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Who Here Wants to Listen to Me Talk for the Next 8 Hours?

I often begin my training sessions with that question. Sometimes people look at me strangely with half smiles because they are afraid that they are supposed to reply, “Oh me! Me please! I want to listen to you for 8 long hours?”

The real answer. Always. Is “Not ME!!!”

I use this to warn a group who may be ready to nap through their training session or have their pens ready to take lecture notes that they’re going to be working very shortly.

Why do we tolerate so-called training where people lecture for ages and ages? No matter how charming or informative you are, it is always better to get people involved, talking to each other, and moving.

In a meeting with a group of facilitators last week, one of them said that she couldn’t do anything interactive in an hour. Really? You’ve been teaching adults for years, and an hour isn’t enough time to get them working.

Learners should be participating in the training within 15 minutes. They may be brainstorming in small groups, searching for answers to a quiz on their smart phones, completing a matching exercise, reading a page of the user guide and then sharing with the group what they learned, watching a demo with a checklist to tick what was or was not followed, and… I could go on forever.

Lecturing is easy. It is less preparation. And it is mostly what we saw in school growing up. It puts the facilitator or instructor on a stage, as the almighty expert who provides the right answers one must memorize. I must say it does wonders for one’s ego; however, not so much for encouraging people to think and learn.

The facilitator still has expert information. After learners have shared their knowledge or what they learned by doing, she or he tops up their results as briefly as possible.

Whether you are an adult education professional, new to training, or about to hire a training consultant, be sure ~ very, very sure ~ that when you ask for training that that means learners are working or talking more than the facilitator is speaking. That way no extra caffeine will be required to inspire your staff to listen to someone ~ even as lovely and funny as me ~ talk for hours.

21 Comments

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  4. Susan Critelli on December 14, 2012 at 6:29 pm

    I laughed out loud at your great title! This is an important topic for me right now as I will be making a presentation later this year and don’t want to get up there like a talking head when it will be more interesting and effective to include plenty of interaction! Thanks for a great read.

    • Catherine on December 17, 2012 at 1:27 pm

      LOL It’s funny how I was afraid at first to use my sense of humour in my posts, but being authentic always brings more good and spreads the word 🙂

  5. Helena Bowers on December 15, 2012 at 2:54 am

    This is great advice. Coming from an academic background I’m used having to find something to say for an hour, but I’d much rather have audience participation and interaction any day. I get bored of hearing me; I can only imagine how they feel!

    • Catherine on December 17, 2012 at 1:28 pm

      Yes, I have trainers all the time asking how to stop people from being distracted with their smart phones… put them to work! It’s the whole idle hands thought 🙂

  6. Sharon O'Day on December 16, 2012 at 2:47 am

    Especially with the instant gratification expectation that comes from today’s technology, it will get harder and harder for speakers to hold the attention of uninvolved participants. This solves the problem!

  7. Forrest Graves on December 16, 2012 at 6:17 pm

    Great article! As a speaker, holding the attention can be difficult but it is so crucial!

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