Why should trainers use openers and closers, and what can they do to ensure that they are using those tools effectively?
Simply put, openers and closers help facilitate training transfer, says Becky Pike Pluth, president and CEO of The Bob Pike Group. She offers the following advice for the effective use of openers and closers in training.
First, understand the key elements of effective openers and closers. Pluth says openers should “break preoccupation, allow for networking, and be relevant to the content.” Meanwhile, closers should include action planning (e.g., identify three goals to pursue after the training), celebrate what was learned (e.g., participants share what they learned with someone at their table), and tie things together.
Second, know when to use openers and closers during a training session. Openers should be used right at the beginning of a session—“before I’ve really even introduced myself”—and when resuming the session after every break, Pluth says. Closers should be used before every break and again at the end of training.
The length of each opener and closer will vary depending on how long a training session lasts. For example, the initial opener should last at least 10 minutes in a day-long training session and 2 to 3 minutes (or no more than 5 minutes) in an hour-long session, Pluth says. The same general rule applies to closers.
Third, recognize that an “ice breaker” is not the same as an opener even though they both involve interaction among learners. “An ice breaker is for a party. It’s an activity for the sake of an activity. It helps you get to know people. But it is not relevant to the [training] content,” Pluth says. Meanwhile, an opener “is directly correlated to the content. It’s not just fun for the sake of fun.”
Fourth, start simple, Pluth says. “Don’t kill yourself trying to be interactive beyond what you’re comfortable with.” You can add more complex openers and closers later.
Finally, continuously look for new openers and closers, especially if you will be training the same employees multiple times.