
How do you turn a boring topic into something enjoyable for attendees so they are not checking their watches every few minutes?
Can a boring topic be turned into an exciting workshop?
I’ve been facilitating small (3 – 10 people) and large (up to 50 people) workshops for many years now.
In that time I’ve delivered content ranging from stuff participants are gagging to know about to topics they are sick of hearing.
At first, delivering the boring content to participants was very challenging. Over time I have developed strategies to make even the most boring content engaging.
Making the workshop engaging boils down to one simple rule.
The rule makes your job as facilitator much easier.
The rule takes the pressure off you. This is especially important if you are still getting your feet wet with presenting.
The rule is easy to implement and requires zero to hardly-any preparation.
Are you ready?
Here’s how to deliver an epic training session
Want to know the simple rule?
First of all, consider this:
You are attending a workshop on Friday afternoon with 20 of your colleagues.
You have a ton of work left to do for the day but you have to spend the next 90 minutes sitting around listening to someone bang-on about the latest privacy rules (rules that will make everyone’s job harder to do).
The presenter talks for 90 minutes, occasionally asking questions. The audience sloth around in their chairs thinking about the work they need to do, planning dinner, and considering what to do on the weekend. Watches get checked and legs get crossed as bathroom breaks are missed.
As the presenter wraps up proceedings your fellow attendees rush for the door, the bathroom, the security of their smartphones, anything that will take them away from the pain of learning about privacy.
Here are just some of the issues with the workshop you just escaped from:
1. It was just going through the motions
Reading a slide deck full of bullet points to participants is not training. It is just going through the motions to check a box that training has been “done”. This is how change-implementers get away with “having done their job”.
2. Any knowledge shared was lost
No one paid attention. While you were banging-on about that important point everyone needs to action immediately the audience was thinking about their next vacation. Far away from boring training sessions.
3. Follow-ups will be required
If you actually want to ensure that participants learned something you are going to have to follow-up with them. Perhaps even make a test to check their knowledge of the new processes/rules/system. This is time-consuming and a waste of resources.
4. The presenter didn’t make any friends
Locking people is a room for 90 minutes on a Friday afternoon is not going to win you any friends. Take people hostage, even when they understand you’re just doing your job, and they start to hold grudges.
5. More than 2 hours of productivity was lost
A lot of time was lost. Sure it was only 90 minutes. But there was the warming up and getting to the room time. There was the complaining about it afterwards. There was the follow-up gossip sessions about how much of a waste of time it was and “couldn’t he/she just have sent an email” conversations.
So what would a successful workshop look like to you?
Workshop success looks like this:
- Attendees willingly participate and enjoy themselves
- Attendees don’t spend training time constantly checking their watch or smartphone
- Most or all of required knowledge is delivered, understood, and retained
- Attendees can prove they have understood the content
- Attendees continue to discuss the workshop and content in a positive light post-training
The simple secret to business training success
Just. Stop. Talking.
Simple as that.
Put yourself in the position of your participants. If you talk for a full 90 minutes about a boring topic how are they going to feel? As you rattle off bullet points from your slides would you be surprised to notice some yawns?
Instead of lecturing, turn your training into a real workshop.
Have participants actively working and moving around to keep them awake and alert.
Here are the five steps to do this:
- Introduce the topic, give some background and context
- Distribute supporting materials. Handouts, printed slides, etc.
- Split participants into groups and have them discuss a point they need to learn
- Have groups nominate a speaker to present out their findings at the end of the discussion
- Other groups ask questions to understand each other’s presentations
You act as a true facilitator.As they discuss you simply move between groups, answering questions and ensuring they stay on track.
Here are some examples:
Introduction of three new privacy rules
- Split participants into three teams
- Teams are allocated one new rule each
- Teams must discuss the new rule and what the rule’s impact will be on their daily work
- Following discussions teams present out and handle questions
New software to replace old system
- Set up test terminals
- Split participants into groups
- Teams pick one daily process they use the old system for
- Teams use test terminals and work out how to do the daily process with the new system
- Teams report out their findings including how easy it was and differences experienced
There you have it!
Please let me know if you have any questions, feedback, or want to add anything in the comments section below.
Special thanks to my blog reader Sally for giving me the inspiration for this post.
Further reading: How to facilitate a workshop which doesn’t suck