It’s 2 pm at the end of a busy week and you’re in an industry training session. The room is stuffy, the coffee is weak and watching paint dry would be more interesting.
We’ve all been there at more than one point in our careers. A badly facilitated training session is a grim experience for the learner and even worse for the facilitator.
At NMI, we’re passionate about our subject matter and often have enthusiastic learners attend our trainings. But we don’t rely on those things to drive engagement. Our trainers have a wealth of experience in the education and training sector and have picked up a fair few tips along the way.
So, in case you ever have to facilitate ”Disposing of Household Waste 101” (yes, I once had to run that very course), we thought we’d share our top tips on delivering a winning training session.
1) Consider how adults learn
Adult learning theories, such as Knowles’s 4 Principles of Andragogy, tell us that we don’t passively absorb information in the way kids do. Adult learners have much more complex needs and embody a variety of learning styles. A powerful facilitator will employ different teaching methods such as asking questions, starting discussions or running activities, polls and quizzes.
2) Create an outstanding learner experience
The learner experience encompasses everything from registration to application. If a facilitator misses the mark for any of the components involved in learning, the learner experience is affected, and the level of learning is compromised. Training should happen when people are most productive. As a rule of thumb, morning sessions are good, after lunch is bad. Think about the learning environment. Poor lighting, uncomfortable temperature and insufficient refreshments are all barriers to learning. Keep time. Adult learners will appreciate starting and finishing on time.
3) Manage difficult behaviors
It can throw off the best of us when the group goes silent or someone tries to take over the session. Participants may even become hostile and challenge your credentials. Facilitators must quickly identify and deal with these common scenarios to keep the event flowing and positive. Set ground rules early. Bring quieter people into the discussion. If someone has lots of questions that are disrupting the session, offer to follow up with them afterward. Most importantly, always stay calm.
4) Ask the right questions
Asking questions encourages participation and gives learners a chance to evaluate and develop critical thinking. Asking open-ended questions draws out ideas and allows the learner to elaborate. Intelligent and thought-provoking questions can initiate a discussion and increase participation. Just don’t forget to listen to the answers!
5) Build rapport and increase engagement
Getting everyone involved is the key to a successful training session. If you stand up and talk for three hours, you’re a lecturer, not a facilitator. Icebreakers, energizers and activities are great tools for enhancing engagement and putting everyone at ease.
6) Be inclusive
A truly brilliant facilitator will place inclusivity at the heart of the session. Being mindful of the diversity of learners is crucial to ensure everyone has equal opportunity to achieve the objective. Inclusivity begins in the planning stage. Think about how your activities and tasks might be affected if a percentage of attendees has mobility issues, dyslexia, are hard of hearing or blind. Minimizing jargon and cultural references and making course materials available online will ensure your content is accessible.
Remember, inclusivity is a journey. It is not about being all things to all people all of the time, but about continually reflecting and asking, “How can I do better?”
Facilitation is an ongoing voyage of discovery. Subject matter will change, new scenarios will present themselves. Even if you are delivering the same content each time, no two training sessions will ever be the same. So, don’t expect to be perfect the first time or even the 50th time. Learn from mistakes, hone your skills and continue your own learning journey. Your students are counting on it.