Three close up photos of training participants.

The Splended Way: Supercharging Your Training So That They Keep Wanting More

This blog post is a part of the series in which we open the Splended way to build and run pro to pro trainings. If you are a subject matter expert, this blog post will give you some practical hints and tips that would help you to succeed when you start enabling learning and run interactive learning sessions.

“If we read it from a PowerPoint, they will hear it. If we create training where they can participate, they will learn it.”

Ideally, training would be so hands-on that we could put it in practice right after it happens. We need concrete guidance to learn, practise and reflect so that we can retain the content in our deep memory. This is why we pay close attention to our trainers and how they operate in a training situation. We coach and guide them so that the end-user will experience something memorable. Otherwise it’s time wasted for both parties.

What is the role of the trainer then?

  • To enable and facilitate deliberate practice
  • Most of the time to step back from the front and observe where they struggle
  • To help them, coach them and lead their learning. Not doing things for them. 
  • To create a positive environment

We know how important it is to deliver an excellent training session. Typical challenges with the trainings are that they are built around the trainer (data dumping) and they are not connected to the daily lives of the participants. With our tested training model (part 1, part 2 – doing, part 3-reflection) it is possible to build trainings in a way that the learning sticks.

How to move from content delivery to learning enablement?

Putting the learner first is our biggest priority here. So it’s best if you forget how you have been taught in the past (read: (possibly) a monologue that puts you to sleep). You have your own unique domain expertise and now it’s time to plan how others will benefit from it in an engaging and interactive manner. 

What do we want to see them do after the training? Teach only the things they cannot survive without. The rest can be additional reading. Content dumping is so last season. Better to have less content and learn it well rather than dump loads and leave them confused. 

Write the learning objectives on a slide and make the verbs active in them. What do we see them do when they finish the training? Give them post-it notes where they can write their own objectives. Have them discuss these with their partners. Come back to them at the end of the day. 

Interactive Lesson Strategies

Reading from a presentation is ineffective as a strategy. This is because our brain gets distracted and needs activation. Keep your own speech at 15 minutes max. You can tell your audience that they need to teach the content you deliver to their partner after you finish. Have them write a brief summary on the joint notes on what they learned. 

There are also a few things we propose that you should avoid doing: asking “Are there any questions?” (they will most likely be quiet because they don’t want to appear incompetent), ask a rhetorical question, display a lot of PPT slides, you say: “Let’s discuss” and then you continue speaking, you speak for an hour and then there’s a quiz or a game, you ask one participant and they answer, you tell jokes or anecdotes (not related to the topic). This is not recommended since the focus is on the trainer and these methods reach very few people in the audience.

It is important to build the connection between learners. When planning the training remember that your audience needs to connect with each other frequently. You need to establish collaborative interdependence by designing tasks that they can only solve together. They need to be individually responsible but active in cooperation. Make sure there is safety in teams, change them if necessary.

What is then an efficient interactive lecture strategy?

  • You stick to the 15-minute rule of speaking
  • You have them summarise the learning content in one minute in one sentence to their partner
  • There is a concrete goal that you cannot achieve without cooperation
  • They take responsibility for their learning and focus

Benefits of interactive learning strategies:

  • They remain focused on their learning
  • They are interested and contribute to the groups joint learning
  • You will improve their conceptual understanding
  • They will remember better
  • You will raise their energy levels

Brain and Learning

Our brain and physicality contribute to our learning fitness. We need to be moving when we learn so make them stand and change pairs frequently. Our brain cannot take too much information at one time without processing it somehow so make them talk in pairs as much as you can. Our brain loves variety and surprises but also predictability. Give them tasks that they didn’t know to expect. We are hardwired to listening to stories and analogies, use these to relate to their world of experiences. This works in advertising, films and games. Tap into this as much as you can. Our brain gets excited about multiple sensory experiences and stimulation. We love to be in informal learning environments (think desks and conversations, coffee etc.) We are motivated by choice. So if learners can choose between activities, it’s always a good idea. 

We all have inner motivations that the training event should support. For example, we want to avoid feeling: stupid, bored or humiliated. Instead, we want to feel: competent, respected, smart. Focus on the latter.

Concrete Practice

When all learners are actively doing the learning, you will optimise learning outcomes. To learn skills, you need to practice them. Design concrete practice activities that are preferably connected to their daily lives. For example, if they need to learn coding, create a coding assignment with errors in it and have them spot them. Concrete practice can be started right away. Already with limited skills, your learners can engage in activities. 

What concrete practice is not:

  • only you demonstrate and “practise” how things are done
  • reading about or watching a video about a skill
  • few practice with a game or similar activity and others watch
  • the team competes so that only one participates and the rest watch
  • there is a Q&A session in the end
  • the practice situation is dangerous or risky

What concrete practice looks like:

  • learners teach back what they have learned
  • learners improvise in 15 seconds a slogan for the content they just learned
  • learners do table demonstrations and share their screens or notes with others
  • learners mentor each other and give constant feedback to each other
  • all learners practise a skill even with limited knowledge

Ending in Style

We tend to remember beginnings and endings better than what is in the middle so prepare to go out with a blast. Go back to the learning outcomes, have them assess what they have learned. Have action planning session triads where they discuss together how they are going to apply the skills. You can do also a standing celebration of everyone’s accomplishments in groups of three. Good ending is when you make them write this on a poster: “need more practice……………can use with ease” and have them place their post-its on the scale. You can have them do a standing meeting and discuss this question: What will it take me to get to the next level now? What did you learn that you didn’t know before?

You can ask them these questions on a joint document: How do I feel about this now? What helps me do my job better? How will my on-the-job behaviour change as a result of this? How will my company benefit from this?

Your Strengths as a Trainer

When you start seeing yourself as a domain expert who helps and guides learners instead of someone who “teaches” like you have been taught in the past, you will tap into your coaching skills and feel empowered in the training situation. When you have designed practice activities and use the interactive lecture method, your audience will be motivated to learn and there will be a positive vibe in the room. Make sure that 80% of the time your audience is speaking. This is the only way to guarantee training success. Trust yourself and be who you are. It gets tiring to pretend to be someone else.

You are in a key role enabling people’s success. This means that you need to step back and let them do the work because you already know the stuff.  Acknowledge the fact that learning is always an exercise in approximation. Errors, questions and missteps are part of it and the quicker you start practising, the better you will understand their progress.

You got this. Really. You do. Trust this advice and you can’t go wrong.

(We were inspired by Training from the back of the room by Sharon L. Bowman when writing this blog post)

Other posts in the series:
Part 1/3 – How we’re coaching our trainers: our learner-centric approach to training design
Part 2/3 – How we’re coaching our trainers: a human doing, not being
Part 3/3 – Why learning without reflection is like driving without a map?