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Rod Webb

Glasstap Limited

Director and Co-Founder

Read more from Rod Webb

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Why Trainers Need to Learn to Flex Content


Do you remember that time when we all went for a meal together?

The waiter, a handsome middle-aged man, approached our table and enquired what we’d all like. Doris, you remember her; big hair and a penchant for gin, explained that she was gluten intolerant. Sanjay explained he was vegan, and you and Nia said you were trying to give up meat.

The charming waiter chatted for a while about our specific needs, before wandering off to the kitchen. Five minutes later he returned and gave us all steak and kidney pie, chips and peas.

I was happy, but Doris, Sanjay and Nia were a little disappointed - and left the restaurant as hungry as when they’d arrived.

Of course, you don’t remember it, because it didn’t happen!

Imagine if it had though! How would we have felt? How might we have reacted? How much value would you have attached to a meal you had just sat and looked at for an hour while I munched away?

Now, before you assume I’ve finally misplaced my last remaining marble, let me ask you this: How often have you seen trainers spend the first part of a training event asking and clarifying learners’ objectives before proceeding to deliver exactly what they were going to anyway?

We spend so long preparing our training courses that we can be reluctant to go off-piste. And, if we’re heavily reliant on PowerPoint, it can be extremely hard to adapt to what’s actually happening in the room, even if we want to. 

But what happens when:

  • A participant raises a question that’s covered in a slide much further on in your presentation?
  • You’ve only scheduled ten minutes to debrief an exercise but the activity generates a lot of discussion and debate that requires longer?
  • It becomes apparent that the behavioural changes you thought you needed to address aren’t the real problem at all?
  • The learner’s needs don’t match your script?

Being prepared for any training event is critical – we can’t be effective trainers without spending time on planning and design. But the most effective trainers are also adaptive – able to flex their content and approach to what’s happening in the room and ensure that the learners gain real value from the learning, even if their needs are slightly different to the assumptions you, or others, had made before the event. 

This is another reason why I love and rely on experiential learning, rather than presentation style teaching. With the latter, you’re not only setting yourself up as the ‘expert’ with all the answers, you’re restricted by a script.

In contrast, utilising the experiential learning materials in Trainers’ Library means I can create opportunities for participants to lead the learning themselves. I can give them challenges that test behaviours they’ll need to apply back in the workplace. I can observe teams at work and help them identify their own strengths and weaknesses. I can facilitate not just learning but solution finding too; solutions that are relevant and valued because the learners themselves have identified them.

In short, using exercises like Jack Fruggle’s Treasure, Murder at Glasstap Grange, One Hump or Two?, Sweet Talking, Land of the Nutritos, Police Chase, Hold the Front Page!, or any of my other favourites, means I am better able to be an adaptive facilitator of learning. It’s a skill I’m still honing but I know I have the tools at my disposal within Trainers’ Library to continue to get better.

Until next time...

Author Profile Picture
Rod Webb

Director and Co-Founder

Read more from Rod Webb

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