Training News

Making the Most of Valuable Training Time

Training time is valuable, and in order to get the best results, your trainers must know how to use the best training strategies and techniques available to them. Today we’ll take a look at how trainers can make the most out of classroom time and keep learners engaged with the material.

How Can Trainers Make the Most Efficient Use of Classroom Training Time?

Trainers are under constant pressure from management to decrease the amount of face-to-face classroom time and to reduce overall training time, says Elaine Biech, president and managing principal of ebb associates inc. (www.ebbweb.com), an organizational development firm. That’s why it’s so important to make the most efficient use of training time, she says.

Biech identifies ways to squeeze more into a training session. For example:

  • Be thoroughly prepared. Understand your topic and objectives. “Figure out what participants must know, and what’s nice to know,” she says.
  • Make sure you start on time. “It doesn’t matter if one-quarter of the class is missing. The next time you start, most of the class will be there,” Biech says.
  • Don’t spend a lot of time passing out training materials, she adds. Instead, put materials on each table before the session begins, have participants pick up handouts as they enter the classroom, or, if trainees are sitting in a U shape, start stacks at both ends and in the middle.
  • Have different groups of learners work on different content, and then have a group discussion about what they learned. For example, if you have 25 participants and a handout listing 20 tips for discussion, divide participants into five groups, and assign four tips to each group. Then, ask each group to share its thoughts with the class.

However, Biech cautions against relying on small group discussions too much because they’re time-consuming. “You certainly have to break up lectures,” she says, “but you don’t always have to break into small groups … Sometimes, a larger group discussion is fine.”

Biech also suggests creating activities that address more than one learning objective and designating timekeepers to keep activities on track and to get learners back to their seats after breaks. At designated points during a 20-minute activity, for example, timekeepers can remind other participants about the remaining time or that they should have completed a certain portion of the activity.

How Can Trainers Keep Learners Engaged in Training?

Knowing your audience and making training interactive will help keep learners engaged, says Laurie Brown, a speaker, author, and trainer who helps people improve their sales, customer service, and presentation skills.

“You have to know your audience,” she says, adding that it is important for trainers to be familiar with learners’ level of understanding of the training topic and to “know why they need to know what you’re teaching them.”

Learners might tune out if the training material is too advanced for them. That’s why Brown recommends watching learners’ body language. “You need to watch to check for understanding.”

She also suggests taking a moment during training to ask learners “How’s this going? Are we working at a good pace?” or asking whether you were clear in explaining a certain point or procedure.

In addition, “interactivity is crucial,” Brown says. “Try not to lecture. I think lecturing can make people fall asleep.”

Instead of reeling off a bunch of information, she recommends asking questions. Not only does this get learners directly involved in the training session, it also helps them own the material, she says. “I consider myself a facilitator. I try to make it easy for them to discover what they already know … in a different context.”

Getting learners involved in activities and having them work in small groups also can help keep them engaged in the learning process, she says. “I think the learning environment should be fun.”

Trainers also should recognize that people learn differently and tailor training sessions accordingly. For example, kinesthetic learners learn best by doing, while aural/auditory learners learn best by listening, and visual learners benefit most from visual cues. “Give information to your audience in all three ways,” Brown recommends, so that you reach everyone, no matter what kind of learning style they have.

In tomorrow’s Advisor, we get more expert advice on how to manage difficult trainees and difficult questions.