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Engaging Participants in Your Training Sessions = Better Mastery


Training sessions can be wonderfully effective, a total flop, or anything in between.

The goal, of course, is that participants master the skills and/or concepts being presented, but for this to happen, presenters have to be mindful of their delivery.

One of the biggest mistakes that presenters make is that they teach in the way they themselves best learn. As well, because they have such thorough understanding of the concepts and skills, they often assume more of their participants than they should.

With that in mind, here are some tips that all presenters should review before they conduct their next training sessions:

1. Always begin each session with statements of goals and objectives

Project these visually throughout the session, so that everyone can see exactly where you are going.

2. Don’t assume any prior knowledge on the part of participants

If you do, you will lose some of those participants in the very beginning. Provide all of the necessary background information that anyone might need before you get into the “meat” of your instruction.

3. Present key skills and concepts in multiple ways

You will have visual, auditory and kinesthetic learners in your audience. Honor all of those learning styles by providing oral commentary, visual representations, and providing activities that will involve participants in their learning.

4. Break large chunks of learning down into smaller pieces and ask for questions all along the way

This is particularly true for highly technical training. If you are training participants in the use of a new software system, for example, break the learning into pieces and have them practice each piece before moving on.

5. Involve your participants in active learning as much as possible

If, for example, your training session relates to conducting interviews or performance evaluations, setup scenarios for participants to practice the skills you are teaching. Role playing is a critical piece of learning.

6. Follow the delivery process that research has shown is most effective, as follows:

  • Present the concept or skill, using both oral and visual materials

  • Model the skill

  • Involve participants in guided practice, while you monitor that practice and re-teach as necessary

  • Provide opportunities for independent practice

  • Assess mastery of participants and re-teach what has not been fully mastered.

7. Watch the faces and body language of participants as you are teaching

You will be able to detect confusion, lack of understanding, etc. Do not assume that participants will always ask questions – they may be uncomfortable admitting that they do not understand something.

8. Find unique and engaging ways to deliver instruction

Classroom teachers do this all of the time. For example, teachers have found that they can improve Spanish comprehension through music; others have found that they can present content through poetry, drama, or art. Get creative and see how you can engage your audience from the very beginning. If there are items to memorize, find acronyms or catchy slogans that will be remembered. (Remember, “Please excuse my dear aunt Sally” when you had to learn the order of operations in algebra class?)

9. Use small group activities whenever possible

The opportunity to be social in their learning enhances mastery – participants will learn from one another better than from a single “teacher” at the head of the class.

10. Provide physical handouts whenever possible

This will allow participants to refer to what has been taught once sessions are over and to re-fresh what they have learned.

Effective and successful training is part science and part art. The science component is the concepts and skills you plan to deliver; the art is in the delivery itself. When you have enthusiasm and provide unique and engaging learning experiences, your chances for participant mastery are much greater.

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