Use these best practices to feel more confident and comfortable when you lead trainings and exercises like those provided in the Reward Gateway Better Place to Work Resources.
Making the most of materials
- Follow the plan: Don’t feel obligated to create new content to add into the script. Stories or examples that personalize the content are very effective; otherwise, the content has been worked on and refined over time and is meant to make the conversation progress smoothly.
- Use the words: Adjust the script and language you use from generic phrases like “company experience” to the formal name for your company experience/values.
- Be intentional about questions: Be careful to ask the most effective question. A small change in how you state something can get you very different responses. For example, “Would anyone like to share an example?” vs., “Who will share the first example?” Don’t be afraid to prepare questions and read them exactly.
Setting up for the training
- Consider the seat setup: The two best seating methods for a conversational training are generally half-rounds with four to six participants per table or a U-shape table. Both allow for easier transition into small groups. If you need to do a session with classroom-style rows of chairs, you can get people into groups by asking people in the first row to turn back to the second, people in the third row to turn back to the fourth, etc.
- Post an agenda: It can be helpful to participants and you as a trainer to post an agenda for the session and follow it along as you go.
- Use a parking lot: If you have a group or a topic that may create distracting tangents (survey results, for example), post a blank flip chart page/poster paper and title it "Parking Lot." When a topic comes up that is taking you away from the main theme of the session, write the topic on the page and explain that while you don’t have time to address it now, you have made note of it and will follow up with your program champion or manager to get clarity.
Getting comfortable at the front of the room
- Use leadership: It always adds more power to a training to have a senior leader open the session. They can share their excitement or interest in the topic and they make what you say later more credible. If you are sometimes unable to have leadership attend, it can help to share what you’ve heard them say about the topic: “As I heard Bob share at a recent training, recognition is now a part of how we do our business.”
- Start strong: It is often helpful to start with a story or a joke. This gets the group's attention and, as it is usually content you are especially comfortable with, it may get you beyond any opening jitters.
- Paint a picture: When telling stories, engage with participants by painting a picture of what you saw with words and actions ("show, don't tell").
- “He was standing with his arms crossed and a frown on his face” becomes even more effective if you model the pose and facial expression.
- Be vulnerable: If there is something you are worried about doing or worried the group may be thinking, it can help to announce this to the group to build relationship and humor. This can help create camaraderie with the group and get them rooting for you. For example:
- “I have been told that my voice can be soft at the front of the room. I will do my best to speak loud and clear, but if you have trouble hearing me, please let me know!”
- “You all know me as a coworker and may be wondering what I suddenly have to say about leadership habits. Is anyone wondering? I understand, and I am excited about my new role and look forward to sharing some of the learning I have gained in recent weeks.”
- Use your voice as a tool: When making important points, it can be very effective to slow down, speak more softly, or pause before and after your statement. These actions call increased attention to what you are saying and make it more memorable.
- Eliminate repetitive movements and verbal tics: Facilitators are often not aware of the repetitive body language or verbal tics they are using at the front of the room (pacing, wringing their hands, saying “like” or “um”), and these things can be distracting to participants.
- Ask other trainers to provide you feedback on anything you are doing that might be distracting.
- Videotape yourself and watch it to become aware of subconscious actions.
- Practice standing straight, still and strong at the front of the room. This builds confidence in yourself and exudes confidence to participants.
Facilitating group discussions
- Wait them out: Don’t be afraid to wait up to 10 beats for someone to respond to a question.
- Get them into small groups: If the group is slow to respond, you can ask for everyone to get into small groups, or even to turn to the person next to them and tell them what they think. After that, you can ask for people to share examples as a large group.
- Keep them on track: If a participant is pulling the conversation off track, you can say, “Thanks for that perspective. For now, I want to make sure we stick with this topic so we have time to cover all the material.” (Use your parking lot!)
- Call them out: You can get the conversation going more quickly by sometimes calling on people by name.
- Ask for more: If someone gives you a one-word or confusing answer, try asking, “Can you tell me more about that?” so they will expand on what they said.
- Stay present: Stay focused on the feedback you are getting, making eye contact and actively listening (nodding, responding briefly, etc.). Don’t be distracted by what’s coming next while the conversation in progress. If you aren’t certain what the next step is, once the discussion in done, take a moment to silently review your page and collect yourself before continuing.
- Clarify when necessary: If you ask a question and the group isn’t giving you the answers you expected – or if they don’t seem to have understood the question – don’t just forge ahead. Re-ask the question and provide an example of the type of answer you are looking for.