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Emma Sue Prince



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6 principles for stand-out training delivery


My great friend, Jon Wilkerson, is a veteran comedy improv performer and trainer. He uses the principles of comedy improv training to deliver great sessions using experiential learning activities and games. What I’ve found great about these principles is that they can be used for any kind of training and really make an impact.

Improvisational theatre is a form of theatre popular in the United States. Instead of actors going on stage and performing memorized lines from a script, they must create a scene on the spot complete with fully developed characters, scintillating dialogue, and a compelling environment.

So here are Jon’s principles for stand-out training – try them out next time you deliver a training session and enjoy the difference it makes!

 1. Show unconditional positive regard.

It is hard to release the tremendous creative energy of experiential learning if participants don’t feel like they are in an environment where they will be safe from feeling ridiculous. Love on your participants and build that atmosphere of mutual affection and trust. Avoid criticizing creative decisions made by the participants unless they are truly inappropriate (profanity, sexism, etc.).

2. Celebrate great failures.

Not only should failures not be criticized, they should be praised for their courage and effort. The participants should ideally feel free to fall flat on their faces. Failure should be celebrated with the same energy and sincere feeling as success.

3. Be the first into the breach.

Participants aren’t going to feel comfortable acting out of their comfort zone or making strong choices if the instructor  doesn’t. You must strive to be the silliest, loudest, most fearless person in the room.

4. Take small steps when necessary.

Experiential learning ranges from very simple warm-up exercises to full-blown games that are physically and mentally strenuous. To arrive at the latter, you must take your participants carefully through the former. By taking small steps, your participants will feel increasingly confident and empowered – and you will be amazed at their abilities!

5. Explain and demonstrate clearly.

When describing an activity, it’s best to SHOW participants how to do it. Use examples. Demonstrate. This will help to make the instructions absolutely clear. If the participants start to get lost or detached, back up and zoom out. Where did you lose them? Don’t leave them behind!

 6. Model the behaviour you want

If you want your participants to be excited, motivated, positive, and ready to take risks, then you need to model those characteristics yourself in everything you do for them. Show them the sort of person you want them to become. They will often learn more from your behaviour than they will from your words. Make sure your words and behavior are saying the same thing.

One Response

  1. Great post, great points!

    Hi Emma,

    A great post, and some even greater points!  I agree whole-heartedly with the need to celebrate failures, as someone has shown the courage to ‘stick their neck out’ (there’s no such thing as failure, only feedback!) and give it a go.  We need to see more of an entrepreunerial approach, and people shouldn’t let a little thing like ‘failure’ (it’s such a pathetic word, anyway) stop them from having a go.

    Behaviour Modeling is another favourite of mine – if people can see you doing it, it motivates them to believe they can, too.  If you can inspire them along the way, too, then they won’t need further motivation, either!

    I do enjoy posts like this one, getting back to the ‘people’, not the ‘process’.

    Wishing you all the best,


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Emma Sue Prince


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