Engaging. Memorable. Unexpected. Which of those words describes your training? If you had to rank these in order of importance, unexpected would most likely be at the bottom of the list. Why? Perhaps because it sounds very nebulous, feels hard to pin down or seems difficult to execute. Being unexpected in your training is not doing something different just for the sake of being different. The purpose is always relevant to your training. And when done well, it can add a powerful dynamic to your training.

So what does unexpected look like? Below are five examples to get you thinking.


How are you currently marketing your course? What can you do that’s unexpected? Take a lesson from Hollywood, as they know how to get customers in the door. Build a couple video trailers for your course. Begin with a 20-30 second teaser trailer. Follow-up with a longer trailer (60-90 seconds) that speaks to the value of attending your course.

You can persuade early registrations by offering a discount with a clear cutoff date. Enhance the scarcity of your course by only making it available for a certain period of time and embed a countdown timer on your registration site to remind your customers of the limited availability.

Room Setup

Your participants have an expectation of how the room will be organized. They assume it will be just like every other training they’ve ever taken – rows, rows, rows. You want to deliver unexpected? Change the room setup. Give them tables with a few chairs. This setup creates automatic small groups, which is great to have during all of your small group activities. Start your course with zero tables and chairs in the room. The very first thing they have to do is locate their tables and chairs. Tie this activity to a key concept of your course and you’ve most definitely got your participants’ attention.

Those Critical First Few Minutes

During the first few minutes, your participants are going to decide if your course will indeed be different, or just like every other course they’ve taken. Requiring them to gather their missing tables and chairs is one way to say how different your course is.

If your course is a Train-the-Trainer, you can use this time to get your participants in front of the class, teaching, as quickly as possible. Don’t tell them that you expect them to participate. Simply get them involved in a unique and different way and they will be engaged.

Speed Dating

Want your participants to practice a behavior repeatedly in a short window of time? Can this also be a practice where you encourage them to try and fail, because failing in your classroom is safer than failing in the real world. Then try speed dating. Here’s one way this can work:

Challenge: Teach participants how to use their company’s sales brochure to address different customer needs or objections.


  • Set up tables around your room.
  • Assign a pre-determined customer to each table (each customer is an experienced co-worker or co-facilitator). Each customer comes to the table with a unique need or objection.
  • Determine how much time will be allowed to solve the challenge in each round.
  • At the start of each round, the customer can describe their need or objection. The participants then collaborate, using the provided sales brochure, to offer specific solutions to the customer.
  • When the buzzer sounds, the customers rotate tables and the next round begins.
  • Continue until all rounds are completed.

In a short period of time, your participants are able to encounter and solve different customer challenges by using the actual marketing literature they would have with them in the field.

Use Something that Inspires You

You see something in a TV show, a magazine ad, a movie trailer or a teaching technique that causes you to pause. You’ve just been inspired. Now take that inspiration and figure out how to apply it to your training.

  • Create a movie trailer for your course, but in a specific genre (i.e., film noir).
  • Integrate a component of your family’s favorite board game into your training. For example: Use the board game Mad Gab to create a role-play scenario or video that demonstrates poor communication.
  • Tweak your current data slides to emulate a look from an infographic that caught your attention.
  • Duplicate that powerful opening you saw at an industry event to open your training course.

Always be on the lookout for more inspiration. That’s how you come up with the unexpected. Being unexpected helps you, your training and the company stand out.

Exercise your creativity when designing and delivering your courses. Include frequent, planned purposeful engagement and your training will be memorable. When you combine engaging, memorable and unexpected, you create the “EMU Experience.”