To be honest, one of the reasons that I became a trainer is that I am not a good participant. If I am not engaged from the beginning, I am easily bored and distracted. My mind seems to go onto other things like the pressing tasks I could be completing. With all of the bells and whistles that technology provides trainers today, the ability to personally connect with the audience is still the most important aspect of creating a successful learning experience. Here are some of my best practices for connecting with your audience.
Who is this person that I am handing my life over to for the next two hours? Participants may have little knowledge of who you are, so your first task is to let them get to know you. Your introduction, beyond the obvious, should give the audience a hint of the expertise and experience that you bring to the table. When I am training in a consulting situation, I am transparent that while I may not be an expert in their industry, I am well versed in the topic at hand. It’s important to build a bridge to the participants that also lets them know I am open to learning more about them and their industry.
Break the Ice
Yes, what is a training session without an icebreaker. We can read volumes about the various types that are out there, so there’s no need to go into detail here. My experience has taught me that icebreakers are an opportunity for participants to reveal something about themselves – the trainer included – and help to level-set the group.
An effective icebreaker will warm up the conversation in your training class and ensure that participants enjoy their interactions, which is a big part of today’s learning process. When participants don’t know each other or the trainer, the icebreaker helps them introduce themselves to the other participants. This often puts people more at ease and ready to hear your message as well as provide their own input.
Make ‘em Laugh!
According to Bob Orben, Special Assistant to President Gerald Ford and Former Director of the White House Speechwriting Department, “Business executives and political leaders have embraced humor because humor works. Humor has gone from being an admirable part of a leader’s character to a mandatory one”. Using humor shows that you are human and that you want to make your training experience as enjoyable as possible. Another approach can be to share a personal anecdote that is related to the topic, yet shows your human side. It is also an effective way to get your message across.
I have found that one thing most of us do in any speaking or learning situation is asking questions to ensure that the audience has understood your message. How you ask can have a great impact on whether or not you will get a response. Do you ask, “Do you have any questions?” or, “What questions do you have?” The latter, an open-ended question, sounds much more inviting and less threatening while often drawing out the audience. You are asking for a reason, and questions are always a good thing! They help to clarify your message.
Now comes the often uncomfortable part…the awkward silence. Avoid answering your own questions just to end the silence. Count to ten (in your head of course). On most occasions, someone else will be just as uncomfortable and break the silence with a question or comment. If not, you’ve done a good job at getting your message across effectively!
These are just a few highlights but are crucial areas of your presentation. Take these into consideration during your next training to keep your audience engaged and wanting to hear more from you. Next up, we will look at how your training content – including its look and feel – must be tied to the culture of your brand. If you need help rolling out a training program to your organization, send us a note today. We’d love to see how we can assist you with your business needs!