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September 2014

Developing Training to Involve the Audience

When designing, developing or revising existing training material, whether it is classroom, web-based, on-the-job training or a combination of these, remember to keep your audience engaged throughout the process. Instead of word-heavy presentations or lectures, try using a variety of techniques that involve trainees. For example, have them teach others how to perform a task. Active participation has been proven to be a highly effective means of long-term retention. The following training devices actively engage an audience:

  • Ask strategically placed, open-ended questions.
  • Give trainees scenarios to work through.
  • Provide trainees with opportunities to practice (alone or in teams) followed by a facilitated discussion.

Most adult learners already know as much as 80% of what you want them to learn. The challenge is packaging the information in a way that maximizes a traineeís ability to learn and understand how s/he will be expected to use those skills on the job.

To create an environment suitable for learning, you must understand the various ways in which adults comprehend information and incorporate them into your program. Adults learn through hearing or being told the information, seeing the information (through photos or demonstration), and doing or interacting with their hands. Incorporate these learning methods into training by asking yourself the following questions.

  • What do you do and/or say in your training that motivates trainees to learn? Prior to training, know your trainees, what they do, where they come from and what makes them tick. Identifying motivation factors allows you to tap into traineesí experiences. Then, you can help them develop new ways to process the information in a manner that makes sense to them. Motivated learners will be more attentive and responsive.
  • What is your training style? Are you a person who stands behind a podium and reads from the slides? Are you someone who likes to write supporting information on a dry erase board? Are you the type of person who moves around a lot and engages the audience?
  • What kinds of course activities, materials and training methods do you usually use? Does your training only include a slide presentation? If so, make sure the presentation is limited to a handful of words and bullet points, and includes photos or videos that reinforce the topic. You also can incorporate a hands-on exercise with the presentation that actively engages trainees.
  • How do you help the audience develop new knowledge? State new information repeatedly and in various ways to give trainees an opportunity to relate to and connect with a method. Examples of this include: stating the information as is; using a photo to explain the information; telling a personal story relating to the information; questioning the group to see who else has input relating to the information being presented; and using some type of hands-on or on-the-job activity to present the information.
  • How do you change attitudes or priorities? Do you explain why the information is important? Adult learners need to know whatís in it for them and how the material relates to them. Training that connects tasks performed outside the office helps build the idea that safety is 24/7.
  • How do you develop new skills with the audience? When teaching a new skill do you just describe that skill? Or do you demonstrate it and offer trainees an opportunity to practice and demonstrate competency as well? The more you can get trainees to participate, the more effective you will be in developing their new skills.
  • How do you pursue creativity? Do you offer trainees an opportunity to express themselves? Do you discuss topics that offer alternative ways of performing a task or identifying problems? Adults like to solve problems; by giving adults an opportunity to find a new solution to an issue, you help them connect to the information and retain the material more easily.
  • Do you use tests when training? If so, do you use different versions of the tests? You can collect the tests and grade them later, but also review the tests with trainees. People like to demonstrate their knowledge.
  • How do you transfer training and practice to real-life work and events? Do you use activities or exercises that demonstrate learning comprehension and are applicable to the work environment? Do you continue the learning out in the field or on the shop floor? Do you use mentoring to reinforce the material taught in class?

Once you have answered these questions and identified areas that need improvement, start to develop training that is appropriate for the audience. Look for opportunities to tap into the competitive nature of the workforce. Remember, too, that the more you can make the training fun and exciting, the more the audience will remember what you said. The key to successful training is to engage trainees and offer them opportunities to create and develop new experiences.

The Training Tips column is provided by the ASSE Training & Communications Branch, who wish you good training!î Learn more about joining the branch at


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