Nine Ways to Make Training More Engaging

Training and performance improvement professionals work hard every day trying to make training more engaging. Our goal is not to make the training more engaging by itself; we want to improve participation in class, increase learning and retention, and ensure application on the job that improves performance. Increasing engagement does not have to be difficult. Here is a list of nine ways you can easily make your training more engaging.

1. Don’t take it so darn seriously

If you are conducting customer service, new product, or time management training the world is not going to end if the training is not perfect. Have fun. Tell stories of times in which you made mildly embarrassing mistakes before you learned what you are teaching. This technique will allow learners to let their guards down, relax, and allow themselves to learn.

2. Have a conversation

Talk with your learners not to them or at them. A training session should be a back-and-forth exchange. To borrow from Harold Stolovitch’s book title; telling people something for four hours is not training them.

3. Speak their language

If you are training sales people, use selling lingo. If you are training operations managers, acknowledge their challenges and/or office jokes. If you listen carefully during a training session, you can pick up these things quite easily. You can also find out more about the work environment of your learners ahead of time by doing research before training begins.

4. Let a little bit of you out

You are a person. Be one. At breaks, play one of your playlists. Have a desktop picture of you on a vacation. Make jokes about how you struggled to learn what you are facilitating now. People will engage more with a real person than they will with a trainer.

5. Let the conversations linger

Do not be too quick to cut off discussions or conversations in class. You certainly do not want to allow people to babble on and on for too long when one of your jobs as a trainer/facilitator is to keep the class on track … but if you cut conversations off too soon, you will lose your audience. They will think to themselves, “Who does this guy think he is?” If you are not sure, let the conversation go a little longer, most of the time the discussion will end naturally.

6. Smile. Be energetic. Be happy to be there

There is no substituted for an enthusiastic facilitator who genuinely wants to be there. Act like it.

7. Treat people like responsible adults

A little late? Not to worry. If they missed something, their loss. They can make it up. If they have personal issues outside of work, respect that and show them support. Someone who comes back from break late and misses an important part of the course does not need a lecture from you. The consequence is that they missed something important. Remember they are a responsible adult. If they miss something, it’s their loss. It is another story entirely if someone is disrupting the class. That has to be dealt with directly.

8. Ask the class

If a learner asks a question and you know the answer…don’t just answer it. Put your ego aside and say, “Good question. Does anyone know the answer?” This is a great way to increase engagement and participation in class. This is the best part, if a learner asks a question and you do not know the answer say, “Good question. Does anyone know the answer?” Most of the time someone will have answer and it will spark other answers and some of them might just be the right answer.

9. Practice, practice, practice

Have people perform the tasks in class, lead discussions, or enter cases into the system. If this is not possible in class, redesign the class or create pre-work, activities, or simulations that can be performed before or after class. If you can, have people return to their desks during class to perform activities. Then, bring them back to class after 20 minutes to debrief.