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What makes a training interesting

What makes a workshop, training or seminar interesting?

Too often people walk out of a workshop/training feeling underwhelmed. They don’t feel like that they’ve learnt something new or useful, they feel that it was a waste of their time. The key word to take away is the ‘feeling’. Participants in any seminar remember the experience, how they felt. In reality, the workshop may have been very educational; the facilitators may have been very knowledgeable.

Then why is there is a disconnect in the delivery of the seminar and the experience of the participants? The key is to enhance the experience, while not reducing the focus from the subject. So how can that be achieved? There are many elements that go into creating an interesting seminar.

An analogy may be that of a gift. The gift itself maybe very valuable, like a diamond ring. However, if the ring is given in a paper bag, the person giving the gift should not be surprised if the response is not a very enthusiastic one! Similarly, the subject of a seminar may be a very important one, but without the right packaging, the effect may be less than spectacular. Yes, focus should be given on building the content such as the slides, handouts, etc.

But equal importance should be given to the delivery of this content- the environment, involvement of the participants, the facilitators skills and so on. The environment, or the venue of the seminar, should be one that is conducive to learning and participation- brightly lit, comfortable seating, collaborative seating layout, etc.

For example, a dimly lit warm classroom may induce drowsiness. Another area that should be given importance is the structure of the seminar. It should be designed in a fashion that increases participation from the attendees. A monologue-type seminar would lose the participants interest very quickly. Moreover, the subject may be lost on them once the interest is lost.

So, punctuating the lecture with group activities, discussions, exercises would definitely enhance the learning experience while holding their interest. Such an interactive delivery of the seminar moves the status of the participants from a passive learner to active.

Of course, you could have the perfect environment and the right structure with brilliant content, but still have a boring seminar if the facilitator does not posses the right skills. It is not enough that facilitator is a subject matter expert. He/she needs to keep the audience engaged through interesting dialogue, anecdotes, and relevant examples, with a dash of humor.

The facilitator should be able to humanize the material by talking ‘to’ the participants, not ‘at’ them. He/she should be able to pick up on their cues- both verbal and especially, non-verbal. For example, if participants are not following a particular concept, they will express it- if not verbally, then definitely, through non-verbal cues, like a quizzical expression.

Being open to questions is a big part of the process as well. If participants feel the facilitator is dodging questions or not responsive to them, they will close up and lose interest in the session. These are some steps that can be taken to make a workshop or seminar interesting.

At iKompass we diligently collect feedback from our participants during and after every session to determine their state of mind. The objective is to baseline on what is perceived to be interesting about a session. The above excerpts are from a study of over 30 PMP trainings conducted in Malaysia involving around 400 responses.

 

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