10 tips for getting your in-house training session off to a good start

“How can I start my in-house training session (without silly stunts, bad jokes or cringe-making disclosures)?’

This question comes up early in (or even before) ‘Train the Trainer’ workshops that I run. We’ve all been there: “Let’s do a fun warm-up: please find a partner and tell them 3 things about yourself, 2 truths and 1 lie”. Then you have to guess… It’s got to be one of my least favourite ways to kick off a learning experience. Other pet hates are silly stunts (trainer as card sharp or juggler) or bad jokes. So what can you do instead?

1. Keep it relevant. Whatever activity you choose, make sure it relates to the topic in hand. People will be arriving with heads full of the call they’ve just finished / email they’ve just read / meeting they’ve just left, so help them focus.

2. Form small groups to complete a short task. Ideally you’ll have space for people to work in small groups, but if you’ve got the dreaded gigantic table, form groups of 3 neighbours to work together.

3. Have a clear brief. Whether it’s on a screen, a flip chart or a handout, participants need to know what’s expected of them. Be prepared for questions around process and output; some need more specific details than others.

4. Set a challenge. Quizzes can be good, such as simple crosswords or short multi-choice questionnaires.

5. Raise the energy level. Get people moving, for example standing in small groups to work on different flip charts around the room.

6. Monitor progress. Now is not the time for you to be re-reading your notes. Now is the time to check that people are getting on with the task, answer any questions that may be coming up and encourage effort.

7. Encourage experience sharing. For example, a Pros v Cons of [the topic], or ‘Things I love /hate about [topic]’, or ‘Questions I have about [topic] but didn’t want to ask until now’.

8. Make it competitive. Have a reward for the first team to complete the quiz, the team that generates the most ideas / examples, etc. Rewards can be tangible, edible or simply applause from the rest of the group.

9. Keep the time tight.You can accomplish an energizing and useful start to a training session in a matter of minutes.

10. Debrief and pull out the key points. One of the best ways to do this is to ask the group for a few very brief observations about the task completed. Keep people on point and thank them for their contribution, writing it up if appropriate.

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