Have you ever walked into a room and soon got the sense that the participants would much rather be elsewhere? Most trainers have experiences this at some point. Not all groups you train will be enthusiastic and willing to absorb and apply everything you want to teach them. You will be faced with a diverse mix that will be somewhere from motivated through agnostic to negative and not wanting to be there.
For your training to be successful with groups who are less than positively engaged, you must take action. You will have an idea of participants’ levels of engagement and motivation with the topic as you begin a needs analysis so your training structure can be informed by this.
It is essential to consider the audience’s motivation and state of mind. If the group is not motivated to listen and engage you will be unable to bring about behaviour change, skill or knowledge transfer, or fulfil any other useful training outcomes. However, many trainers continue with delivering their content even if they are aware that the audience members are disinterested and are not listening. But there is a simple process that will enable you to structure training that is much more likely to be listened to and engaged with:
1. Reflect on your leaning outcomes for the training and how you want the participants to feel at the end of the training: What are you learning outcomes?
- What do you want the participants to be able to do, understand or commit to?
- What do participants need to feel in order to be most likely to accomplish the learning outcomes and apply the learning? This might be ‘confident’, ‘motivated’ or some other state of mind.
2. Consider the motivation and feelings of the participants at the start of the training.
- Be as realistic as you possibly can. What may they be feeling at the beginning of the session? Anxious? De-motivated? Frustrated? Agnostic? Something else?
3. Recognise and acknowledge any gap that exists and objectively consider if this gap can be closed during the training.
- What is the gap between how people feel and how you would like them to feel?
- Is it realistic to bridge this gap during the course of the training- taking into account the content and duration of the session?
4. Design the stages to move the group from how they may feel at the beginning of the training and how you want them to feel at the end.
- Consider how they feel at the start of the course. What is a small step towards how you want them to feel at the end? . Design the first part of your training to achieve this step. In the example used, it may be beneficial to use some facts that surprise them or ask them some questions that put their awareness on the ultimate consequences of staying as they are.
- Once this first step has been achieved, what is the next step necessary for them to feel as you want them to at the end of the session? In our example, once the participants are ‘open to listening’, they can be moved to ‘curious’. Different methods can be used to achieve this; you might set up a group exercise to look at the benefits of change to different stakeholders, implications of change to them and the business and so on. Once the group becomes ‘curious’ you are able to move them to ‘engaged’ and take them through the necessary steps to become ‘motivated’.
Structuring your training to move people through different states and feelings recognises that a group must want to learn if your training is to be successful. Delivering training to a group who are disinterested is a waste of time and money. Plan to move your participants in specific manageable steps towards a state of mind that is commensurate within achieving your learning outcomes.