7 Essentials for Training

A training expert supplies pointers to enhance your content by improving your delivery.

OK, you’ve got great content for your training session, but how is your delivery? Bob Pike, a motivational speaker in the training industry, wants to know. And he also wants to tell you how to improve it.

Pike made these points speaking at Training Magazine’s 2006 Conference and Expo, attended by more than 2,000 trainers. The heart of his message was these 7 essentials for successful training:

1. Make key points at the beginning and end of the session, and reinforce in the middle. Reason: Learners remember the first thing best, and the last thing second best. “The middle,” said Pike, “isn’t memorable.”

2. Revisit, but don’t review. When you say, “Let’s review,” it’s a signal that you’re going to repeat something already heard. Participants will start to zone out. Instead, refresh the lesson with new examples of the same concept. Pike noted that material must be revisited 6 times before it becomes part of long-term memory.

3. Use openers and closers. Use a key concept related to the subject, or an “icebreaker,” to put participants at ease as the lesson begins. And end it with a key fact or summary idea. Give your students a sense that they’ve learned something.

4. Present your concepts in related groups, or “chunks.” For example, all the issues raised by a new procedure are one chunk. The solutions would be another. Use some questions or take a break to define where one chunk ends and the next begins.

5. Do something comical or out of the ordinary. It breaks up monotony and refreshes the mind.

6. Test the learning. Pike noted the surprising fact that less than 15 percent of trainers test whether the lesson has sunk in. Testing doesn’t need to be a formal written quiz, says Pike. Informal questioning or presenting the class with a scenario that calls for problem-solving can also show learning.

7. Record and recall. Participants remember better what they say aloud or write down than what they passively hear. Have your students speak during training, and provide some exercises that require writing, checklists, or even drawing.

Finally, says Pike, if you’re not yet an expert trainer, don’t expect to be one overnight. Just keep at it. “We’re after progress,” he says, “not perfection.”