Bueller, Bueller? Anyone, Anyone?

Have you ever felt like the monotone economics teacher played by Ben Stein in the movie “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” while you were facilitating? As though there is a room full of people but no one is listening to you? It’s not a good feeling or use of time for both the trainer and participants. The likelihood of the trainees leaving inspired and excited about a valuable experience is not likely.

Don’t blame your boring presentation on a boring topic!

Compliance, rapid regulatory, anti-harassment, end-of-life care, health and safety, rules and regulations– these may not be the most riveting topics, but they are necessary for properly functioning organizations. Neither the facilitator nor the participant enjoys reciting policies and procedures that one could read in a manual, so how does a trainer transform dull content into an engaging session that offers participants a better or new understanding? Take measures to cognitively engross your trainees!

Follow these tips to turn your boring training into an unforgettable experience:

1. Start With Why.

Simon Sinek said it best in his book “Start with Why”: Companies that deliver the “why” of their products are more successful than competitors. Adult learners want to know the WIFM (“what’s in it for me”) from the get-go. Why are they taking time out of their day to listen to you? Why is this information important? How is it relevant to their jobs, and what benefits can they collect from it? When you begin your session with a powerful reason why they should listen and weave in the “why” throughout the training, people will perk up.

2. Be Authentic.

If you aren’t funny, don’t try to be. If you aren’t bubbly, don’t pretend to be. Just be you! People will know whether you are faking it or being authentic within a few seconds of your speaking. Find your style, and own it. If you have a passion for or personal connection to the topic, let it shine through in stories and examples. If your points are interesting and help reach the objective, you will pique participants’ natural curiosity, and they will want to learn more.

3. Choose Your Angle.

Imagine an attorney in a courtroom presenting her case to a jury. The attorney determines the outcome she desires and works backward to decide the best angle that connects with the jurors. You play the same role in the adult learning setting. Knowing your audience and their necessary takeaways helps you choose the angle to take when you are presenting. If your goal is to explain the standard protocol for infectious diseases in a hospital to a group of HR professionals, decide ahead of time the information and approach that will help them connect with the material.

4. Hook the Audience.

No one likes to be “talked at.” A discussion is more impactful. Creating an environment where people can have a conversation is setting up yourself and participants for success. As the trainer, your role is to facilitate a framework for structured discussion around the subject. Ask well-planned, direct questions that lead to the objectives to allow trainees to inform you on their level of knowledge and feel like part of the session instead of an observer. Storytelling brings the topic alive and can elicit emotions. If you don’t have a connection or personal experience that relates to the subject, borrow one from a book, podcast or article.

5. Consider the Design.

Not all trainings have to be “death by PowerPoint.” With a little instructional design knowledge, you can transform your dull content into impactful learning. Consider chunking complex topics in manageable sections and inserting a live polling application to quiz people on what they’ve learned so far and to give them a platform to ask questions. When there are numerous policies and procedures to review, turn the training into a treasure hunt where participants must read through material to solve a puzzle. Use images that relay the point more than words or text. Know when to incorporate active learning appropriately. If learners are moving around the room, using sticky notes or flip charts guides them to the objective. If you are incorporating movement just for the sake of it, the let people take a break.

Continue discovering and incorporating tools and techniques in your training to bring dull content to life. Many organizations are currently focused on building and implementing new anti-harassment programs, which are important and can be complex. Consider how to leverage tools and resources that spark creativity and engagement into topics for a valuable training experience.