An email from your boss drops into your in-box and the subject line includes the words 'Training'. There is something new to learn and your name is on the course attendee list. What’s your reaction to the news? Do those feelings impact on how you approach the training? How can you ensure that you get the most out of the training?
I have facilitated learning for many different people over the years, from 18 year olds in their first jobs, experienced staff taking on new roles to Directors from global hotel chains.
I have worked with people with very different personalities. I have witnessed how people react to the sessions and while some flourish, others just wilt. I have glided out of training rooms on cloud nine after successful sessions. Other times I have run to the pub for a glass of red and on occasion, wanted to cry.
A recent experience made me stop and think about how people coming into the training room could make the learning experience better for themselves, their fellow trainees and facilitators. I then narrowed down the list to my top 'lucky seven' for a successful training experience.
It’s OK to if you're not an expert in the subject you’re going to be trained on. That’s the whole purpose of training sessions. The more relaxed you are, the more you will learn and retain.
2. It’s your training
The training facilitator is the topic expert. They are there to share their knowledge in an easy to understand format, enabling you to learn. The training is for you and therefore it is the facilitator's responsibility to help you understand them. They do this by repeating some steps slowly for you or using different words to help you understand. If you don’t understand something speak up, they would want you to.
3. Take hand written notes
There’s nothing more valuable than your own hand written notes, rather than typing notes on a devise. If the course material includes a guide for you to keep - write on it, draw pictures and symbols to help give yourself memory jolts when you refer back to it or take a note pad with you. Even if you never look at the notes again, the experience of writing them down, by hand forms neurological pathways in the brain that will aid your memory.
4. Don’t just hear, listen
This may sound obvious, but I often suspect that people 'hear' words being spoken during training but don’t actually 'listen'. Often I provide clear information or instructions during training, but I am inevitably and immediately asked a question and I have to repeat the information again or I am asked a question within a few hours of the sessions, as if I had never covered the topic. As training facilitators, we appreciate that you don’t pick up everything, but if you make a concerted effort to listen rather than wait to hear - I guarantee you will learn more.
5. Watch the clock
The training facilitator will have an agenda for the time allocated to the training and if they are not able to get through the material, they will be upset and feel frustrated, but it will be you that misses out on learning. Help out by being on time at the start of the day and don’t make your first questions, "What time do we finish?" or "Can I leave early because...?"
Arrive back from breaks by the requested time and allow the facilitator to ‘park’ anything that is taking you off track or that they can’t solve during the session. I am sure they will be able to address anything after the training, but don’t lose valuable learning time.
6. Have an ‘Ah-ha’ list
Things often pop into our minds at the most inconvenient times. We suddenly remember the family birthday we need to get a card for, the client we forgot to call the previous day, or the message we meant to send our colleague. The best solution to these ‘Ah-ha’ moments is having a piece of paper or post-it note next to you. When the ‘Ah-ha’ item pops into your mind - quickly write it down so that you don’t need to focus on remembering it and miss out on valuable training.
7. You don’t know what you don’t know
You may be facing training on a subject that you feel relatively competent on, so your openness to learning may not be as great as it could be. When faced with these situations, embrace this as an opportunity to build on your experience and see what else you can learn to make you even more of an expert. I have previously sat in on the same course more than once. Each time you will see or hear something different or someone asks a question that gives you a new prospective on it. Give yourself the opportunity to soak up us must as you can.
I could list more, but I will leave you with my lucky seven - even if just one or two make it into your next course, the whole experience will be better, I promise!