Lecturing During Training

Can Lectures be Good?

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.

Activities Saturation

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.

Lecturing Appreciation

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.

Lively Lecturing

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.

Conclusion

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?

My Story with Uncovering Client Training Needs

Requirements Email

A few days ago I received an email containing the training requirements of a client. The email was forwarded to me by the training company. The requirements were too much to include in a single training session. The training company then negotiated reducing those requirements with the client. Again I was forwarded another email containing a  shorter list of the client’s requirements. They were still too many to jam into one training day but I believed I could still manage.

Analyzing the Written Requirements

I had a deep look at the client requirements, they were written as a set of points in bullet form. I tried to read between the lines and understand the real reasons behind those requirements. The requirements were too specific and set about to decide on how to solve some of the problems the company was facing with regards to its employees. I would have preferred to have them written in the form of problems then I would have had the freedom to decide what specific training solutions would have helped remedy such problems.

Clarification from Training Company

I called the training company to ask for more details on the requirements and which ones were the more important to stress on. I received some answer that satisfied me yet still I wanted to get a feel for the requirements by meeting directly with the client.

Experiencing the Problems Firsthand

As I traveled to the location of the client for my training assignment I observed a few issues that such client could be suffering from. I observed this through my direct interactions with several of the employees there as I had arrived one day prior to the actual day of the training.

Interviewing HR

In the evening of the day prior to the training I met with the key HR person in the company and asked more about their requirements. I pulled out the original longer list of requirements and went through it one by one with the key HR person. The picture became mush clearer for me now as I got to know which points they need the most and have the most difficulty in facing and which points were of lesser importance.

After listening attentively to the key HR person at the company, I then set about to suggest an approach for solving such problems through the training and my thoughts about the followup process. It is important to listen attentively to the client first and take notes while listening then provide your suggestions and view at the end.

Adjusting the Training Program

Although the outline as well as the content of the training session had already been set by the training company based on the written requirements of the client yet I set about to customize the training program so that it would better fit the real needs of the client as I understood them more clearly after my fact to face meeting with the key HR person at the client company.

Best Practice

One of the lessons learnt from this story is that face to face interviewing of the client can be essential and could help in clarifying the true needs of the company. It is best to understand the client needs and requirements in terms of problems the client is facing rather than what training solutions your client believes would be the answer for such problems. This approach of specifying the problems gives you, the trainer, the freedom to decide on the training solutions yourself based on your knowledge and experience as a trainer.

Conclusion

Although there could be more formal approaches for determining the training needs of an organization, such as training needs analysis (TNA), yet a simple even informal meeting with the HR of such organization could tell you a great deal about employee related problems they are facing which helps you determine their training needs and thus be able to design an effective training program that caters for their real needs.

Have you ever attended a training program only to find that it does not cater for your real needs and is thus not of real practical use for you? Tell us about it.

Developing Training Objectives

Training needs analysis (TNA) is a formal method for gathering the training needs of employees at a company in order to design a training program for them to cater for such needs.

Identify Problems

A similar, yet less formal, approach to designing training programs for the corporate and non-corporate worlds is to start by identifying a problem that people are greatly suffering from then attempt to design a training program that would help in solving such problem. The beauty of such approach is that it guards against creating and delivering a training course that is not needed by people and does not actually have any practical benefit for them in real life save only perhaps for their enjoyment as they have fun during the time of the training program.

After identifying a strong problem that people are suffering from, on an individual level, on the company level or on the community, level the training program designer then sets about to list a number of training objectives for the training program that would help in remedying the identified problems. The set of training objectives can be listed under the following three categories: knowledge; skills and behavior.

Knowledge

Most traditional training courses have been focusing more heavily on knowledge objectives. Such programs intend to cram as much information as possible about the subject matter in the minds of attendees and aims at having them memorize such information and ultimately understand it.

Skills

More advanced training programs shift the focus from knowledge objectives to skills objectives. The main focus of the training program thus becomes to equip trainees with the necessary skills to perform various activities in the real world. Minimal focus may be given to the amount of information transferred directly in such a training program. Such highly interactive and practical training courses overcome the problems faced by knowledge focused programs which produce a trainee that has a lot of knowledge yet lacks the abilities of putting such knowledge into practice in the real world.

Behavior

A trainee who has gained specific skills may still suffer from the lack of desire to actually apply such gained skills. Here comes the role of the third and final element in the 3 groups of training objectives which is behavior. Some like to call it attitude rather than behavior. Some even go a step further and refer to the third element as beliefs. The reasoning behind this being that beliefs directly influence behavior. Behavior and beliefs can be considered as actually two sides of the same coin. Training programs that focus on shifting beliefs and influencing behavior are the most effective and long lasting. They can make enormous change in a trainee in a very short period of time.

Conclusion

No matter what the focus of a training program is be it on knowledge, skills or behavior, objectives of an effective training program should be based on the actual needs of the people and should help solve a real problem that people are actually suffering from.

Which courses do you think will benefit more form a knowledge-centered training program rather than one centered on changing attitude or developing skills?

Aiming for Imperfection in Training

Perfection is Unattainable

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.

Developing Constantly

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?