Is it me?
Picture the scene. It's three thirty and the end of the coffee break in the afternoon of your day's workshop. Of the eighteen participants, six have still not come back in, another five are working on their laptops and seven are waiting for you to start. Earlier, several already said they're leaving half an hour before the end.
Most of us who've run training sessions have experienced this sort of thing. What can we do about it, if anything?
To start with, let's reflect on a new wave of online training sessions, forced upon us by the pandemic. They’re shining a harsh light on the ways we've always conducted them. Typically, we allot less time than we would with a face to face event. For example, we might replace a ‘one full day’ classroom course with two or three modules, each of one and a half or two hours. 40 percent less time. Logically we have to cut something out when we do this, but what?
Contrary to what we might have expected months ago. People we've talked to have reported reasonably positive experiences of online live training. So what prompts this?
Firstly, online sessions don't require any travel. Work either side of them is easier to schedule. But of course that's obvious and there are other positives.
Online sessions tend to be shorter. A frequent gripe of workshop participants is that courses are too long. In particular, speakers are generally being confined to shorter presentations.
Team exercises and discussions are perfectly feasible online, and the good workshops feature breakout work.
Digital participation is encouraged. Meeting apps like Zoom have polls that are easy to set up - and increase participant interaction.
Many of us are looking forward one day to a resumption of face-to-face learning sessions, but are accepting that things will never be the same as they were in the old days. So in looking at your own design work, or the expectations that you may communicate to your hired trainers, how can we translate some of this experience into practical ways forward?
Ask yourself these questions
Am I doing all the talking?
The most common trap that L&D people fall into is thinking that delivery must be comprehensive and cover everything just in case. This leads to the trainer dominating the airtime. But for most sessions you should plan that participants are taking 70% of the air time in any workshop. Easy to say, far harder to cut, for example, a 30-slide section down to 5.
How much of your agenda is:
Models and theories - how much of these could be moved into online reference materials (preferably video based)?
General practical advice - much more valuable, and can be briefer, using typical examples.
Q&A - even more valuable to spend time on. Especially with challenging questions that can be addressed by breakout groups.
Case studies / simulations - Great way to get people into action - can be competitive scenarios!
Airing real work issues - most valuable of all. Gets people involved and is really relevant.
Is there enough to do?
Even a fairly robust Q&A session is fairly passive for most of the audience. You may feel like you’re a brilliant facilitator of quizmaster, but it's not supposed to be about you! As we've asked above, how much of your agenda is active?
If people are looking at their phones or laptops - why not use them? Exercise briefings, polls, collection of participants' action plans - every little can help to get people engaged with the session.
How can I design for participation?
Plan for a high proportion of participant action and input. What might this be - breakouts on key questions, polls, action planning sessions? Think about the real outcome you want from the training and work back from there.
Sketch out visually the timeline for the class, or the various modules. Draw in rough blocks for the participative pieces - then see what's left for presentation. From your content, pull out the critical stuff that will fit into the time available. Think about whether you really need the rest of it. What you do need, think about how you might provide it separately.
Look to provide pre-work, briefings for exercises, quick assessments, creation of action plans - and so on - using online technology.
Get some help
We've been designing interactive and action-oriented training for years, so why not get in touch to chat?
We can also help you to deploy online technology, easily and quickly!
John Faulkes - 5th August 2020 @ 14:35