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Increase Engagement with Interactive Training

Can you deliver your training in 20 minutes or less? If not, you need to develop a range of activities and resources to maintain engagement. In this article, we explore why interactive training helps delegates to absorb and apply the learning.

How to Avoid Delegates Getting Distracted

Back in 2009, studies by Dukette and Cornish revealed that adults have a sustained attention span of 20 minutes. After this time, if there is no change in activity, the mind will seek out an alternative stimulus. Drag on and you can expect your audience to get distracted, start fidgeting and be thinking about what to have for tea.

As a trainer, this is valuable insight. It doesn’t mean that our training courses can’t exceed 20 minutes. It’s just that we can’t deliver too much information in one hit. We need to offer variety and interactivity. By providing the change of stimulus, we can keep learners engaged in our courses.

Audience Participation Training Options

Polls & Quizzes

Whether online or in person, technology has made it easy to create multi-media training sessions. For a start, polls and quizzes are ways to involve your audience and get a feel for their opinions or current level of knowledge or understanding of the content.

Group Discussions

Group discussions or challenges enable the delegates to share ideas, develop solutions and gather peer input that can spark ideas. The group dynamics don’t always work, but sometimes group members will learn more from each other than from the trainer. Yes, that’s right; we aren’t the font of all knowledge! The experience or suggestion shared by a peer can be the thing that makes sense and enables someone to gain competence and confidence.

Practical Activities

Practical activities get everyone moving about. As long as the activity is relevant to the course objectives and reinforces a key message, they are an effective way to put learning into action. Plenty of learners have a preference for learning by doing. Therefore, allowing them to put the theory into action aids understanding.

It’s not unusual for me to arrive at a training session (even virtually!) with a box of resources. Cards, dice, balls, real or virtual Post-It notes and more can be used to transform passive into active learning!
Following a practical activity, ask delegates how they found the experience. Did it raise any issues or questions? Has it altered their thoughts about the subject or has it sparked ideas?

Learning Styles

The concept that we all have a preferred learning style was widely explored in the 1970 and 80s. The suggestion was that, as learners, we find it easier to take on information if it is presented in a specific way.

In the Kolb Model, learners were Accommodating, Converging, Diverging or Assimilating. Honey & Mumford offered Activist, Pragmatist, Reflector and Theorist. Whilst Burke Barb presented us as Visual, Auditory or Kinaesthetic learners.

More recently, studies by Susan Greenfield* and Massa & Mayer** have shown that, whilst we have natural preferences, the concept of fixed groups is misleading. They have proven that the best learning outcomes occur when we are exposed to a range of styles. So, we need to mix things up!
What’s your learning style? We tend to favour our preference when creating training courses, so be mindful of that. Ensure that you are presenting a good mix of written, visual, active and verbal material. This might take you out of your comfort zone, but ultimately, it makes the training more enjoyable for you too.

Blended Learning

The future of training lies in blended learning. That is a mix of in-person training, virtual training, self-paced online courses and micro-learning (snippets of information to embed the training).
We should also explore ways to engage multiple senses in the training. The result will be an increase in the likelihood of learning being absorbed, memorable and applied. Therefore, divide your training materials and message into a series of short chunks using a variety of techniques.

What we can’t forget is that our courses are all about outcomes. They need to alter their thinking and behaviours. We want to equip the learner, so they become more competent and confident in their role. As trainers, we are employed to help learners gain awareness so they can overcome barriers and move towards individual and organisational goals.

Engage your Audience

So, to engage delegates and give them the best chance of absorbing and applying the learning, you need to:

  • Divide the content into short, snappy sections.
  • Vary the materials used to ensure the course appeals to all learning preferences.
  • Engage all senses to make the training memorable.
  • Provide opportunities for group discussions, where delegates can share ideas and learn from each other.
  • Consider blended learning formats.
  • Step out of your comfort zone to make training sessions more fun for you too!

Finally, as you deliver and develop new ideas, you will build a bank of tools and resources to draw on. These can be invaluable for tailoring your training to the audience.

If you need help building your resources, I regularly share resources on my website and in my online Training Club.

* https://www.education.sa.gov.au/sites/default/files/style_without_substance.pdf

** https://people.cs.vt.edu/~shaffer/cs6604/Papers/Validity_2006.pdf

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