One method of teaching is to directly feed information into the minds of students. In training, however, it is much more effective to provide participants with plenty of opportunities to deduce the information you want them to learn on their own. One powerful method for discovering new information and gaining new insights is reflection.
A trainer can show a carefully selected short video to participants during the training session that touches upon one or more points related to the training. The trainer may then ask participants to split into groups and collaboratively reflect on such a video they have just seen deducing lessons and coming up with new insights from that video. Showing a video is a highly engaging activity for participants and is a sure way to get and maintain their full attention. Each group of participants can write down their reflections on a sheet of paper then come up and present them in front of the rest of the participants.
A trainer may provide participants with a game during the training session that has specific training goals. After the game is over the trainer may start asking participants about what they have learnt from that game. The trainer may also ask them about how they felt at specific times during the game. By allowing participants to reflect on their own feelings and on the development and outcome of the game they have just played they are often able to come up with new insights and lessons from such experience they just had.
During attending the graphic facilitation workshop, the trainers asked us to draw the process of making coffee. After we finished the drawing activity, they asked each of us to look at his or her drawing of the coffee making process and try to discover something about his or her own personality. I kept gazing at my drawing for quite a while without being able to discover anything really meaningful about myself. Then it suddenly struck me that the drawings clearly indicated that I am a multitasking person who likes to do several things in parallel since I did not draw the process in steps, like most of my colleagues had done, but rather drew all components of the coffee making process as if they were happening simultaneously without a specific order or sequence. I like to finish things quickly and reach for the end goal in a short time. Such was another example of using reflection to gain insight after a training activity this time being a self reflection.
After providing participants with ample opportunity to reflect on a video you have shown them and express their findings or reflect on a game they have just played during their training you can then proceed to summarize and comment on their reflections perhaps stressing some of them, modifying others and even adding some insights of your own. Reflection is a powerful technique that can provide participants with deep insights and high rate of information retention if used appropriately by the trainer in various occasions during training.
How else can reflections be used other than after watching videos, playing training games and making drawings?
I used to hate lectures. As a response to finding so many trainers using lecturing in all or most of the time of their training sessions, I developed an inclination to jam pack my training with training activities and to avoid using lecturing altogether in all training sessions I was delivering. Despite finding the all-activities training to be highly successful, enjoyable and engaging yet as I gained more experience in delivering training I started to realize that lecturing does indeed have a place within the training session and can even improve the overall effectiveness of a training program if used appropriately.
The first insight about the importance of injecting some lecturing in a training program came to me after delivering a training session in which I led participants into repeatedly carrying out a number of group activities in a row. I observed that participants just got fed up from the repeated group activities they were asked to do after having to do them for several times. The final time they were doing the group work they seamed reluctant and went through the activity with low energy.
The second incident that helped me change my mind about the all-activities no-lecturing approach I once clung strongly to was when I attended a training program by some senior trainer. He used very few activities during his full-day training sessions and did not provide for a lot of interactivity. On the contrary, he spoke a lot and lectured for long during the sessions. At the end of that two-day training program I was surprised to find most participants giving him the highest score in the training evaluation forms! Many of them came to greet him and thank him heartedly for the training. They even clapped with enthusiasm and appreciation for him as he closed the training program. This experience had me rethink my earlier beliefs and start appreciating the concept of lecturing once again.
Some Like Lectures
I also remember a third incident where one of the trainees spoke up during the first half of the training session I was delivering and said to me: “Now we want to hear you speak.” I attempted to explain to him that the training program was based on activities rather than on lecturing yet I did realize that for many people they have been conditioned to listen to lectures and expect to find one during the training program they are attending.
Mixing Lecturing and Activities
After such revelation I had I started injecting mini lectures or lecturettes in between activities during training sessions I delivered. I noticed that providing such mini-lectures made participants very eager to carry out activities when the time for activities comes. I also noticed that giving several activities to trainees makes them very attentive to the trainer when the time comes for him to speak and give a mini-lecture or short presentation. Alternation between training activities and short lectures seemed to provide the best effect in a training program. Nevertheless, I still believe that time provided for activities should still be more than that given to lecturing perhaps its double.
In order to make lecturettes interesting and effective it is best to fill them up with storytelling and perhaps accompany them with drawing or charting on the flip chart. This would help make them the more engaging and impactful.
So whenever designing for a training program remember to include a combination of many activities and a few mini-lectures in order to get the best of both worlds and achieve the highest impact.
When do you think is it not appropriate at all to use even mini-lectures during a training program?
One of the main tools used by a trainer during the process of training is his own voice. It is thus essential that a trainer pays great attention to the health of his voice and his whole vocal apparatus.
Hot Drinks are Good
The most important thing a trainer can do to protect his voice is to have hot drinks once or twice throughout long training days. This helps relief the vocal apparatus and keep it functioning well during the training day. If having hot drinks during the training day was for some reason not possible then at least drinking plenty of water throughout the training day would be highly recommended. This helps keep the throat and the whole vocal apparatus well hydrated and lubricated. It is as if keeping the engine of a car running smoothly during long travels by making sure there is enough water for it to cool it down.
Cold Drinks are Bad
It is essential that the trainer never gets a cold drink right after the training session is over nor during the training day. This is like suddenly pouring cold water in an extremely hot glass thus resulting in its cracking and breaking. In extreme situations where the trainer does not have any hot drinks during training nor any water then gets cold drinks right after the long training session is over he might find his throat bleeding and himself spitting blood. I have learned this the hard way so try to guard against it by never ever consuming anything cold right after a long training session.
