5 Steps to banish boring training

Five steps to banish boring training

Bit Famous works with businesses and organisations
to help them communicate with confidence.

By Penny Haslam

MD and Founder - Bit Famous

Penny Haslam
Penny Haslam Podcast

Episode 39: Penny Haslam Podcast - Five steps to banish boring training

In this episode, Penny reveals her five secrets to engaging and successful learning. Penny Haslam is the MD and founder of Bit Famous, We help people communicate with confidence.  Discovered coaching and training from Bit Famous.

Banish boring training - Transcript

No one likes boring training. Why? It's boring. Okay, even at primary school, right? You can all remember that teacher who was just a little bit boring or maybe a university lecturer who didn't set the world of light. And you're like, Oh, God, it's so boring. I'm not interested. This is really hard and life is too short for that. So, I've come up with five things that I do in every single training session that really lifts the room and helps people skip out the door at the end of the day with a great feeling in their heart, with some knowledge on board. 

Now, I know that I'm good at training because I've been told many times, so yes, I'm blowing my own trumpet. Fine. But it was really brought home to me in some feedback, it was from a very large organisation's in-house L&D. Bit Famous had been brought in as an external trainer to help people be confident on camera. And they looked at our training and said, "this is so radically different. How are you doing that?" I said I don't know, what you mean? So I broke it down. I've got five ways of really invigorating a training session. 

1. Ask people: What have you come for?

I do this at the beginning of every session. I ask people what they came for. What do you hope to get out of this training today? What do you want to leave knowing or feeling or doing differently than you do right now? What did you come for? And this really helps focus people's minds on why they are there. 

It's a sort of self-motivating moment. I can be selfish here, and I can really think about what I want on my journey. What can I take from this? Okay, let's get learning. I write it on a flip chart or a whiteboard with a big market pen, and I write out their challenges and what they want from the day.

In our presentation skills training it will be always something like, Oh, I just want to feel less nervous or I want to make sure what I'm saying is clear and coherent. Okay, so we write that down, I put their initials or their name next to it, and then we park it and we make sure that at the end of the day, we have achieved those things and I'll check in on that list, you know, cheekily while they're doing something else and make sure we are actually on target for achieving that. Usually, 9.9 times out of 10, we can tick that off and put a line through it because we've slayed that challenge. Everyone goes away happy with that as well. They got what they came for. 

2. Use storytelling

And this was a key bit of what we were doing differently to that Big L&D team. Telling stories all the way through all of the training that we deliver. We make sure we tell stories, stories are memorable and stories hook people in on an emotional level that you can't possibly achieve with just facts alone. This is because after hearing someone talk, 63% of people can remember a story, whereas just 5% can remember a statistic. So if you're just dealing in facts, figures and dry information and you're not littering every hour with an anecdote, a moment of time or a longer piece of storytelling, then you're going to fail when it comes to people remembering. It helps embed the learning. I make sure I have a story to go with every point I want to make. 

Great teachers use stories - Penny's teacher Mrs Ellis

I remember a story a teacher told me. Mrs Ellis, First-year primary school had us all sitting on the carpet, as you used to do in primary school before the milk came!

It was back in the 1970s were all sitting there in our flares and polyester collars. And Mrs Ellis sits there and we're doing maths. But you wouldn't know it because Mrs Ellis started with a story. "You know what at the weekend," and the minute the teacher says something about their weekend or personal life at my home, everyone's really keen, aren't they? The same is true today when you're a grown-up trainer with grown-up people in front of you. We are all nosey, and we all want to know what it's like in your life. So Mrs Ellis hit the nail on the head, she said, "at the weekend, I had a little party and we were having 15 friends round for tea." So she made it very, very relatable as well. She went on, "I had a problem because I needed to buy napkins, I went to the shop on Saturday lunchtime and I found a packet of napkins to buy, but there were just 12 in the packet. But I had 15 friends around! So what did I do?"

 So then as a child, you're into maths and learning. Honestly, it's so memorable. No one could work out what Mrs Ellis did next. People are scratching their chins, putting their hands up like, 

"Mrs Ellis. I know, I know. Three people went without napkins."

 "No, that's not the right answer. Anyone else?"

 "I've got it. I've got it. Three people shared two people shared, three people shared !"

Math was coming out. 

Another child said, "you cut them with scissors?"

There was all sorts of creative problem-solving going on. No nobody got it right. Mrs Ellis revealed it at the end. "Well, Children, I bought two packets of napkins and now I've got some spare." Everyone's like, "Oh, yeah? Is that it? Okay, fine. I got it." But, gosh, that is such a cool story. And I'm remembering it just a few years later! Which is wonderful. So to tell stories, people will not forget you for that.

