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.
Have you ever attended a conference where you felt numb from sitting too long? Began to nod off or daydream? As the blood begins to pool in your feet and legs, your ability to concentrate and process is diminished. Studies show that movement and exercise can disrupt this and cause an increase in the rate of learning (Ratey, 2008).
When we are moving, dopamine is released in the brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter known for several super-charged properties. It increases attention, pleasure, motivation and perseverance. Imagine a room filled with people who are experiencing these benefits! If your goal is to increase learning and retention of information, experts agree - include multisensory activities in your course (ATD, 2017).
Worried about movement becoming chaotic? Even simple, tactile movements will yield better learner engagement. Ask audience members to snap their fingers or wave both of their arms in the air if they like an idea. As you become more comfortable, take a risk and try more active, kinesthetic strategies. Gallery walks or board brainstorming relays can be used to reinforce any new content. Avoid chaos by adding structure. Use a visual timer and announce time frames and provide clear directions on a slide. Modeling desired movements will decrease learner anxiety and ensure more accurate execution. If participants will be moving around the room, be sure that aisles are clear and ask participants to tuck items under tables.
Concerned that adults will think movement is a waste of time? Share the research so that everyone understands your purpose. Most participants will follow your lead and be glad for the chance to move.
Posted above my desk is the following saying: Learning is not a spectator sport.
As I design new training sessions, it reminds me to build in multiple opportunities for participants to share ideas, brainstorm and make meaning for themselves.
But as I begin to facilitate the session, the battle begins. It is the age-old battle between what is good for learners and the clock on the wall. Time ticks away and I am tempted to cut back on the amount of participant talk. Especially when I realize that “Windy” is in my group. Windy is the participant who always has a long-winded answer. A “quick share” turns into a few minutes, messing up my timing and causing others’ to lose focus. Temptation creeps in – should I just avoid participant sharing all together?
Don’t let temptation win! Instead, win the battle by providing a clear guideline. Try saying, “I’d love to hear three different ideas. Please get ready to share your idea in 20 words or less.” I recently added this phrase to my facilitation repertoire, along with “capture your group discussion in 3 to 5 words,” and “give me a two sentence summary.”
Of course, my training sessions always have other times when participants can engage in longer, richer discussions with colleagues. One of my favorite discussion structures can be found here.
How do you manage “Windy,” while still following best practices for teaching and learning?
Learning teams come in all sizes. While the large audiences have an exciting energy, small groups allow for stronger connections and more individualized attention. Large audiences make it easier for participants to opt out of being engaged, while small groups can be dominated by a strong personality or negative attitude. Both sizes have their pros and cons, and strategies that work best for adult facilitation.
In a previous post, I shared some considerations for working with large audiences. Today, I want to share an app with you that can be extremely helpful when working with a small team, especially one that might be struggling to work together effectively. Equity Maps, as described on their site, is an app that helps you chart and record the interaction of group members and graphically illustrate levels of participation. It also analyzes the types of contributions made by each person. The instant analytics and animated playback can be used to engage everyone in deep reflection on team communication dynamics.
Equity Maps has a $2.99 iPad version with plenty of features for up to 20 participants, as well as a premium version for $6.99. App developers are currently working on an Android version and hope to have it out in 2019. While they began with a focus on K-12 learners, the app has been used with adults in all fields.
Here's a video demonstrating Equity Maps' features as well as some screen captures.
Why save your celebrations for the end of your course? Mini-celebrations sprinkled throughout a learning experience spread the joy from start to finish. Stop thinking “party planning” and use the ideas below to begin thinking “cerebral celebrations.”
True or False?
Multi-media is more effective at gaining attention than static print.
If you believe this to be true, you might just fall in love with Lumen5, a tool that turns blog posts into engaging videos. All you do is copy and paste your text or url, choose the sentences that you want to stand out, select some music and Bam! You have a free video.
Here is a sample that I created in about 5 minutes.
Thanks to Daniel Jones for sharing this and so many other wonderful apps and tools at his dynamic, ATD conference session.
"Good, better, best
Never let it rest
Until the good is better
And the better is best"
I had the privilege this month of learning from Steve Shallenberger, author of Becoming Your Best: 12 Principles of Highly Successful Leaders. His conference session was dynamic and interactive - exactly what I need to keep me awake and learning. At one point in the session he asked everyone in the audience to memorize the four lines above, repeating each phrase several times, and then telling it to someone nearby. He also warned us that he would quiz us on it later in the session.
Three weeks later, I remember this rhyme! Researchers tell us that rhyming is a powerful tool for moving information into long-term memory. Rhymes are even more powerful when they have an appealing, short pattern or are set to music.
As a facilitator of adult learning, I am always searching for new ways to help my participants retain key concepts. Shallenberger reminded me that I can intentionally add simple rhymes to my training sessions. For example, in one of my classes, I teach some basic information about "SDI." I have now created a short rhyme that begins with "The 3 Whats and 3 Whys of SDI..."
Take a moment to think of a key concept that you need your learners to memorize. Play around with the necessary words. Go online and search "rhymes with..." to find a list of rhyming words. Get creative! It will be worth the effort!
Looking for other memory strategies? Check out this easy idea.
A few weeks ago I had the privilege to share ideas with over 700 talent development professionals at the ATD International Expo in San Diego. My sessions on Caffeinated Virtual Learning explored 15 different strategies for keeping learners engaged, especially in virtual trainings or webinars..
Here’s one more of my favorites for high engagement, creative thinking and reviewing key content in innovative ways.
1. Show a slide with three different pairs of eyeglasses on it.
2. Ask your learners to choose one of the pairs of glasses by typing their choice into the chat box.
3. Reveal whom the glasses represent*. These might be:
4. Ask participants to chat in what they think their person’s perspective might be on the topic.
5. Comment on some of the ideas to expand the discussion.
Taking another person's perspective can provide deeper insights and more divergent thinking, leading to better outcomes for your company.
BTW, if you missed the conference and think your training department can use some caffeine, give me a call or shoot me an e-mail. I'm glad to help!
Once again, Chip and Dan Heath are serving up tidbits of wisdom in their latest book, The Power of Moments. As in previous publications, the book is a quick read, filled with interesting stories and achievable next steps. But what I appreciated most about reading this book was the sparks it created in my own brain as I applied their suggestions to my work.
Heath and Heath have found that powerful moments are created from one or more of four elements:
A chunk of my work involves developing strong, two-person teams. The primary vehicle for this development is group-training sessions, sometimes with follow-up coaching. When I considered ideas for elevation and connection, I realized that I might be able to engineer some peaks for new, emerging partnerships. I purchased a portable photo printer that connects to my smart phone. At various moments throughout the training, I grab photos of the new partners and immediately print them with a team slogan plastered across the bottom. It is a small step, but Heath and Heath point out that “a bit of attention and energy can transform an ordinary moment into an extraordinary one.”
Join others and follow me for additional ideas about increasing the effectiveness of your training and presenting.
In the 1990s, Head and Shoulders Dandruff Shampoo’s motto was
“You never get a second chance to make a first impression.”
For trainers and presenters, these words of wisdom remind us of the importance of what our audience experiences as they enter the room.
Picture your last training event. What did participants see, hear and feel as they arrived? What tone was set before they ever met you? These first moments are powerful and can set you up for a more successful session.
My proactive “dandruff shampoo” list includes the following five prep steps:
What would you add to this list?
For more ideas on designing and implementing an effective adult learning environment, check out my book Caffeinated Learning.
For even more ideas...
Anne Beninghof is passionate about teaching and learning.
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