Last week was a busy week, after keynoting the Nonprofit Solutions Conference in Kansas City, I facilitated a one-day workshop for the Center for Nonprofits on developing and measuring a sustainable integrated social media strategy. After the workshop in Ohio, one of the participants thanked me, saying that creating a strategy for integrated social media had been on their to do list after taking a workshop last Spring, but had never gotten around to doing it. She said the workshop gave her the time to get started working on it and was confident that she’d be putting it into practice immediately.
During the long plane ride home (without wifi), I thought a lot about this question: How do you design a training so people learn something and are inspired to use it? A successful training is not about extreme content delivery or an opportunity for the workshop leader to show off how much they know about the topic. It’s more about giving participants a jump on applying it and guiding them so they can put it into practice as quickly as possible after the workshop. If you are designing and delivering training on any topic, here’s some things to think about to ensure that your participants have a transformative learning experience.
Design for Participants To Apply
Deborah Finn has invited me to be an instructor for a workshop on using outcome-based measurement for social media integrated strategy as part of a series of workshops on measurement and data in Boston next spring. It’s been great to discuss instructional design with other trainers that Deborah has brought together. Recently, Jennifer Ahern Lammer who is the program director for the Alliance of Nonprofit Management, shared several good design points developed by Peter York from TCG and how she applies it. These can help you predict whether participants will act on the training after the workshop:
- More than one person from an organization should participate so the ideas can be transferred to the whole organization. Participants should be encouraged to bring more than one person. Since this isn’t always possible, it is important to incorporate opportunities for them to capture their learning so they can share it.
- Target the right level of authority: This means both the “doer” and the “decision maker.”
- Workshop curriculum should include time for participants to synthesize what they learned into some “reporting out and up” takeaways to share with their organization. In my workshop design, I always include a “learning artifact” such as a “strategy poster” and time in the workshop for participants to present.
- Workshop content has to be practical about the amount of investment required to implement ideas – and always include some “low hanging fruit” or actionable steps that don’t require a huge amount of organizational change or monetary investment. That’s part of the reason why I developed the “Crawl, Walk, Run, Fly” framework because it gives participants practical, but strategic small steps.
Design for Different Levels of Capacity and Skills: Adapt in Real Time
For the past twenty years that I’ve been doing training, no matter what I usually get a group of participants who are mixed levels of experience and capacity. So, you have to design for that. This takes a bit more effort than putting together a slide deck. The secret is in the structure and design of the small group exercises. And, as the facilitator, you have to be good at improvising and skilled at coaching some participants to adapt exercise so it meets their need. This means that you can’t be in the front of the room delivering content all the time!
For example, I incorporate tactical and visual techniques for participants to use to do the exercises. Often this involves using materials such as sticky notes, poster sheets, and markers. I don’t always have a lot of participants who are eager to do it virtually, but when I do I can work with them to adapt the exercise. There are software programs like GroupZap and Listhings that allow participants to use “virtual sticky notes” to create a poster. By having the options available, participants can choose what works best for them so there are no barriers to learning.
Most likely, there will be some content delivery you share during your workshop. It is important to evolve your presentation style so it is more interactive, engaging, and a lean forward experience. There are many ways to do this, but try to avoid the “Q/A of the Expert at the End,” and facilitate discussion that is more reflective. Encourage participants think about and share how they might apply the content – What challenges or opportunities exist? There are different methods for doing this, including share pairs, report outs, and way too many to share in this post. But, lately, I’ve been facilitating with sticky notes on the wall incorporating Human Centered Design principles.
For one of the modules on organizational culture change, I asked participants to do an active listening exercise with sticky notes — jotting down notes in pink that they can implement, green that were opportunity, and blue that were a challenge. I facilitated a discussion using the sticky notes that ended up going much deeper than if I had just done a Q/A – ask the expert or even share pairs. It can be a little stressful incorporating new techniques into your practice because you have to do them a few times to learn the nuances of how they work. I was lucky enough to be a session facilitated by Peter Maher from Luma Institute who is an incredible teacher too – who was able to share some great tips based on his vast experience.
If you doing training, you have to be a little fearless piloting new techniques or you will just do the same old stuff – you’ll get bored and your participants will also be bored.
The Flipped Classroom is mindset that directs attention away from teachers and puts it squarely on the students and their learning. It’s being done in elementary, high schools, and colleges. While there is no one right way to use the technique, what would customarily be defined as homework (problem sets, essay writing, etc.) is done by students during class hours, with a teacher’s supervision and hands-on input; and what was once the core of the classroom experience (teacher lectures) is now absorbed at home via online resources.
While it take some effort to apply flipping to a one-time workshop, you have to understand how the brain works to absorb information and apply it – it can be done in small ways. One method is to incorporate short interactive content delivery, followed by an exercise where participants work on applying the frameworks with coaching from the instructor. Then, the ultimate flip — the participants present what they worked on – in this case their integrated strategy. This also gives participants practice verbalizing what they learned, how they’ll apply, and an actual “product” they can bring back to their organization.
I also noticed participants using their mobile phones to capture the strategy posters and network maps. I asked a few why they were doing that — expecting a response about wanting to be able to share the map or poster in a powerpoint back at the office. One participant told me that that only two people from their organization could participate and wanted to get feedback from other staff. Another participant mentioned that there were several organizations who were their partners and the other maps gave them some ideas about potential collaborations.
Through out the workshop, you need to incorporate quiet time for participants to focus and synthesize what they learned into some “reporting out and up” takeaways to share with their organization. I often use “think and writes” – a few minutes of silence where participants can consolidate their ideas into action steps after the workshop. Their reflection can go deeper if this is followed by a share a pair and a formal closing to the workshop where participants declare their intentions about one small step to implement next week.
If you are designing and delivering training, how do you sign to get results? What was a recent training that you attended where you not only learned something, but shortly put it into practice? What inspired you about the way the training was designed?