8 Tips on Facilitating a Successful Training Workshop 

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Rana Kordahi - Founder and Director of Limitlessminds - 9th November 2017

1. Sell It

Adult learners have a need to know why they have to learn something and how it is relevant to them. Learning is deeper when they are intrinsically motivated. When you set the learning objectives and agenda for the day, sell the features of each topic and how learning it will benefit them. What is the value of this workshop? Why do they need it? And how is it going to help them in their job, life or career development. Many times in my training sessions I boosted the motivation of learners within the first few minutes simply by selling it.

2. Use Questions

“Thinking is not driven by answers but by questions.” From the book THE ART OF SOCRATIC QUESTIONS by Dr Richard Paul and Dr Linda Elder. Any good trainer understands the role of questions in the classroom and how they encourage critical thinking, stimulate discussions, encourage best practice and cultivate creativity. Most important, using questions in your training sessions can help your participants increase knowledge and support their memory. When using questions make sure that they are open and relevant. They need to be structured and have a purpose. Don’t just ask questions for the sake of asking without really listening to the answers. Use probing questions to dig deeper if necessary. Be mindful of reflective listening to demonstrate understanding and reinforce what had just been said to the whole group. You can also use questioning techniques as part of your group flipchart activities. This can be done by writing a unique question on each flipchart and encouraging each group to critically answer the question as well as sharing their own perceptions and experiences in small groups.

3. All Eyes on You

Have you ever watched someone present or speak and you couldn’t take your eyes off them? What was their secret? I call them the three Cs. Confidence, conviction and charisma. Being confident in your abilities as a trainer is a must. Believe in yourself, skills and knowledge. Trust that you are an excellent trainer, and it will reflect in how you carry yourself. Conviction is the ability to persuade. Are you passionate about what you’re delivering? Do you believe in it? Are you an expert on the subject matter? Do you speak with purpose? Charisma is simply about having stage presence. Don’t stand in the corner, but near the centre. Be there in the moment. Be yourself, be warm and have a sense of humour. Take your time to let what you’re saying sink into your audience’s minds. Use pauses and play with words. Use your voice to carry the room. Projection and articulation are vital. Be aware of your body. Practice stillness. Move slowly and with a purpose. Make eye contact with everyone. Include everyone. Building rapport is vital in order for your audience to like you and listen to what you’re saying.                 

 4. Tell Stories

Everyone loves a good story. Storytelling is a powerful way to engage participants while making a point. Use stories from your work or life experience which relate to what you’re teaching. If you don’t have any stories of your own then use someone else’s. Even fictional or real scenarios using case studies or videos are good enough. When telling a good story you want to tap into the limbic system of people’s brains. It’s the part which is responsible for emotions and feelings. Try not to focus too much on the mechanics of telling the story, but rather keep it simple, draw the picture and take them on a journey. A good story has a beginning, middle and end. As well as some conflict and resolution. Know the purpose of why you’re telling the story. Is it to entertain? Make a point? Inspire? Or teach a lesson?

5. Remember Learning Styles

Tailor your training to suit all learning styles. Some people are visual learners. They mostly remember what they see instead of what they hear. These individuals may have trouble remembering auditory instructions. They mostly benefit from diagrams, charts, pictures, films, and written directions. Then there are auditory learners. You may think that an auditory person is not paying attention because they are not watching you, but believe me, they are listening and absorbing every word that you’re saying. They are really good at remembering oral instructions and tend to remember about 75% of what people say. Auditory learners benefit from lectures, presentations, group discussions, videos and audio tapes. As for Kinaesthetic learners, these are the ones that need to do things in order to learn. They retain what they do with their hands and bodies. They are able to remember how to do things after they’ve had a go at doing them once. Rather than show them how to do something get these learners to have a go at doing it. Get them to move around, touch, build things and do role plays. So when designing and facilitating training keep learning styles in mind and be flexible on the day to tailor session to meet learner needs. 

6. Be Prepared

You can be the best facilitator/trainer in the world but if you haven’t prepared then you haven’t only sold yourself short but also your participants. They deserve the best. They are putting in the time and sometimes money in order to develop their skills. Study the learning material entirely and be prepared to know a little more than them. If you are also writing the training then be sure that you understand their learning needs. What do participants want to get out of the training? What are the learning objectives? Are there certain skills, knowledge and behaviours you need to equip learners with? Write a session plan, even if you may not follow it 100%. It will help you stick to the time and know if you are running behind. I usually do all my photocopying a few days before. Nothing worse than dealing with a faulty printer the day before training. On the day try and arrive early in order to set up. You don’t want to be running around trying to fix IT glitches five minutes before you’re about to start. Be prepared mentally and physically. I usually eat well and get lots of rest the night before I deliver a training session. 

7. Interactive and Energising

Long before I was a trainer, I was sent to an IT policies and procedures training through my work. To be honest, I wasn’t really looking forward to going. I predicted that this was probably going to be another boring session where the trainer just spewed a whole bunch of information and expected us to remember it all. And anyway how can any trainer possibly make an IT policies and procedures workshop interesting? Well, this trainer sure did. He got us all involved. Got us discussing pros and cons, asked us reflective questions, provided us with problems and got us to find solutions. He put us into different groups and got us to investigate what the actual policies and procedures were and present them back to the group. In order to keep us energised he stuck the flip charts up on the walls so we were standing up while doing group work. The guy was even funny and made us laugh. This particular trainer could have stood there for two hours presenting all the facts and figures if he had wanted to. But I’m pretty certain that more than half of the group would have drifted off. Depending on what type of training I’m running it is usually the participants doing 60% of the talking. I’ve followed the interactive and energising method throughout my whole training career for even the most mind-boggling policies, procedures and induction type trainings. I can tell you that most participants walked out of these sessions surprised about how interactive and fun they were.       

8. You Don’t Know Everything

Although you may be the expert on the subject matter it is necessary to stay humble and communicate to participants that their input is extremely valuable. Sometimes they may know more than you, and that’s okay. If you don’t know something then be honest. You will get more respect by being truthful than trying to wing it. Perhaps someone else may know the answer or you can take note of it and get back to them. Adult learners have a wealth of vocational, academic and life experience. They are diverse in abilities, attitudes, cultures, beliefs and perceptions. I highly encourage best practice in all my sessions because participants learn more that way and as a trainer I generally walk away from my sessions having learnt something new. (Please note that some of this may not apply if the training is didactic.)

 These are just a few of hundreds of methods and techniques to facilitate effective training sessions. Please feel free to share some of yours in the comments section.