Most audiences are comprised of extroverts and introverts, and lots of people who consider themselves a bit of both. In Susan Cain’s insightful book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking (2012), the author describes the “rubber band theory” of personality, in which we can be elastic and stretch ourselves, but only so far. The introverts in your audience may need to stretch slowly to become comfortable with group work. The extroverts in your audience may need to have some structures that encourage them to listen and reflect.
High-octane professional learning in groups requires participants to engage with one another. Yet, when we ask people to turn and talk or meet someone new, there is often a silent groan. Sometimes even an audible one! Many of us dread having to engage with strangers. “Can’t I just sit and get the information?” we silently lament. It is tempting for facilitators to avoid interactive experiences so that they don’t have to deal with The Groan. However, if we want rich, robust learning, we have to be prepared to push through the groan and get people interacting.
1. To kick-start this engagement, arrange for each person to introduce themselves to a neighbor right near the beginning of the session. The sooner you can decrease the discomfort of sitting among strangers, the quicker your learners will be ready to learn and share. I usually do this within the first five minutes of any session.
2. Make the initial discussion activity novel or fun (but related to your content.) Instead of “Share your name and where you’re from,” try one of these:
3. Throughout the day, expand comfort zones by asking participants to talk with people who are not seated next to them. If I have a full day with a group, I usually have everyone talk with neighbors in the first morning block, stand and find someone at another table during the second morning block, and then I may purposefully reseat everyone for an activity in the afternoon. By slowly expanding the networking circle, I facilitate opportunities for new perspectives and fresh ideas – key to a successful learning experience!
Creative thinking comes naturally to some of us, but for others it takes practice and structure. The Answer Is… strategy is easy to integrate into any class to get your participants thinking “out of the box.” To boost brain safety, have participants answer your prompts anonymously.
1. Show The Answer Is... slide to your group and provide a few seconds of think time.
The Answer Is… A Square. What is the question?
2. Reveal each of these possible answers one at a time
4. Provide 30 seconds for everyone to generate a question and write it on a sticky note. Ask them to bring their sticky notes up to a board or wall space.
5. Read the questions aloud anonymously and choose several for further, in-depth discussion with the group.
Game shows, with their hype and competition, are a proven way to engage an audience. No need to travel to Hollywood or spend hours creating a complicated game. Instead, use The Famous Duos Game Show with almost any content objective, for an in-person or virtual session.
1. Create a Famous Duos Game Show Slide, or download mine here.
2. Search for seven copyright free images of famous, successful partnerships.My collection includes Batman and Robin, Bert and Ernie, Barack and Michelle and a carton of Ben & Jerry's ice cream.
3. Create a slide for each image.
4. Announce to the group that it is time to play the Famous Duos Game Show. Explain that you will present a slide of a famous duo or partnership and they are to shout out, as quickly as possible, who it is. (In virtual training, have them shout and chat in the answer.)
5. Show the slides and celebrate those who got at least 6 out of 7 correct.
6. Explain that the duos are famous because they had successful collaborative relationships and structures in place for team work. From this point, jump into discussion about how this connects to your topic. It might be a very concrete, direct connection about teamwork, or it could be more abstract about how two concepts (language and attitude, precision and safety, questioning and closing) connect.
For an interesting twist, show photos of less than successful partners, such as RoadRunner and Coyote, Boris and Natasha, Quaker and Snapple, or Britney Spears and Jason Alexander.
Partner and small group work is an integral part of my training sessions. Adult learners need to interact with content, engage in conversations and practice new skills with colleagues. To celebrate these small collaborations, I usually ask partners to exchange a “High 5.” (I’ve been in lots of sessions where this is the norm.)
Thanks to feedback from a participant, I have changed this practice. After a training session I received an email from a participant who is Muslim. She reminded me that touching between unmarried men and women is forbidden in the Muslim faith. If participants were randomly partnered with someone of the opposite gender, the direction to “Give your partner a High 5,” could lead to an uncomfortable situation. Because my audiences are usually diverse, with an increasing representation from countries around the world, I appreciated the feedback and chance to rethink my practice.
I still want participants to celebrate their work, so I have replaced High 5s with these 7 alternatives. Changing it up throughout a longer session keeps it fresh and fun.
How do you adjust for a global audience?
Without thinking, answer the following question as quickly as you can. Ready?
What color is a yield sign in the United States?
My bet is that most of you answered "yellow." If so, you are in the majority. But the correct answer is red. Yield signs were originally yellow, but were changed to red in 1971. That is almost 50 years ago, and yet most of us still think of them as yellow.
I use this exercise with audiences when we are grappling with a change initiative. I usually ask everyone to jot down their answer on a piece of paper. This is best for introverts or for anyone with a fragile ego. Alternatively, you can ask everyone to pair up and answer the question out loud to their partner.
The exercise is quick and makes a strong point from which we can jump into discussing ways to speed up the process of adopting change. I love that it can be used to discuss any type of change, no matter what the industry.
Do you have a simple change exercise you'd like to share? Add it to the comments below or email it to me for inclusion in a future blog post. firstname.lastname@example.org
Walk into a coffee shop on any morning and you can hear baristas shouting out “vanilla latte for Kayleigh,” caramel macchiato for Trey,’’ or “peppermint mocha for Marco!” Starbucks claims to have over 87,000 unique drinks that can be made with their assortment of add-ins. Visit a Starbucks in Japan and find a Coffee and White Tiramisu Frappuccino. Pop into a Starbucks in the United Kingdom and order a Crème Brulee Macchiato. Gone are the days when all that was available was hot coffee with cream or sugar. Customization and variety are the new normal.
When we want caffeinated training and learning, we need to consider the add-ins that allow us to customize the learning experience. I have curated nine add-ins that represent essential elements of learning, all supported by research and known to increase learner engagement.
