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Strategies for Engaging Your Participants

11 Aug 2016 by Deirdre Manley

One of the most memorable characters from the cartoon series Charlie Brown is his ordinary teacher. Even though this character had no physical appearance, the cartoon is memorable because you could hear Charlie Brown teacher’s voice, “wah-wah-wah-wah-wah,” inspiring the students to talk to each other.

Well, in the world of training, inspiring participants to become engaged and getting some of them to talk can be challenging in itself. So let’s see…. What strategies do we believe Charlie Brown’s teacher used and how can we implement similar strategies to engage inspire participants and get them talking?

As we begin to focus on intentionality, I am reminded of the importance of ensuring that information shared with participants is relevant, correlates with their educational and professional experiences, translates to advancement in their careers, and provides opportunities for exploration/hands-on opportunities to support connecting content with real live application.

I have witnessed trainings where no one was talking but the facilitator and the more positive - - where most of the participants were talking and engaged in activities and discussions. I believe the most positive experience was a result of an inspirational trainer offering active learning exercises that promoted higher level of thinking and application. I believe this strategy inspired me to become engaged in the learning opportunity and greatly aided in my rétention of information. Not to mention, it gave me a more positive feeling about the collaborative learning process and I how I might apply what I learned upon my return to my workplace. So the strategies I find effective to ensure content is relevant to participants include designing training that is interactive. At the beginning of the training, I encourage all participants to share information about their professional background and to explain what they anticipate learning from the training and how what they learn would improve their current practice. Also, throughout the training, I provide opportunities for discussion around the relevancy of the content, brainstorming of ideas and strategies they would use when implementing what they have learned. Participants have the opportunity to work in groups and network.

I don’t know about you, but if I were a participant in a training, I’d expect my trainer to provide information that is relevant to my professional/personal development, provide opportunities for participants to explore and network with others; which in return may help me understand how I can use information and apply it to my job.

What strategies do you use to keep participants engaged and talking? 

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