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​ Have you ever had the sad school experience when the teacher browbeat you for an answer with a phrase like, “I suggest you think”? If you were like me, you froze, you couldn’t remember your own name, and you couldn’t wait for this shattering, agonizing humiliation to be over with. It’s no accident that you froze. You (and I) were experiencing the Amygdala Hijack. It’s where the amygdala, in the limbic system of the brain (also called the lizard brain) takes over, numbing the frontal lobe of the brain where reasoning, calculations, analysis and problem-solving takes place. It hijacks your brain. After all, if you’re so scared that you have to fight or run, ...
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You may have been down this road before. A very intelligent, accomplished and articulate manager or director tells you that he wants a training program and wants it done in an arbitrarily-chosen time frame. The good troop that you are, you salute, and do your darnedest to create a viable training program in an absurdly ridiculous time frame. You might have packed in a great deal of information which left the instructors or you very little wiggle room other than to lecture your way through it. You go into the classroom, give it your all, train dozens or hundreds of people, and the training does not alter performance or behavior. Who gets blamed, the manager ...
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​ Time can be the great scourge of training. How can I start on time if only a few people have arrived? How do I get them back from the break on time? How do I finish on time? Starting on Time: If you don’t start on time, you are punishing people who are punctual and you are rewarding people who arrive late. Your other dilemma is starting on time and having to repeat it for the late arrivals. Start with an energizer or an exercise. Ask the on-time arrivals to fill out a sheet with their names, favorite movie, food, hobby, sport, vacation spot, or how many years they are with the agency Have “worry envelopes” available for people who don’t ...
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​ Travelling with your flip charts is not as difficult as you might think. First, cut the cardboard spine off the back. Roll the flip chart up with the front facing outward. Start from the top, not the bottom. If you roll it up facing inward, you might have “split ends” when you hang your chart on the stand. Second, buy a waterproof quiver in plastic or vinyl. You can usually find them at an arts and craft store. Drop the flip chart into the quiver and give the quiver a shake so the flip chart can unfurl as much as possible. Seal the quiver with whatever locking mechanism it has. Adjust the sling, and throw it over your shoulder. Now you’re ready ...
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​ Objectives are critical to training. They are what the learners must be able to accomplish by the end of the training that they cannot accomplish at the start of it. Here is something else you can do besides simply stating what the objectives are and make your participants feel valued at the same time. Ask the learners at the beginning what they would like to get out of the training. You can do this in several ways. You can ask them to come to the front and write what they would like to learn on a flip chart, (which will be posted to the wall), or write it on a post-it and post it on the flip chart at the front of the class. You can also have ...
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​ This is an energizer I usually give right after lunch when the learners would love to let their minds relax on a full stomach.  I start out by telling them I am giving them a quiz. "A quiz?!" It's a word that usually strikes terror in the hearts of anyone who's been through school. I tell them they have to fill in the blanks with a fruit or a veggie that makes sense e.g. "Dearest Bunny, I have loved you since our first date . (Get it? Date?) You cannot say, "I have loved you since our first tomato ." Dearest Bunny, I have loved you since our first ____________. I want you to know my heart ____________ only for you. If you _____________ all for ...
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You will encounter three types of participants in your classes: vacationers who view the training as a nice little getaway from the hum-drum of work; explorers who came to learn, and the prisoners who have to be there and make it clear that they do not want to be there. You can feel the tension coming from them, and it can be a killer to the kind of energy you are trying to foster. Ask every person to write down 10 reasons why they don’t need to be at the training or why they should be someplace else. They can: a) write it on post-its and stick them on a flip chart, or b) add them to the flip chart themselves or have a scribe do it. Take the time to read ...
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​ Energizers can add a jolt especially after lunch when eyelids say siesta time. They work best when used infrequently and won’t interrupt the content or context of skill development and learning. You can make it a free-for-all exercise by reading them aloud and letting people respond to them spontaneously, or having them work on them by groups in competition with each other. This one is called “Name the Sport.”  How many can you identify?”   It uses a shuttlecock The player’s uniform is called a suit of lights Lowest score wins A perfect score is 300 Two sports with winner circles The defense has the ball Sports with strokes It is ...
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​ Your learners will always know: how you feel  if you don’t like them or respect them when you’re lying when you’re unprepared when you’re guessing when it’s a sales pitch when you’ve given up when you don’t believe what you’re facilitating So be sincere, even if you have to fake it.
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Asking questions and answering them is an art form that will demand practice. Here are some tips for asking questions. 1.   Keep your questions short and simple. Make them easy to understand. 2.   Ask open-ended questions for opinions and feelings. They start with “Why…?” “What about…?” “How…?” 3.   Ask a close-ended question for specific information. It will start with “Do you…?” “Who…?” “When…?” 4.   A hypothetical question is a great way of opening a discussion. “What would you do if….?  5.  Allow 9 seconds to pass when you are asking a question of the audience. Scan the room for volunteers. Many times trainers are too quick and answer their own question. ...