Do not Shout
Aside from keeping your body well hydrated with warm drinks, you also protect your voice by using it wisely during the training session. If there is a mic available, feel free to use it, particularly if you have many training sessions set up in a row during adjacent days. This helps save your voice way longer. Whether a mic is available or not, and whether you decide to use it or not, you should always attempt to maintain a balance between having all attendees hear you well and not shouting too loud in a way that harms your vocal apparatus on the long run. You should attempt to speak by pushing air out from the lower abdomen as if it is coming out of your stomach. This is similar to how singers train. It helps make your voice loud enough without straining your vocal apparatus.
During the training session you must also guard against shouting to trainees not only because this would be rude and generally inappropriate for the trainer to do but also because this single brief action may drain your vocal energy and strain it to the extent of causing temporary or partial damage to it.
A trainer who delivers training often, in particular if he does not use a mic, would find that his voice became loader. You can even get to know if a person you are meeting for the first time is a trainer/lecturer/public speaker or not from the strength and quality of his voice is.
The trainer’s voice is the #1 tool in the possession of the trainer. He must take great care in maintaining it, nourishing it and keeping it safe by hydrating it, lubricating it and keeping it warm as well as by not overusing it. A competent trainer would also make participants carry out a lot of activities and speak a lot during the training day thus drastically cutting down on the time during which the trainer himself is speaking.
In what other ways can a trainer help protect and maintain his voice?
An experienced trainer never tries to aim for perfection when planning for or delivering a training session. Perfection is something illusive that should not be chased and can never be attained in training. Aiming for perfection in training would probably result in an imperfect training session anyway plus the added stress and extra effort exerted by the trainer. Instead of seeing a flexible trainer who is able to adapt instantly and deal with various circumstances a perfectionist trainer would show a great deal of rigidness and be under constant stress. Such a trainer would burn down quickly.
Aiming for perfection during planning for and delivering a training session not only consumes enormous amounts of resources from the trainer and keeps him under constant high stress but it also prevents any kind of experimentation or learning from mistakes to take place. It does not allow the trainer to develop and grow and enhance his craft gradually.
In contrast to that, a trainer who aims instead at creating a very good total effect for the training doing 90% planning for the training and delivering most of the training in high quality would have room for learning during the training session and improving after that. By leaving an amount of ‘air’ or space for some imperfection in the training planning and delivery a trainer allows himself to deliver the training without being overstressed and provides him with the agility needed to be flexible adapting to new conditions and dealing with various situations with ease and confidence while constantly developing and improving his craft as a trainer. This imperfection also reminds us of the flexible training session planning method.
Perfection from Imperfection
Aiming for perfection might be something practiced by the novice trainer yet a trainer who wants to keep on improving and developing should never aim at making each and every training session he delivers perfect. Interestingly, by not aiming for perfection a trainer keeps improving and developing thus getting closer and closer to true perfection as time goes on.
Are there situations for which the trainer should attempt to aim for perfection? What can those situations be?
Upon delivering the first training session to a new group of participants the trainer should first start by introducing himself or herself right after greeting them. Alternatively, if there is someone coordinating the training then such person can come up first and introduce the trainer then the trainer takes charge of the training session right after that.
When introducing himself or herself a trainer should first start by mentioning his name clearly then provide any brief background about any experience he has related to the training he is about to deliver. It is important that the trainer make participants respect his experience and skills and put their trust and confidence in him. This will make them more attentive during the sessions and more willing to participate. Participants will benefit much more from the training if they trust the trainer, respect him and are fascinated with his skill level.
This is not a luxury step nor does the trainer do it to boast but rather it is a necessity.
What information other than specialized experience do you think a trainer can also mention when introducing himself or herself?
One of the interesting things a new trainer experiences after delivering a training session is a deep sense of satisfaction and fulfillment. Mental and psychological stability result from delivering a training session. A sense of serenity and internal happiness fills the trainer after delivering a training session. This could be contrasted with the high stress and anxiety a new trainer might be feeling before delivering the session. The new trainer at first might not be aware that such feelings of happiness and fulfillment are a normal part of delivering training. He or she might think that this session they had just been delivering in particular was unique in providing them with such awesome positive feelings. An experienced trainer however is well aware of the fact that despite the high energy needed for delivering a training session yet almost all sessions provide the trainer with a fulfilling sense of happiness after he or she delivers them even if he feels exhausted on the physical level.
When Things Go Wrong
Of course I am assuming here that the training session turned on well and that participants were happy about it. If on the other hand the trainer faced situations of difficult participants that he was unable to handle or handled with aggression in such cases this would probably leave a negative mark in the heart and mind of the trainer right after the training session and even for some time after it which could last for days or even weeks.
Speaking While Others Listen
One of the reasons behind a deep feeling of happiness and fulfillment a trainer usually feels after delivering a training session is that he speaks in a training session in front of an audience that are attentively listening to him or her. This act in itself is what provides the trainer with psychological satisfaction. The act of speaking in itself and exercising one’s mental powers is similar to going to the gym, you might feel physically exhausted after a long and difficult session at the gym but you will at the same time experience a deep sense of happiness and fulfillment.
Have you experienced this deep sense of serenity and fulfillment before after speaking in front of a live audience or explaining something to others? Tell us the story.