2 kickass training activities – put your learners’ needs 1st, and last!

You can use this pair of audience activities or interactions to “bookend” your training:

  • The 1st is a superb addition to your session’s opening.
  • The 2nd is an engaging way to get feedback at the end.

Interaction #1: Let the “attenders” set the agenda(*)

Athletic male high in the air kicking a soccer ballHave you ever seen a trainer do something that stayed with you for decades?

More than 20 years ago, way back in the 20th century, I saw a trainer use such an awesome technique that I’m still talking about it now – in the next millennium! So before I start to feel too old, let me share it with you.

It was in the early 90s, and I was on a course about spreadsheet macros. In the 1st few minutes, the trainer asked each of us what one task we most wanted to learn to do in the software. As we answered, he wrote what we said on a flipchart, and when he’d asked us all, he stuck the paper on the wall for all to see.

For the rest of the course, he then covered each point on the list, ticking them off as he went, until each of us had had our top request answered.

What a great way to structure a course – I was so impressed!

So if you’re looking for a killer way to structure a training session you’re running – and if you’re truly an expert in the subject – I can’t think of a better way to meet your learners’ needs.

Bringing it into the 21st century     Even if you’ll run your training session online, in software like Adobe Connect or similar, you can still use the same technique:

  1. Near the start, tell attendees you want to cover each person’s top takeaway.
  2. Open a new chat box.
  3. Paste a short question into the box, like:

    “What’s the 1 thing you most want to cover today?”

  4. Throughout your session, keep that wish-list chat box where everyone can see it (just like the flipchart paper in the story).
  5. Use a different chat box for other discussion points, so the wish-list stays easy to see. (After all, in a classroom, you’d use other flipchart pages or the whiteboard to keep the wish-list separate.)
  6. Just like in a Q&A session, if you get a topic you can’t answer, let that person know you’ll follow up with them after the event.

Provided your audience is small, you could even use this technique at the start of a webinar. (I use “webinar” to mean an online presentation, which tends to be less learning-based and less interactive than virtual instructor-led training, or “VILT”.)

* By the way, I made up the word “attenders” in the title for 2 reasons:

  1. I like how it rhymes with “agenda”.
  2. I wonder, why is someone who mends called a “mender”, and someone who lends is a “lender”, yet someone who attends is an “attendee”?

Interaction #2: Get feedback using a “Like-it” scale (different from Likert)

As with interaction #1 above, this is an idea I got from someone else. But unlike interaction #1, I learned about this one just over a year ago, so you might say it’s a 21st-century idea! I heard it from Sheila Robinson, and it’s a tip for getting valuable feedback.

Your attendees will respond well to it I’m sure, because it’s very different from most feedback they’re asked to give (in that it’s refreshingly emotional, and it’s extremely quick to complete).

It works like this: At the end of your session, present a list of emotions to your attendees, like these:

  • Inspired
  • Distracted
  • Fascinated
  • Bored
  • Overwhelmed
  • etc

Ask people to tick the ones they’ve felt during your event, and provide a box where you ask them to explain why they felt that way. What a fun and enlightening poll – simple, yet so novel!

As I wrote in this postscript to my post about feedback forms:

“I bet that the speed with which people can answer… means they feel they can respond freely, and that their feelings are being heard.”

Over to you

  • Would you use either of those techniques?
  • Why or why not?
  • What emotions would you put in the list?

Let me know in the comments or to @RemotePoss on Twitter.

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9 thoughts on “2 kickass training activities – put your learners’ needs 1st, and last!

  1. I think it is fundamental for a trainer to build in enough flexibility so as to be able to address specific points of concern from the participants. The first technique is simple but effective and can be combined with a (partially) set agenda. Thanks, Craig.


  2. Pingback: 3 Recent Blog Posts Worth a Few Minutes of your Time | Train Like A Champion

  3. Hi Craig,
    Thank you so much for another wonderful post – and on a topic I was super curious about no less! The second method from Sheila Robinson is really worth a try – especially here in Taiwan where students are much less forthcoming with their feelings and opinions than in Europe or the US.

    A “what did you learn” would elicit nothing but complete silence. (The authority of the teacher has been hammered into them since they could barely walk! I might even try leaving the room while they write the feedback.)

    Thanks again!


  4. Thanks for the link back to my blog, Craig! When I use the list of emotions, I try to have no more than 6-8 choices and a balance between generally positive and generally negative ones. I’ve also included in the list “in agreement with the presenter” and “in disagreement with the presenter” and then (as you mention) follow up with an open-ended question asking respondents why they ticked the boxes that they did. So far, it’s worked quite well and the answers are generally much richer than the initial question – “What did you learn?”


    • You’re very welcome Sheila!

      These days I run very few training sessions, but we’ve just started using Adobe Connect at work and I am using it a bit for online training.

      I’ve not tried your tip yet, and I can’t wait to give it a go! (We’re looking for ways to bring all of our training to life, and I think it’ll go down terrifically!)


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