As a facilitator, it’s your goal to use the time you’ve been given to create engagement and make the training experience an investment that is beneficial for employees. But there is an art to creating a learning experience that employees remember and put into practice.
So, why do some sessions drag while others are engaging and memorable? After training over 2,000,000 individuals, the team at ELI has seen it all, and we are constantly working to make each session an interesting and compelling time for participants. We know that when it comes to creating an effective training experience, it’s all about facilitation.
In this post, we look at ten facilitation tips and tricks from our team of experts for how to improve your training experience. Let’s get started…
1. Know Your Technology
The sudden shift to remote work and VILT (Virtual Instructor-Led Training) in 2020 has made familiarity with virtual meeting and learning platforms a must for any facilitator. Knowing the technology you will be using inside and out is a must before your sessions. We encourage facilitators to test their software and login as a participant on a second device to see how it appear for the user before the event.
Because some employees may be unfamiliar with the tools, it’s important to know the software so well that you can assist and answer questions, not just teach content. Technology mishaps happen, but being prepared will give you more valuable training time and prevent interruptions.
2. Ask Questions
Asking questions is a smart way to make your training more engaging and effective. It’s easy for participants to lose focus during a lecture-based class, and by structuring the session around questions, you can gain an added level of engagement. Asking and answering questions to stimulate discussion and learning is central to the Socratic Method and allows participants to retain more of the content vs. a one-sided presentation.
3. Tell Stories
An effective way to make your presentations more memorable is to personalize the information and tell stories. Relying on the facts and abstract concepts can be effective, but participants will often relate more to a personal anecdote.
By putting the same information and content into real-life examples, you can shed new light on the overarching concept. It’s important to have the stories prepared well ahead of time and to think through how you will use the stories to illustrate each key point you want to make.
4. Focus on the Results
Participants need to know that the training they are attending matters. Anyone who has taken Algebra II has heard the question, “when am I ever going to use this in real life?” That same dynamic is at play with workplace training. When an attendee knows that listening and applying what they learn during the training can have a meaningful impact on their company, they will approach it differently.
As a facilitator, you want to make a connection between the content being taught and how changing behavior will positively affect results. Doing this takes the information out of the abstract realm and puts it in their day-to-day lives.
5. Change it Up
Training sessions that stay with one method of teaching for too long become tedious. At ELI, we like to change things up every three to five minutes as a way to introduce variety and keep participants on their toes.
These shifts can be a polling exercise, break-out sessions, lecture-based training, a Q&A session, or watching a video. You want to plan these content shifts strategically to keep the session moving and pace the content in a way that keeps employees engaged.
6. Right Size Your Group
The size of the group you are training in plays a vital role in how well the content is received. Groups that are too large allow participants to be disengaged, and smaller groups can create awkward dynamics.
At ELI, we like to aim for 25 participants or less in each training session with a minimum of 10 people in each class. We have found a class with 10-25 participants is the sweet spot for creating an engaging, memorable learning experience that makes a real difference.
7. Break Out
While a small group is not ideal for the entire learning experience, having smaller break-out groups with the larger session is a great way to create engagement. There may be individuals in the training that are more comfortable taking in a smaller group, and break-out sessions give them that space.
At ELI, we have found that break-out sessions are also an excellent place for employees to get to know each other on a deeper level. Often, training sessions happen with employees from different divisions or geographic regions. Having time together to discuss topics facilitates relationships in meaningful ways.
8. Cameras On
For virtual learning experiences, we recommend that participants use the camera on their devices. Being on-camera is more common now due to the proliferation of Zoom meetings, but have it on positively affects the overall training experience.
Employees who keep their cameras off are more likely to be disengaged, which leads to a break in the flow of your session. Don’t expect all users to turn on the camera immediately and know that you will need to ask, and possibly be direct with employees who do not want to use their camera.
9. Take a Poll
Adding polls to your learning experience is a smart way to create engagement while also taking the temperature of your group. Employees typically like to share their opinions, and polling is a very low friction way to get people involved.
At ELI, we use anonymous polling tools and have found the anonymity is a way to learn what the group is really thinking. Participants could be afraid to share their opinions on camera but may feel more comfortable expressing an option by responding to the poll. Plus, polls are another fun way to break your sessions up and create variety.
10. Finish On Time
How you end a session plays an essential role in the success of the learning experience. We encourage our facilitators to finish on time, or even a little early if possible. This is a rule we follow even if things got started late or if there was one more point to make.
The law of diminishing returns is at work when you run over your allotted time and participants start watching the clock as time is drawing to a close. Stay in control of your group, and make sure to wrap up with time to spare.
Have you seen these facilitation tips in action, or what techniques are your favorite for how to improve the training and learning experience? Let us know in the comments below.
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