Using Every Last Minute to Make Training Suck Less

If I told you your car was wasting two-thirds of the fuel you put in it, you’d be pretty annoyed (especially considering gas prices right now). And if I told you your brain was only working at two-thirds capacity, you’d feel pretty dumb. So why, then, do so many trainers reap only two-thirds of the benefits of training, executive and blogger Jay Cross asked recently.

No, you may object, at my organization we wring every last drop of learning out of every presentation, seminar, or workshop. But Cross, the CEO of the Internet Time Alliance consultancy, begs to differ. Many trainers, he says, ignore the run-up to and the aftermath of an event, essentially robbing participants of two-thirds of their opportunities to learn.

Like every good story, training events have a beginning, a middle, and an end, according to Cross. And training pros are often so often focused on the meat of the matter — the middle — that they neglect the beginning and end. What does that mean in practice? Cross gives the example of a well-run workshop he recently attended, which The Daily Mindflash’s own David Kelly documented through his back-channel aggregation site.

The Beginning

Imagine arriving at an event cold and just milling around awkwardly with the other participants, learning the basic facts of where they’re from and what they do. We’ve all been there, and few of us find this to be the most fun few minutes of any event. How much better would it be, Cross asks, if planners facilitated a get-to-know-you exchange via, say, a Google group before the event, so those initial exchanges were less stilted, more pleasurable, and, best of all, more productive? At the well-planned event Cross describes, that’s exactly what happened:

“Before the event, we talked for months and got to know one another on a Google Group… conversations covered the waterfront from meal preferences and arrival times to what instruments to bring. Meanwhile, the website introduced participants to one another (take a look at some profiles). One participant recorded and shared interviews with many of us.”

The Middle

The middle in this scheme is the training event itself. You all know the ins of outs of running these and can always look to the Mindflash blog and other training resources for more tips and advice. This, in other words, is the third you’ve probably already got covered. So moving on …

The End

You’re packing up your laptop and your materials at the end of an event. What do you have from the experience to take away with you? Your notes, possibly some printed materials or Web links, and maybe a stack of business cards. That’s all well and good, but Cross suggests that continuing the conversation after the event by utilizing technology is likely to add value to the experience as people put ideas into practice, refine their thinking, and forge closer bonds, reporting their experiences back to the group. Back-channel learning creates the ability to revisit the event and add thoughts as everyone mulls what they learned and processes the information in their own ways.

“I particularly enjoyed Lisa Chamberlin’s Storify recap,” Cross says of the after-event back-channel information. “Clark Quinn’s mindmaps of the two days are awesome summaries of what was going on. I can imagine a year or two from now recalling what Felix or Liz said in a session by revisiting the back-channel.”

Are you missing out on chances to extend the learning before and after your event?

For more Daily Mindflash articles about training, click here.

Image used under Creative Commons by Flickr user LollyKnit

London-based Jessica Stillman blogs about generational issues and trends in the workforce for Inc.com, GigaOM and Brazen Careerist.