3. Devote 50% of your time to group work

An insecure trainer in my experience will fill the room with their stuff all the time. There will be endless amounts of information. No minute will be left unturned without learning being imparted. Now that's an insecurity to do with adding value. An insecure trainer at the front of the room will be really desperate for people to understand everything about everything and learn, learn, learn. And that's what you're being paid for. And rightly so. And that's your job. But in my I now, more than a decade old experience in training and especially through the Covid lockdown and working on Zoom with people, I know people relish more than anything, the opportunity to talk to each other. It's so powerful, if you can get them talking to each other and supporting each other and exchanging ideas either in pairs or small groups or tabletop exercises, they will thank you for it rather than you standing at the front of the room and telling them stuff that they have to absorb. They will learn through that mechanism much more enjoyably and much more memorably and will have a much better experience. 

It takes quite a confident trainer to allow that space and air. I would say as much as 50% of your time needs to be thrown back into group work, teamwork and building ideas. 

When I'm doing my confidence and resilience training we discuss negative self-talk. How as teams we talk to ourselves. As teams, we begin to build negative phrases that we fall back on. You could ask the group, "what could those negative phrases be? Put your hand up?" Maybe one or two people will put their hands up like that. But if you actually get people in pairs or threes and fours workshopping, those ideas. Oh yeah, bouncing off each other. Then the noise in the room goes up. The energy increases and people have lots more ideas than if it's just flatly asked of them. And they also really enjoy this in breakout rooms if you're doing it online. 

It's a thing that I get asked a lot by people booking our training, "will there be interactivity?" And if they don't ask for that, I say, " you know what? There's gonna be lots of interactivity between the delegates because that's important." It goes down a storm, so educate yourself. Educate your people on needing that. Ask anyone you're buying training from to do group breakout sessions because you'll get loads of really good feedback. 

4. Listening

Now, this might just go into that "don't feel like you have to fill the air time by talking all the time." 

Listening and noticing when those people are talking, what the other people in the room are doing and how they're responding. This is about being empathetic and intuitive. And you get these from being able to listen actively. So, listening to what they're saying, following up with a question, if they haven't really elaborated, "why is that important to you?" Or perhaps asking the room, "Does that resonate?" People may say, "no, or my experience is different." Asking questions and giving time for discussion because people need to feel heard. It's really valuable. It's a powerful thing. We know this. It's not always easy to achieve it when we're busy, busy, busy. So try and get that time. And you know what? You always get someone in the training room who goes on a bit too much. But you still have to listen to them, and then you can cut them short and make sure you don't return to them. So yeah, listen really well. And maybe you'll see someone nodding their head while someone else is talking, but they're not forthcoming. That doesn't mean to say you can't ask them, "hey, Michael, I noticed you were nodding your head when Samir said this thing."

Often this can prompt people to give their own stories. If you tell your own stories in the room, it gives other people permission to tell their stories a little bit, which is what you can listen to and find out what people need and desire and what their challenges are. So that's good as well listening. 

5. Practical exercises and jeopardy

This might be the nature of my training because it's practical and hands-on. I do enjoy provoking a bit of a challenge in the day and a bit of jeopardy for people. A really good example of this is when I run the Bit Famous Workshop. It's a practical day where people learn why they should raise their profile and then, crucially, how they might do it. So, the afternoon is thrown over to practical getting on and doing it. People have a choice of activity all of which is highly thrilling, nerves and adrenaline-wise. They could speak at the front of the room for five minutes. They can take part in a panel discussion. They can make a short video on their phone. They can also make a podcast so they get a really good fun exercise to do. But the jeopardy, of course, is actually doing it and sharing it with people in front of the room. So we have showtime. 3 or 4 o'clock. It's time for everyone to come back into the room, settle down, and we're going to hear from the speakers, and we're gonna watch the panel, and we're going to have a laugh with the video creators and the podcasts. And it is brilliant because everyone feels that sense of OMG, what's happening? How am I going to do? And they lean into it. 

You know, a lot of people are daunted by this, but they do it and they dig deep. And of course, it's a safe environment to have a go and the smiles on the faces at the end. It's like, "I did it. I achieved. It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. I didn't die!" 

Obviously, not every subject lends itself to that. If you're doing some sort of training in financial compliance, that's harder. But anyway, I hope that has given you some food for thought about how to look out for trainers who were going to elevate the learning and have people skipping out of the room and have the feedback scores super high for what people have learned and also in have that enduring or lasting impact which goes beyond the day or the week or the month in which the training was delivered, it's a year later. People are still remembering it and using what they've learned, that's the key bit to it, really, isn't it? 

Are your people ready for training that isn't boring? Get it touch.