Each add-in prompts me to choose one of several engagement strategies I can use in my session. The goal is to use all nine add-ins in every training session or presentation – especially those over thirty minutes in length. For very brief presentations it is still possible to address most of these essential elements by choosing strategiess that blend three or four together.
The add-ins are color-coded so that instructional designers can quickly evaluate their course map to determine missing elements. Here is an example for a beginner level session on designing and conducting training.
Want more information on my Caffeinated Training Design approach? Attend my session at ATD ICE 2019 in Washington, D.C. or check out my newest book here.
What’s the first word that comes to mind when you hear the word “pizza?” Perhaps you thought “pepperoni,” “fattening,” or “cheesy.” Your mind started retrieving memories, forming connections and processing emotions that you already have to the concept of a pizza. Research tells us that retrieval, connecting and emotions are all tremendously helpful to understanding and retaining new information.
Unfortunately, you probably are not training your learners on the perfect pizza. (I think that might be on my bucket list!) However, you can use The Adjective Game, no matter what topic you are addressing, and whether you are working in a virtual or in-person environment.
1. Choose a topic word for which you’d like to influence your learner’s perceptions. For example, I provide training on how to make virtual training or webinars more engaging. Usually people have a negative perception of the word “webinar,” and I want to change that perception.
2. Use the Game slides you see below or create your own. Tell your audience that it is time to play The Adjective Game. Explain that you will show a noun, and they are to turn to their neighbor (or type in the chat box) and share the first adjective that pops to mind.
3. Show your first game slide, similar to this one. Provide everyone about 15-30 seconds to talk or type in the chat box.
4. Show two or three more nouns before revealing your topic word on the final slide.
5. Discuss some of the adjectives that have been shared. For example, my audience might say “boring webinar,” “required webinar,” or “deadly webinar.”
6. Finally, present a slide with your preferred adjective, e.g., “engaging webinar,” and discuss how your session will help them to see the topic differently.
If your key topic word is a verb, simply change this to The Adverb Game.
Interested in improving the learner engagement in your virtual or in-person training? Contact me to discuss easy solutions!
One of my favorite moments in football is the “hurry-up offense.” It’s usually employed by the trailing team late in the fourth quarter. The quarterback quickly moves his offense from one play to the next, without a huddle, in an effort to score before time runs out. As Paul Julmiste says "The quarterback has to be the calmest and coolest guy on the field." No 30-second countdown for him, but instead, a game plan that keeps up the momentum for a win.
There are many reasons why I would not succeed as a quarterback, but one of them is my love for slow, methodical preparation. Typically, I like to arrive one hour prior to a presentation, so that I have plenty of time to organize my materials, check technology and start greeting audience members. But at tomorrow’s conference I have just 15 minutes from when a previous session ends until my official start time. No leisurely countdown clock for me. So here is how I am going to pull it off:
1. My materials will be pre-sorted onto plastic plates, 1 per table. Plastic plates are easy to take on an airplane (rather than a plastic box of supplies for each table,) and I use them for a brainstorming activity called Pass the Plate. They can hold markers, sticky notes, business cards, Doodle Sheets – everything I want each table to have.
2. Envelopes that need to be hung for an activity called Mad Dash will already have tape on the back, ready to be slapped onto the wall.
3. My handouts will be counted out in advance for each table, ready to be distributed.
3. Every program and website that I need to use will be open on my computer so that once I am connected to the projector I will only need to plug in my power cord.
4. Most importantly, I am going to connect with people by asking them to help me put out my materials. It can be a positive, bonding experience for participants – a “feel good” moment in a long conference day. I learned that I don’t need to do it all by myself – I can have a team of support if I simply ask.
Do you have a game plan for setting up quickly?
September 29th was National Coffee Day. While I love a good latte (and a good reason to celebrate) I know that learning facilitators can't rely on caffeine to keep their audiences awake. So, it seems only fitting that on the day after National Coffee Day I can announce that my newest book is now available!
After so many requests to write about strategies for designing virtual training, my new book includes ideas and slides that you can use to engage participants in your next virtual or in-person class.
Caffeinated Training Design: An Engagement-Centered Process will show you how to:
Design virtual or in-person sessions that keep learners awake and not multi-tasking.
Add engagement-centered methods that lead to satisfied and repeat customers.
Apply current research to increase learning, retention and on-the-job success.
Infuse creative learning activities to avoid the boredom of lecture.
Great for working with your team on design and training skills - this interactive book guides readers through ideas, reflective questions and application exercises. Interested in purchasing 50 or more copies? Contact me for a discount.
Enhanced energy and mood - that’s why professional conferences and meetings typically include ice-cold soft drinks in the afternoon, with cookies or candy on the tables. Many other foods contain “wake me up” ingredients – coffee ice cream, mints, chocolate chip cookies, candy bars, and energy chews, to name just a few.
Most of us will admit that we can appreciate a piece of chocolate or a cup of coffee to battle the occasional energy slump, especially in the afternoon. Charles M. Schultz, creator of the lovable but low-energy Charlie Brown cartoon character, once said, “All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.” So what’s the peril in providing our learners with some candy or chocolate?
The peril lies in the false hope it gives to presenters. Many trainers or presenters rely on the caffeine or sugar boost to keep learners awake during the afternoon sessions. But wouldn’t it be wonderful if the presenter fostered caffeinated learning instead? What if designers and facilitators were able to infuse activities into the session that engaged all learners? Imagine a room full of awake and participating adults, interacting with new content in meaningful ways.
So consider ditching the candy and infusing your afternoon sessions with engagement-centered teaching methods instead. Here are a few of my favorites.
For even more ideas...
Anne Beninghof is passionate about teaching and learning.
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