Developing training: icebreakers, energisers and what else to think of

Practical tips for training development

Developing training is so much more than finding the right format to present the content. I still remember the first time my manager asked me to develop a full day of training and deliver it for two consecutive weeks. Although I had never done anything like it, I thought: If he thinks I can do this, then I’ll give it a go. And I loved it (and was exhausted afterwards). 

I quickly learnt that presenting the content is the most visible part of training, but that a bespoke course starts with a good training design. A well thought out training design will make your delivery an enjoyable experience instead of an exercise in controlling your nerves and a struggle to keep the attendees’ attention. Training is all about how  the trainer encourages interaction among learners and engagement with the content. Let me share some practical tips with you about what you need to think of when you start designing and developing training.

  • Icebreaker
    Try to make the ‘who are you and why are you here’ part of the course a bit more fun. Start your training with an icebreaker. Even when all the attendees are colleagues, an ice breaker will help the learners to get the brain started and the blood flowing. You’ll often find out that they don’t know each other that well. I prefer ice breakers where the learners have to move around and communicate with several people in the room. For some ideas, download my 5 free icebreakers when you sign up for the Training Wizard newsletter (choose ‘other training’).
  • Learning Objectives
    For adults, it’s important that they understand why they (have to) attend a training course. It’s about ‘What’s in it for me?’ Adults are goal-oriented and this should be reflected in your delivery. One of the ways to do this, is to go over the objectives at the start of the course. Along the way, you can tick off all the objectives. It is a way to show progress and keep the learning objectives top of mind. Preferably there is a large overlap between these learning objectives and the learners’ personal learning goals. Let the learners write down their objectives at the start of the training and discuss them. This will help you manage expectations and you can check at the end whether all objectives have been met.
  • Energisers
    When the energy level of your learners is dropping, you need an energiser. This is a short activity to re-energise the learners, to shake them up and get the energy back in the room. You often see lower energy levels after (a hot) lunch, but it could well happen at other times. I usually plan an energiser immediately after lunch, one that is related to the topic. I also have another few energisers available in case I need one. Energisers don’t need to be about the topic. It can be more refreshing when it is not!
  • Time savers
    Timing your course is one of the hardest things and will improve when you get more experience. But not every group is the same. For example: level of interest, group size and level of education could affect the amount of time needed for the training. So you need to know where you can save time. You need to go over your course content and define what you can leave out if necessary or use a different activity that takes less time. Nothing worse than a trainer that tries to cram too much content in and rushes through to the end. For courses that take more days you could also decide to give some homework.
  • Extra activities
    Not only do you need to know where you can save time, but also have 1 or 2 extra activities in case you need less time for the content than expected. This could be a video, a quiz, a discussion, a game or anything else related to the topic. I like to use the extra activities to summarise parts of the course in a different way. For example drawing a mind map together about the course content, a card activity where the learners have to group cards or put them in a specific order, or attendees asking each other questions.
  • Summarise
    With summarising the content of your training session, you reinforce the learning and can check with the learners if you’re on track with the learning objectives. Summarising is not something you only do at the end of the course. Try to fit in a summary when you’re moving on to the next part of the course. You, as the trainer, could summarise the content or make it a fun exercise with the group, for example by using sticky notes or with drawings on flip charts.
  • Evaluation
    You might find this the odd one out. In my opinion, the evaluation with the learners should be part of every training. The evaluation not only helps you to do better next time, but it also shows that you are appreciating and valuing the attendees’ opinion. The benefit of making the evaluation part of your course, is that you will get everyone’s feedback before they run out the door and you can ask questions. You could choose a verbal evaluation, a short survey, let the learners write short notes or a combination of these. Don’t be afraid of being judged, but take in the feedback and learn from it.
  • 100 Other things
    I have only shared a handful of practical tips about developing training here. There are at least another 100 things that you could do to improve your training. I will definitely share a few more later. Just start applying these tips in your next training and enjoy the results.
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