Stop Working So Hard

At the end of one of my workshops, Derek, a trainer and coach at a telecom company exclaimed, “I’ve been reborn. I’m a whole new presenter now!”

What had triggered this “aha” moment?

Derek had gained some new perspectives that had impacted the way he saw himself at the front of the room. The old Derek assumed that when he took on the responsibility of leading a training session or giving a presentation that it was his job to do all the talking, the instructing, if you will — to carry the whole “dog and pony” show.

TeachingI’ve come across this perspective often among my clients. If this is your assumption too, then consider some of the consequences of this perspective.

1. If you’re carrying the entire burden of the session, you’re likely to be very nervous and uncomfortable. All eyes are on you — for the entire session.

But consider this. We’re generally not nervous when someone else is doing the talking. So getting participants involved takes some of the pressure off and gives us time to focus on the others in the room instead of ourselves. We can take a breath, listen, and learn from our attendees.

2. If you’re doing it all, you’re creating and encouraging passive attendees. They may become bored, unmotivated, and inattentive if your style of presenting is not their preferred style of learning. (At the end of the session, you may even have to wake them up.)

Consider this. Learning is an active process.

How did you learn to play golf, negotiate with others, build new relationships, or learn a new piece of software? Did you learn entirely by watching someone else “do” or did you participate too? I’ll hazard a guess that you were actively involved. Your participants need to be too! They need to interact with the ideas, the problems, the equipment, or the other participants — whatever is appropriate in order to achieve the learning objectives for your session.

3. Thirdly, by doing all the talking, you are disregarding the knowledge, experience, and needs of the people in the room. You may be providing information that is too basic, too advanced, too confusing, or simply irrelevant to the group.

Consider this. You are there to help your attendees learn. They may have resistance to information that conflicts with their previous learning. They may need clarification. They may need help figuring out how to apply the learning to their own situations. If you’re doing all the talking, you’re easily missing out on valuable information that will help you help your participants solve the problems or manage the situations that brought them to you. It has to be all about them.

Back to my participant Derek. By the end of the 3-day workshop, Derek saw himself as a facilitator of learning instead of an presenter of information. He realized that he didn’t have to carry the entire burden himself. He understood that it was his job to guide the learning and he had new tools to do that now — tools such as questioning techniques, a selection of learning activities, and strategies for engaging the participants.

The result? A session that was more energetic, engaging, collaborative, and enjoyable — for his participants as well as himself.

You don’t have to work so hard either. Remember: learning is an active process. For whom? For your attendees. So get them involved.

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