Every trainer knows the moment: Your first minute in front of the room, all eyes on you, everyone waiting expectantly.
You want to get off to a good start. You want to grab everyone’s attention.
The way you start will set the tone for the rest of the training.
Option 1: Have them talk to the person sitting next to them
Choose one of the questions below for discussion. If you like, you can write it on the flip chart in advance.
Ask participants to turn to a neighbor or two to discuss, with the instruction that they will have two or three minutes. After their discussions, take a few additional minutes to debrief the exercise by asking those who are willing to share their answers.
- What are the most important things you want to learn today?
The answers provide an instant reality test for your agenda. Does your content address the topics raised by the participants? If not, you may need to adjust.
- When you were a kid, what messages did you learn about money?
Indeed, this question is the basis for an entire exercise. To download it, click here.
- What’s one thing you know or believe about fundraising that’s probably wrong?
Having used this several times, I’ve found that people will acknowledge most of the myths and misconceptions you plan to address during the training – for example, I don’t know anyone who gives money, fundraising is begging, etc. – before you even begin. This is hugely helpful.
Option 2: Have them get up and move around
In our book, Train You Board (and Everyone Else) to Raise Money, we’ve included an exercise called Where Do You Stand? During this exercise, participants form a line, shoulder to shoulder. With your instructions, they move up or down the line based on their answers to various questions, such as:
- How many years total have you been doing any sort of fundraising?
- What’s the largest amount of money you have ever asked for face to face?
- How would you rate your comfort in asking?
Note that these are not yes-or-no questions. Rather, they can be answered along a continuum. This requires the participants to talk with each other each time they re-form the line.
The other benefit is physical. When people get up and move, their energy level goes up, which makes this exercise the champion of icebreakers.
Option 3: Wake the dead
If you are lucky enough to facilitate a full-day workshop, you will have to deal with “the dead hour” – that period after lunch when the carbohydrates kick in and everyone starts to doze.
The best solution? Have your students work with each other. As before, ask them to gather in groups of two or three to discuss one of the following questions.
- What’s one thing you’ve learned so far today that either surprised your or inspired you?
Warning! Only ask this question if something surprising or inspiring took place during the morning session. If you’re not sure, considering using the following question instead.
- Based on the work we’ve done so far today, what’s one thing you’d like to implement to improve your fundraising?
Notice the practical tone of this question. It’s an early cue for the “next steps” conversation that wraps up many fundraising workshops, when people talk about how to apply what they’ve learned.
Empower your participants
Effective training sends a powerful message. It says, “You, the members of this group, are smart. You will direct your own learning.”
Use icebreakers to model this approach from the first moments of your workshop.