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​Every modern convenience brings its inconvenience. Think of it, before the telephone it was rude if you did not knock on your neighbor’s door and introduce yourself. After the phone, it was rude if you did—without calling first. Now cells, beeps, tweets, and instant messages challenge your classroom management skill to the limit. Here’s what you can do in chronological order: 1.   Just as you send participants directions on how to get to the training site and let them know the dress code, you should also include a “phone code.” 2.   Let them and their supervisor know that the phones are supposed to be turned off according to policy. 3.   Hang a huge “NO ...
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​There will always be extenuating circumstances when people arrive late. In a uniformed agency it is easy to be strict about time, and demand explanations. If you find yourself training in a private industry or a non-uniformed environment, it will be an entirely different story. Let’s look at the “entirely different story.” 1.   Set up the room to minimize interruptions.  2.   Ensure that you start on time. If people see that you are starting late, they will soon get the message and start coming in late too. They will model you . 3.   Don’t take it personally if people arrive late. There could be a multitude of reasons other than not wanting to attend ...
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​ Public speaking is bad enough for many people, but to have to make eye contact with their audience can be brutal. That is when the eyes shift more and the speaker’s eyes begin to dart around even more looking for an avenue of escape rather than contact with the audience. The audience will notice that discomfort and become uncomfortable themselves, and the vicious cycle will continue. Some feel that they can avoid the problem and fool their audience by looking over their heads or at the clock in the back of the room, but to the audience it only looks like you are looking over their heads or at the clock in the back of the room. Some presenters ...
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TRAINING TIP 14: Humor

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Ask people what they like, and you will often hear them say, “I like to laugh and have a good time.” The truth is we all do. It releases endorphins in the brain that add to our feelings of well being. If you are successful at using humor in your class, the participants will be attentive and engaged. (Note we said humor, not telling jokes). They are likely to retain more from a positive and enjoyable learning experience. If you use inappropriate or offensive humor you might subject yourself to a mortifying training experience you will never forget. Speaking of mortifying, I remember many years ago sitting in a class in Infantry Hall in Ft. Benning where ...
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​ Greek Mythology has always intrigued me. Their stories are lively, interesting and filled with wisdom. So goes the story of Sisyphus, a Greek king who angered the gods. They punished him by making him push a boulder up a hill only to watch it come right back down again. One wonders if we are achieving similar results with our training. If we aren’t doing what Dana and Jim Robinson call the five factors in their book Performance Consulting , we might be getting a Sisyphean result. Here are the questions, you have to answer satisfactorily in order to avoid having the rock come back down the hill: 1.   Is there clarity of the roles and expectations of ...
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​ Study after study shows that people remember more of what they see and hear rather than just what they hear. Windowpaning is an exercise where learners create their own images and label them. They draw windowpanes on a flip chart with no more than nine panes. It is more fun if the learners work in groups and know they are not expected to produce a Rembrandt or van Gogh. Matchstick figures or whatever the learners are capable of will do nicely so long as the images fit in a box. In each box and under each image the learners will draw a line and write in words a description of the image or what it means. Ask them to describe what ...
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Flip Charts are still your most versatile training aid. While it is impractical for large audiences, it has great utility for small ones i.e. no more than 50. If you are preparing flip charts all you will need is a flat surface, a yardstick, chisel-point permanent markers, a pen knife, and transparent tape. Lay the flip chart on the flat surface. Using the yardstick and a dark permanent marker, draw horizontal straight lines across the paper about 2 inches apart. It doesn’t have to be exact.  Remove this paper from the chart pad and place it under the sheet you will write on.  Draw your images, charts or printing on the paper neatly following the lines ...
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I often resort to this energizer when participants are changing tables for the first time, or they are strangers to each other.   I ask them to write down five things about themselves on an index card, five things about: a hobby they have, a place they have been, a language they speak, something they have done or accomplished or anything else about themselves that they believe no one else at their table has experienced.   They announce their experiences to each member at their table, and win one point for each experience no one else can duplicate.   This way, they get to share things ...
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The Six Trumps of Sharon Bowman almost sounds like the title of a Sherlock Holmes novel, but it is really about making your training stick, information that is remembered, and skill retention. For those of us in training, that is as thrilling as a Sherlock Holmes mystery.   First, a little background: Ms Bowman has written a number of books in the field of training, and she is completely opposed to conventional teaching or training, so she has developed the “six trumps.” The dictionary definition of trump is to override.   Trump 1:   Movement Trumps Sitting When participants move, they get an increase in oxygen which in turn enhances alertness, ...
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​ When I conduct a train-the-trainers course, I am invariably asked what advice I would give to new instructors. Since I never remember all the things I want to tell them, I’ve compiled these points. 1)    Doff the authority armor. People don’t learn through intimidation or from instructors who put up mental or physical barriers. (Toss the lectern in the supply closet and keep a table beside you, not in front of you.) If you intimidate them, they are more likely to freeze up mentally, and if that doesn’t work, their brains will work overtime to push the learning experience as far away from their memory as possible. 2)    Make training fun. I can relate to ...
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