The First Fifteen Minutes Of A Training Seminar Is Critical

What Trainers Need To Know About Participant State Of Mind When They Walk Into The Room

When learners walk into the training seminar for the first time, they bring with them a few barriers to participation and learning that you as a trainer need to know about, because part of your job is to address them in the first fifteen minutes of the seminar.

Participant Attention Is All Over The Place: Distracted

Learners enter a seminar from the "world" and need to transition from thinking about the dozen things they WERE doing to focusing on what they will be doing and learning in training. That's why your first task is to use techniques to get people focused, attentive, and ready to learn.

Participants Enter With Their Own Attitudes About The Seminar

Participants will attend seminars with a wide range of emotions about being there. Some would rather be doing their work, feeling they already have too much work. Others may have been "sent" by managers and feel slighted or insulted they have been ordered to attend. Others will be open minded, but not convinced they want to be there, while there may be some people who are really looking forward to the seminar.

For this reason, in the first fifteen minutes trainers need to establish a rationale for those there to see the experience as potentially valuable. Very quickly, they need to find out how attendance and learning will help them solve problems that bother them.

Anxiety And The Seminar Attendees

We live in a very anxious society, and it's common for people to feel some anxiety about the training. They don't know what to expect, and don't want to feel uncomfortable with the learning activities. There is a fear, at least right at the beginning, that they might look stupid in front of peers or management.

Early on in the session, it's good to explain some of the coming learning activities if there is potential for fear. For example most people say they hate role plays, although that fear tends to diminish once they engage in them. I often will explain that we won't be doing them, or, if they are part of the learning design, that participation is voluntary.

I also emphasize that what is said in the class stays in the class, and that embarrassment is not part of what we'll be doing.

The Issue Of Trust In You As The Trainer

When participants enter the room, they have no experience with you as a human being, so while they may not mistrust you, it's also the case that they can't yet trust you either.

During the first fifteen minutes you need to establish that you are trustworthy. One way of doing that is to speak the language of the people there, and use words appropriate to attendees. One mistake academics make when they do training is talk at a level way above the level of the participants, using words that aren't often used in regular life. That sets them apart from the group, and creates distrust.

One of the best ways to start the trust process is to create a sense that you are similar to them. People trust others that are like them more easily.

  • Dress accordingly. Not too fancy, not too shabby.
  • Talk accordingly. In other words try to fit in rather than separate yourself through your qualifications, fancy degrees, etc.
  • Don't try to impress.
  • And, throw in some personal details so they can start to relate to you as a person.

For more advice on beginning your training seminar successfully, click here

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