“ Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn. ”
Before going into how to develop an engaging training program, the first step is to understand the type of audience for the program. Understanding the audience type would help the course designers and trainers (in-house or outsourced) to set the tone, relevancy and context of the training program in accordance. Corporate professionals are the audience we are referring in this write-up. They are adult learners. So, a training program tailored around adult learning theory would make the program more effective and solution-oriented.
Adult learners are self-directed, practical, driven by internal motivation, specific about their requirements and independent in choosing what they want to learn. They also look out for a desirable Return On Investment (ROI). Isn’t it apparent now that the program should be relevant and experiential to engage corporate professionals ?
Keeping the above points in mind, below are the suggestions on ways to develop an engaging training program for corporate professionals- the adult learners. They are:
- 1. Keynote beginning: Begin the program by clearly outlining the keynote of the program followed by the trainer’s background and years of relevant experience. Swiftly, shift the conversation focus towards participants. Ask for everyone’s brief introduction followed by the individual’s expectations from the session/s. Make a note of the expectation list on the board alongside. Promptly, refer the list as a checklist to meet the additional requirements if any missed during the planning phase. Sometimes, speak about the expectation list to keep the audience hooked and engaged.
- 2. Action plan exercise: Action plan exercise is a good warmup for bringing in the hands-on involvement of the participants. The participants can be asked to make their action plans of what vs how they’d implement the learnings in their roles. It is a first-hand preparation of the audience for the session/s. Action plan exercise is a form of simple mind map exercise. It makes the learning highly experiential to the adult learners.
- 3. Using pre-planned questionnaires: Asking relevant and open-ended questions promote critical thinking. It allows the participants to engage, share thoughts, encourage discussions and bring in information exchange. The questions should be pre-planned, relevant and purposeful. Sometimes, tactfully use probing questions to dig deeper when the answers sound ambiguous. A trainer should be a great listener too. Questionnaires should be used not for the sake of asking but to actuate the participants to think, discuss and share. At times, questions are used to avoid confrontations. Otherwise, the session gets sucked up into a one-on-one discussion.
- 4. Tell a tale: Everyone enjoys listening stories. Sharing a story is a powerful way to develop engagement. It is a robust way to make an emotional connect during the learning journey. Personal stories have a better chance to establish a deeper level of engagement as it is relatable directly to the daily lives. Keep the story simple and directional. The story should have a beginning, middle, climax and ending. Storytelling in training sessions usually serves the below mentioned purposes:
So, it is a responsibility of a trainer to stick to the purpose of sharing a story, or life experience.
- a) bringing entertainment in the learning journey
- b) making an illustration of a complex concept
- c) leaving the audience inspired with a story
- d) teaching a lesson.
- e) making a point
- 5. Follow up with interactive and energising learning activities: “Did you know 66% of the participants feel bored during a training session?”- Customer service AECOM. No matter how engaging the training session is, there are chances that approximately 40% of the participants would lose interest. The trainer should be prepared with a backup plan to introduce interactive and energising exercises to capture and retain their attention. It could be on-spot exercises, gamification, or an icebreaking activity to bring the interest back.
- 6. Inspiring ending: Based on the complexity of topics and time availability, recapitulate the topic/s after each break or between the transition of concept/s by asking what they learnt. It helps in the reinforcement of what they have learnt, encourages the audience to participate and milestone evaluation. Closing the session by asking their takeaways keeps the participants engaged till the end. A great trainer leaves their audience inspired, with a positive learning experience. So we conclude that:
- a) Adopting a two-way respectful communication is the key to fostering a motivating environment for the skill building of corporate professionals. Do not force the aforementioned, exercises/ activities on anyone. A trainer going with an open mind to accept ‘No’ as an answer makes a communication respectful. Adult learners attending the program are diverse in cultures, beliefs and conditioning. They have a wealth of personal and professional experiences.
- b) The feedback session is a progress measurement tool which should also be a two-way street. Generally, due to time constraints, either the feedback from participants to trainers happens, many times, this also goes missing. So appropriately planning time during the training module design phase and strictly adhering to it completes the training cycle. Feedbacks are information based on direct observation, specific behaviours and facts. So, feedbacks from a trainer to each participant and feedbacks from each participant should be planned and practised.
- c) Tailoring the training to suit all types of participating learners (visual, auditory and kinesthetic) can be taken spontaneously. Even if one couldn’t make a spontaneous decision of customised training, taking a technical and application-oriented approach (using pie-charts, diagrams, images, use cases, statistical figures and case studies) can suffice the training solution for adult learners.
- d) Three determining factors that are important to consider in planning, designing and evaluation of a training program to cater to the professionals are their previous experience, the degree of internal motivation and objective of pursuance. So, judicially curate for a compelling and engaging training outcome.
- e) In the end, humbly accepting what you know and what you don’t know.