Amy Daly-Donovan is a Master Trainer.
How do you build and maintain a high level of energy while training?
Starting out with energy and enthusiasm sets the stage for the kind of engaging session you want to create as a trainer. Your energy level affects the group as a whole. If you have low energy and plod along, they will too. If you remain engaged and interested, and have an appropriate energy level, so will they! Now, when we’re talking “energy,” it does not mean a “rah-rah,” exhausting whirlwind of movement, gestures, and loud voices. It does mean bringing a sense of vibrance to the learning environment. Here are some ways I weave that in—at the beginning and during the afternoon lull.
- Before the training even starts, make sure to engage with each and every participant. Greet them as they arrive, ask them questions about their work or their role, and see if you have anything in common. Smile! Find a reason to laugh a little to create a “lighter” mood.
- Have music playing as folks arrive as well as during every break and at the end of the day. Pick something that has broad appeal and is slightly upbeat.
- Open the workshop with a “hook”—get them interested right away. After introducing myself, I often talk about the applicability of what we’ll be learning to all parts of their lives, not just work. I ask, “Who has teenagers? Who has difficult neighbors? Who’s involved with volunteer activities?” and then state, “You will learn skills and tools that will help you in all those areas!”
- If everyone in the room does not know one another, do introductions, but avoid lengthy “around the room” introductions. A fun process I learned from a colleague is something we refer to as speed dating. The goal of this exercise is to meet as many people as possible in three minutes. Ask everyone in the room to stand up, give them a few questions to use—name, role in the organization, a hobby or interest, etc. Put the timer on, full screen! When the time is up and people return to their seats, take a poll of how many people they met.
- Within the first twenty minutes, get participants working at their tables to identify typical scenarios or challenging situations where the concepts and skills we’ll be working on have relevance. This gets the group buzzing and folks interacting early on. Collect a few ideas from each group and post them on a flipchart for reference later. This also gives you a good opportunity to connect with them and their interests and allows you to “preview” key content areas.
Throughout the session:
- Move around and use your space. A remote mouse will allow you to walk away from your laptop. If you are using flip charts, post those with key content so that you can move to and/or write on them as you reference them throughout the class.
- Look for creative ways to break into small groups so that people are continually interacting with different folks. This also gets them out of their chairs and moving around.
- When groups are working on exercises, make sure to walk around and engage with them. Offer thoughts, ask questions, compliment their work, and make easy jokes without taking them off track.
In energy lulls:
- Change up some of the exercises so that they are partnering with others instead of working in table groups. Make it a “power exercise” meaning that you ask them to stand, find a partner across the room, and power through the exercise in a timed two- to three-minute period, remaining standing.
- When doing a table exercise, rather than counting off around the room to mix the groups, have folks count “1-2-1-2 . . .” around their OWN table. Then have all the 2s rotate clockwise to the next table for the exercise.
- Plan for two short breaks in the afternoon—about ten minutes each—rather than one fifteen minute break. They really need it! Turn up the music during the afternoon breaks and make sure it has an upbeat tempo—no chamber music! Show the VitalSmarts viral videos or fun photographs during the breaks or just as participants are coming back.
- Chocolate helps. So do table toys for fidgeting, such as play-doh, slinkies, or pipe cleaners.
- Pay attention to your own energy level. Do what you can to increase it if necessary—tell an engaging story, take a brisk walk outside during break, or eat a bit of protein.
Please share your own ideas for keeping the learning environment high energy!