Most of us will mess up our first training session.
Training sessions are tough. Imagine running out of time when you’re only halfway through your learning objectives. Picture your participants being unenthusiastic about the workshop material. Maybe your director comes up to you during lunchtime with a whole new topic to cover.
Relax. You can deal with this, along with all the other curveballs that training sessions can toss at you. I compiled a list of everything I’ve learned about organizing training sessions. You can succeed at this!
Here’s my in-depth guide to planning training sessions.
Before the training session
Make a plan
Visualize each step of the training session. That lesson you learned in elementary school about the five W’s and the H apply directly here.
Who is your audience? Are they techies or project managers? The tone and learning styles of your demographic should affect how you deliver the material.
What are you teaching? Here are two elements I wish I had known when starting out: You need to define your learning objectives and limit your topic. Running out of things to say is rarely a problem. Toss out your fear of standing in front of the group without anything to say. That just doesn’t happen. The much more common problem is having too much to convey. We all have limited learning spans, so make sure you define exactly what you want participants to take away from the session. Focus on those points.
Where are you teaching? A classroom, in a reception hall, or at the office? Keep in mind the AV requirements of your space.
When are you teaching each topic? Think about how each idea can logically build on the previous idea. The timing of each session is important as well. Be prepared for an after-lunch slump. And consider planning for an active brainstorming session with lots of moving after lunch.
Why are you teaching this content? Think about your audience and their current projects. We remember best the topics that are relevant to us now rather than information useful in the future. Make sure your participants can see the direct link between the training session and their work.
Here’s an excellent example training session plan.
Make a workshop materials checklist
Sharpies, flipchart paper, and dongles are magnetically repelled from your bag – they get left behind all the time. Make your list and check it twice.
Break it up with audio visuals
Think back to the most boring class you’ve ever taken. Did your facilitator give a lecture? Did you absorb any of that material? Now think back to the most engaging workshop you’ve ever enjoyed. Try starting the workshop with a YouTube clip that showcases the topic or addresses it in an engaging way. For example, I started off a workshop on communicating between techie and business folk with the comedy short Seven Red Lines. Try switching up interactive activities with slides and video clips.
During the session
Know your role
Think of yourself as a workbook, not a textbook. Instead of overwhelming your participants with information, provide them with basic concepts and exercises they can use to build on those basic concepts. Avoid long-winded background descriptions. Your role is to enable the participants to build their knowledge – not to provide them with it.
Obama might not be good at delivering training sessions. Instead of trying for a powerful, oratorical tone, aim to be a friend. People learn best from others they feel comfortable with. Imagine yourself in your living room with friends and use that same conversational tone.
After the workshop
Make it look like you’ve done work
Messy is good. A training session should have more and more flipchart paper on the walls as the day progresses. Diagrams, sketches and post-it notes should paper the room. Having a physical environment that indicates real work has taken place motivates your participants and helps them feel like they’ve accomplished something tangible in the day.
Continue their learning
Good training sessions last for more than a day, even though they’re only a couple of hours-long on paper. What blogs can participants follow for updates on the topic? What about more resources? Give them instruction for a day and tools for long after.
The best teachers learn from their students. Make sure to set up a SurveyMonkey <link to: www.surveymonkey.com> or paper evaluations and get their thoughts on the session. Were there any confusing parts in the session? Boring spots? What do they like best and least?
End on time
This is the surest way to have your participants leave happy. Make a schedule and stick to it.
Training sessions can go well given a good amount of forethought. Make a session plan, stick to it, and be conversational – and look forward to a productive day.