The easiest tweak you can make to your training and orientation programs…

How many of you put out candy for training attendees? I know we do at the day job…in fact, the photo above is a shot of my cart on a recent stock-up trip at my local Sam’s Club. Even when the cost of doing business continues to soar, this is an expense that we have curbed, yet kept.


Because people like candy.

Before the workplace health and wellness fans start to worry, we also provide fresh fruit and some considerably less-exciting snacks like granola bars and trail mix.

Until I attended a recent conference, however, I didn’t give much thought to the bowl of candy that graces our training tables. Then, a tiny little tweak transformed a simple snack into a learning tool.

I promise you now, whether you are a long-time phase(two)learning follower or this is the first post you’ve read, this is worth the price of admission. Which, frankly, is free…so what a deal, amiright?

Check this out:


Whoa! Mind. Blown.

How simple is this? All that is needed is candy or snacks, a package of printable adhesive labels and some tips or ideas to share to your participants.

Granted, I’m sure I’m not the first person to “discover” this little nugget, but in over 20 years of teaching and facilitation, somehow it’s new to me. Regardless, it got me thinking….how else could we use this easy tip in training or Orientation programs? Here are 8 beyond-simple ideas:

  1. Provide the URL for your organization’s intranet, wiki, or other learning sites.
  2. Share the Twitter handles for influential, must-follow people in your organization or industry.
  3. Post can’t-miss dates – like when your benefit paperwork is due.
  4. Distribute your company’s IT Help Desk email or phone number.
  5. Share interesting trivia about your organization’s history. (Bonus: Have participants piece together the trivia into a timeline!)
  6. Introduce your company’s mission or purpose statement. 
  7. Solicit simple, one-sentence quotes from other employees – tips on how to be successful at your organization
  8. Share “Fact or Fiction” statements about your industry, organization, products/services, etc. Have participants stick (literally!) the wrappers under one of two columns on a flip chart (“fact” or “fiction”). As the candy is consumed throughout training, the columns will grow. On the last day of training, see how accurate everyone’s guesses are!

Honestly, I could probably come up with a dozen other ideas…there are so many creative possibilities for this one!

Your turn: Have you used this type of interactive element in your training sessions? What tips have you communicated? And most importantly, what is the must-have candy in YOUR candy bowl?


The Secret to Connecting With Training Participants

the secret to connecting with training participants

Waaaaaaay back in 1992, right about the time I was sporting my Hypercolor sweatshirt and teasing some very tall bangs, there was a study by Broad and Newstrom about training transfer. While some many elements of the workplace learning industry have changed – technology has certainly commanded much of that – there are still a number of things that hold true now, more than twenty years later. This study is a good example.

The Broad and Newstrom study looked at the 3 primary stakeholders in a training session – the facilitator, the participant and the participant’s manager. The involvement of these stakeholders is evaluated at 3 distinct points during the learning process: before training, during training and after training. In a simple grid, these roles are plotted and ranked, according to the impact on learning transfer (the lowest number indicates the highest level of impact):

2015-02-25 13_11_07-The Transfer of Training « elegantlearning

Unless you are completely new to the concept of training transfer (and if you are, I realize this is a very crude explanation), it’s probably no secret that the manager plays a key role in whether or not a participant is able to apply the skills and knowledge s/he acquires in a training session. As you can see from the grid above, the #1 and #3 most important components are tied to manager support.

So, the secret to connecting with training participants during a session?

Involve their managers.

Here are 10 – count ’em, 10 – creative ways to involve even the busiest manager:

1. Share the agenda with the manager ahead of time – be clear with the objectives so s/he knows exactly how the session will impact the participant’s job performance.

2. Provide talking points to the manager to use as a conversation starter when the participant returns from training.

3. Create an infographic with success stories/testimonials, stats and other interesting nuggets about the subject matter and its impact on the organization.

4. Survey managers about how the training will address specific performance gaps…then follow up.

5. Invite the manager to attend a portion of the training to observe and/or participate alongside their employee.

6. Offer a brief overview to all participants’ managers prior to the session – tell them what the participants can expect, how they can support their employee, and answer the managers’ questions.

7. Send a digest of links to supporting documents, articles, blogs and other resources for managers to read more about the topic or to share with their employee post-training to continue the learning.

8. Host a discussion forum for managers about their role in the learning transfer process, using the social features of your LMS, internal social platform (like Yammer, Socialcast, etc), or even a Twitter chat, if it works for your organization/culture.

9. Encourage participants to lead a “teach-back” when they get back to the job, to summarize their learning directly with their manager.

10. Utilize action planning for participants to create a plan – how they will apply what they learned and how they will involve their managers. Send a copy to the manager!

There you have it: 10 ways to engage managers – before, during or after a training session. The next time you’re implementing a training session, give one (or more!) of these strategies a try…and see if your connection to participants goes up a bit!


Your turn: How do you engage training participants’ managers to encourage or increase learning transfer? Use the comments section below to share your tried-and-true methods!

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Before Your Training Session: 3 Simple Things to Remember


It’s 7:15 a.m.  Your training session is scheduled to begin at 8:00 a.m.  You arrive in your training room; it is set up and seemingly ready to go.  An amateur trainer might just fire up her laptop, assume everything is ready to roll, and kick back with a cup of coffee for the next 45 minutes.

(But we’re not amateurs, are we?)

Just because things look “ready” on the surface doesn’t mean they are. Taking a few minutes prior to the start of your training session to finalize the details will not only ensure that your surroundings are in order, but it will give you, the facilitator, an added boost of confidence that will energize you and create a welcoming learning environment for your participants.  Here are 3 things every facilitator should be in the habit of reviewing, prior to kicking off a session:

1. Test your equipment and connectivity.

Is the wifi connected?  Do you have batteries in your presentation “clicker”?  Is the projector – well, projecting? What about participant workstations – do those need to be powered up and ready?  Is your laptop connected to a power source?  These are just a few things that are sometimes overlooked.  When we overlook these details, it can slow us down and get the session off-track, before it even starts.  Make a list of the tools and equipment you need to use for your session, and ensure that everything is in working order prior to the start of your session.

2. Consider the view.

Sit in participant seats around the room – front, middle, back and sides – and make sure that any visual aids, whether a flip chart, PowerPoint or whiteboard, can be seen legibly from any vantage point.  No one should struggle to view your materials!

I tend to wander, so I also take my clicker and walk around to different points in the room to make sure it works, even when I’m at the back of the room. I need to know that even if I’m “working the room”, I can advance my slides or use the laser pointer, if needed.

3. Greet your guests!

Introduce yourself, and get to know them (if you don’t already)! If you’re providing coffee or other refreshments, encourage them to partake. Take the opportunity to build rapport from the earliest moments. Engage participants from the moment they walk in the door! This rapport also puts you at ease and helps you relax. The more comfortable you are with your audience, the more natural and confident your delivery will be. I believe this wholeheartedly.

Your training room is your “home”. If you were hosting a dinner party in your home, how would you want your guests to be treated? Naturally, you would want the atmosphere to be just right, so your guests can enjoy themselves.  Successfully executing a training session really isn’t any different!  Awhile back, I wrote a piece about must-haves for training events.  Check it out here, and compare your list to mine! Add your own must-haves to the comments, if you’d like. Having the right tools on hand is such an important part of the preparation process!

So, to sum it up, details matter. When things go smoothly, participants remember. When things go awry, well…they also remember.  How do you want them to remember your session?

Your turn: What preparation “rituals” do you have before kicking off a training event? Veteran trainers, what lessons have you learned about preparation throughout your career? Start the conversation here in the comments, and continue the conversation by following me on Twitter.

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