ERIN LLOYD ROTICH works as Director of Learning with our friends at Thrive Worldwide. She’s an expert in running training sessions for adults, and so we asked her to share some of her top tips on the subject.
1. The people you train need to know ‘what’s in it for them?’ This is the big difference between teaching adults and teaching children. When you train adults, they want to know how they can use what they learn. And so I always try to draw people’s attention to this by saying things like ‘Tomorrow when you use this…’.
2. Storytelling is important. I train people across cultures, and to me storytelling is the only activity that really works for everyone. People might not remember a fact or definition three months from now, but they will remember every word of a story. I think this is because emotion is a big part of storytelling, and adults remember things according to how powerful the emotion is.
3. In a training session, I normally aim for 20% me talking and 80% group discussion and activity. If it’s a large group I make sure this 80% is divided into smaller group discussions, individual reflections, and other activities.
4. To keep people’s attention, I aim to vary the activity every ten minutes. The content can remain the same, but the style should change. But it’s important to be flexible: if we get into a good discussion and everyone’s hearts are in it, then it's fine to run for longer than ten minutes.
5. As a trainer, it’s important to speak simply and concisely. Even when storytelling, I want to get the point across quickly, so that the group has more time to react.
6. Most adults can only intake one hour of ‘newness’ a day. The problem is, during an eight-hour training, you don’t know which hour it will be, and each person will take a different hour! For this reason, I don’t try to do very much new stuff in a day.
7. Adults learn best when they are connected to those around them. If you don’t get the people on the course connecting with one another, then they don’t pay attention and they don’t learn. A training environment is very different to a lecture environment in this sense.
8. Pictures are an important part of learning. Some people respond to pictures as much as stories, and when I use Powerpoint I am careful to use pictures that look nice, clean and crisp. There should not be many words on the screen.
9. I don’t like “ice-breaking” exercises. Forcing people to interact socially, when they haven’t gained trust, guarantees to make half the room uncomfortable. I’d rather start with a discussion that connects with people’s hearts. This helps them form bonds naturally, rather than forcing it.
10. I try not to introduce much new content after lunch. People are often tired then, and less able to learn new information. Instead, I focus on reviewing what was learned before lunch. I usually use role-plays or activities that cement it in their brain. If I have to do something new in the afternoon, I make sure we do something different like go outside and walk around.
11. There is one exemption to everything I’ve said: passion. One of my colleagues at Thrive Worldwide has an opposite style to me – he’s like a lecturer. But when he gets in the flow, you can listen to him for a long time, because of one magic ingredient: passion.
Learn more about Erin's work at Thrive Worldwide on their website.