Recently I conducted training for a client and was delighted by the outcome. Everyone had a positive response and provided great feedback. It got me thinking. Was the success due solely to the content? Some business intelligence aficionados that live and breathe analytics might argue it was. After all, the training covered advanced functionality of a first-in-class analytics tool. However, I think there is more to it. In fact, I think that for training to be successful, it needs to bring several components together and create harmony between them. Ideally it should follow what I call the “PRISM” framework – that is be a balance of five characteristics: Practical, Relevant, Interactive, Structured and Motivational.
Practical. This does not mean theory or abstract concepts cannot be covered; but rather, that they should always be accompanied by a meaningful business context. I find that real-life case studies are a great way to do this. They add context to the material and illustrate how it can be applied, beyond the product manuals. For example, if you are talking to a sales operations manager, they are likely to get a request from a sales representative in the field or find themselves answering a question posed by the sales leadership team.
Framing a problem in a way a person is likely to experience in their day-to-day activities will help the training content to resonate better with them.
Relevant. To learn, the audience needs to find the content relevant to their role or interests. Too often presentations fail to deliver information that is meaningful. Even if the content is very useful, unless the trainer can find a way to link it to the audience’s needs, the training session will not be very effective. Whether this is by telling a story or tweaking an example to fit the context, people will want to be able to relate to the material. Consider your audience and tailor the content to what is relevant to them – take into account the organizational hierarchy, business areas and roles.
Interactive. A crucial part of training is to keep people involved. This is not accomplished by making the entire session a monologue. Rather, there has to be back-and-forth. Ask the audience how they think the content will add value to them. Encourage different perspectives to be shared and get people to ask questions. Especially in technical training, a question one person has will likely be helpful for others as well. Allow time for the class to do exercises, collaborate amongst peers and take notes that complement the presentation.
Structured. The simplest example of structure, and one taught since grade-school, is to have a beginning, middle, and end. It really shouldn't get much more complicated than this. The key is for the audience to be able to follow along and not get lost throughout the training. Start by providing an outline of what will be covered. Arrange the topics in such a way that there is a natural flow between them. If there is a slide deck, be consistent throughout it such that the design highlights the material rather than detract attention from it.
Motivational. This aspect of a training refers to the tone of delivery. It should be energetic and motivate people to want to learn the content. Perhaps they were instructed to attend or even better, they wanted to get trained. Regardless, as a trainer you should do your best to motivate the class and share part of the passion for the material. Not only grasp the concepts in class, but also inspire them to want to use them outside and practice on their own time.