We talk a lot on this blog about ways to design effective trainings that are also–imagine!–relatively fun for trainers and trainees alike. A lot of this advice deals with the nitty-gritty of designing courses from the ground up or doing major projects like overhauling a course to teach it online for the first time.
Often, though, what trainers need are quick ways to jazz up a training or an easy way to get learners more involved in a particular activity. In this series, we’ll offer quick tips for things you can do in about five minutes or so. No re-designing trainings or massive file updates, just easy ideas you can put into practice right away. Think of it as microlearning for the trainer.
Quick Training Tip #3: Be a Human
Humans are social creatures, even when we’re online.
If you think back over the learning experiences you’ve had, I’m willing to bet that the most memorable involve the ones in which you made personal connections, with an instructor or with other participants. One of the easiest things you can do to increase participant engagement in your courses, whether they’re online, in person, or hybrid, is to share a little bit about what makes you tick as a human being.
No exposés necessary
The whole being-human thing can be tricky to balance with maintaining professionalism, especially for instructors at the beginning of their career or for those who tend to be private sorts. You can absolutely be a human with trainees without oversharing, though.
It comes down to picking things that you’re willing to share.
Those things, of course, should also be relevant to the content of the online course or workshop and not be the sorts of things that will make trainees uncomfortable. For me, this involves a lot of pictures of my dogs used to make vocabulary and grammar in Spanish that much more exciting.
For other people, it’s examples from work experiences or trips abroad. It can be anything, really, as long as you keep your audience in mind and don’t cross the line into weird.
If you’re leading an online training or working with online training software, even something as simple as including a photo of yourself instead of the stock avatar and including a short bio will help.
As you’re creating the boilerplate for your course–policies, schedule, and the like–think about ways to inject personality into what’s normally fairly dry stuff. How you set up your training courses reflects what you care about and what you think is important, so why not be upfront about that?
In the in-person language workshops I lead, I really, really want people to participate and be engaged, even when their language skills are minimal. Because the ability to make mistakes in the name of progress is an important part of my workshops, I always tell participants about all the stupid things I’ve said and done in the process of learning languages. Sure, I give up a little bit of “professionalism,” but we gain a better rapport in the group, which facilitates learning in the long run.
If you’re a heavy social media user and you lead online trainings, providing links to those profiles can be another way of giving participants insight into who you are and what you care about.
If you’re feeling especially creative, there are lots of ways to use social media in workshop activities. For example, you can create a group hashtag and have participants share and interact with each other on a particular platform. Platforms like Twitter are great for tracking trends and finding current information. Having participants share work publicly can be another way to focus attention on how the workshop content has meaning in their work lives beyond the training session. For more ideas, these posts have other tips for using social media as a training tool.
As you’re thinking about ways to get trainees to see you as a human being, don’t overlook the need to get them to interact with each other. Social media can be one way to do that, but also look for ways to create connections among participants through partnered and other group activities. Especially in an online environment, creating an atmosphere conducive to these kinds of connections can help trainees maintain motivation and complete the course.
Over to you. Other ideas for being a little more human in training situations?
I'm endlessly fascinated by how people learn, and I'm happiest when I'm in the process of learning something new myself.
When I'm not working on marketing for Avizr, I can be found teaching Spanish, working with my student teachers, hanging out with my dogs, and exploring the many trails around Bellingham.