If you’ve been reading our blog, you know that the most effective trainers use activities, rather than lectures, to draw out the wisdom and expertise of the people being trained,
People learn more when they build on their own experiences, rather than listen to you talk about yours.
Yes, it’s possible to take this approach too far. You’d never walk into a workshop and say, “You probably know as much about fundraising as I do, so I am turning the session over to you. When we get to lunch, tell me what you’ve learned.”
That wouldn’t work. Your students would feel cheated.
On the other hand, if you lecture for 90 minutes, reading your PowerPoint slides, you will annoy and disappoint everyone. People learn by engaging with the material, rather than passively listening. (For more on the pitfalls of PowerPoint, see Andy’s post on the subject.)
A Surefire Way to Set Up a Training Exercise
Yes, there’s a simple, failure-proof way for you to set up exercises that present the relevant material, engage the group, and help everyone leave at the end of the session with specific strategies for applying what they’ve learned.
It’s a five-step model adapted from the training theories of John Jones, as taught to me by my colleague Michael Page Miller. Thanks to them both!
Five Steps to Success
Step 1: Hook Your Group
Begin every exercise with a brief “mind-catcher.” We call this a hook. Its purpose is to grab everyone’s attention and get them thinking about the subject matter.
For example, if you are teaching people how to ask for gifts, your hook might work like this:
On a flip chart at the front of the room, draw a vertical line down the middle of the page. At the top of the left column, write a + (plus). At the top of the right column, a – (minus). Then ask the participants to help generate a list of the positives and negatives of asking for gifts face to face.
This takes about three minutes. By the time you complete the list, everyone will be focusing on asking – which is where you want their attention.
Step 2: Set the Stage and Give Instructions
Take a minute to tell your group about the subject of the exercise and why it matters. Briefly cover the concepts they need to know to complete the exercise.
Then give specific instructions, including
- The task.
- How you want them to organize themselves – for example, in pairs or small groups. In your role as trainer, you can structure these groups (plan for this in advance) or ask the participants organize themselves.
- How much time they will have to complete the activity.
Step 3: Let Them Do the Exercise
Stand back and be quiet. Walk around if you like, but don’t engage unless they ask you questions.
As time is ending, you can give everyone a warning: “You have another two minutes. Two minutes!”
Step 4: Find Out What Happened
Prepare questions in advance to help the group make meaning of the exercise. The questions will vary based on the exercise, but a simple example is, “What did you just learn?”
Depending on the number of participants, you can have them talk in small groups or return to the larger group. Then take a few minutes and ask everyone to summarize the lessons learned.
Step 5: Figure Out How to Apply What They’ve Learned
No exercise is complete until the group discusses how to use what they learned and everyone has a chance to begin to develop an implementation plan.
Use this Model to Design Trainings that Work
As you use this model, you’ll see how intuitive it is, and you’ll move easily from step to step.
Your real work as a trainer is designing the session rather than making an outline of everything you want them to learn.
Designing group process takes a bit of thought and planning. But when you use the five-step model outlined here, your participants will learn much more than if you simply “lecture them through”the material.
For a longer training, simply put exercises together that cover the content you want the group to learn and use the five-step model for each of them. At the very end of the workshop, be sure that you repeat steps four and five. Ask the participants to summarize that they’ve learned from the entire workshop and how they’ll apply it.