Recently, I attended a two-day training session which provided a good amount of training for the subject at hand.
During the course of the training event, I noticed some often-repeated approaches to training which made me feel like I was a contestant in a game show.
The Dreaded Introduction
It seems that every class I attend, the instructor likes to go around the room to learn everyone's name and find out one thing about them. I am sure this is to serve as an ice-breaker, but I question the real value of the activity these days. When this happens during on-site training at my office, it always makes me smile. Basically, you are taking time for everyone who (almost always) already knows everyone else, to (re)introduce themselves to each other.
Prior to sites like LinkedIn, this approach was a great way to network when attending vendor or partner events. At larger companies it might help bridge a connection between individuals meeting for the first time. However, these days I think most are okay with some type of a name tag/plate and reallocating the amount of time required to go around the room to extra information for the session.
Then, there is the point in the training where the instruction asks a question — seeking answers from the group. This is a great way to keep the interaction going ... to a point. In my most-recent session, the instructor was seeking one particular answer and he kept waiting for it to surface. It reminded me of the popular game show Family Feud — where the host is trying to have the contestants find that number one answer.
In cases where I am in an instructor-like role, I try to avoid falling into a scenario where people get to the point where they are randomly guessing just to find the needle in my haystack. My rule of thumb is, give it no more than 15 seconds, then announce what answer you are trying to obtain. Going any longer typically introduces some disinterest from the attendees.
It's Deja Vu All Over Again
My final point is to always be aware how long a topic should be discussed. Mind you, I enjoy a good discussion and some of the best ways I have learned is via an interactive communication between the teacher and a group of students. However, what typically happens after the awesome discussion is re-review of the same topic through prepared materials on the screen. To me it feels like the instructor is saying "Hey, my company put together these slides and I am going to make sure I talk about every item before moving on."
In my current role within Information Technology, I have been working in an agile environment. Mostly using Scrum. As a result, I can't help but think if there are ways in which training sessions can take advantages of the benefits the agile approach has to offer.
As noted within this article, I would make the following suggestions:
Consider the real value of taking time to having everyone introduce themselves.
When asking for answers, limit the response window to less than 15 seconds.
Be aware of how long a topic has actually been discussed and avoid any unnecessary repeated discussion.
Have a really great day!