Teeing Up Your Content
Front of the Room – Brian Lange
It’s time to invest more in starting our sessions.
By default, we – as trainers – are more connected to the value of a given session we’ll be delivering than our audience is. Just because we have a delivery to make doesn’t mean they care. The challenge (or opportunity!) is therefore to create context, interest and openness toward the content on the part of our learners. This will give our content a better chance to shine and can establish a strong foundation for moving forward.
The current, usual approach to openings doesn’t achieve this, as a rule. Often, openings consist simply of trainer intro, slide review of objectives, rules or agenda, etc. There’s not a lot of emotional connection to content possible with this approach. It’s time to invest more in our openings.
Apply Critical Thinking
It’s beneficial to consider what your learners might be thinking regarding your session — before they show up. Based on the session title in the email invite (or within a meeting agenda), what might be going through their minds?
- Why are we doing this session?
- How was this topic picked?
- I don’t need that content — I’m already good at that!
- Oh great, another session on…
Of course, it could also be:
- Wow, I’ve wanted a session on that!
- Whoa! Looks like I have a ton to learn!
- I’m excited to see how this content will help me be more effective!
However, the reality is, it’s probably more effective for us to consider the former items in terms of getting inside the heads of our learners.
Shape Your Opening
Armed with insights on what barriers or concerns your learners may have, it’s now time to think of an analogy or “hook”:
1. Open the door to possibility: One mistake we sometimes make is to oversell the potential impact/import of our content. In fact, easing up on the hype can create greater comfort and lower resistance:
“Perhaps this content will give us some new ideas for how to hone our efforts … let’s check it out and see!”
“Who knows? Maybe you’ll discover an insight about your own approach that results in wanting to try something new!”
2. When thinking about how to position the content, consider answering the prompt, “It’s kind of like…” This can help you step back from the material and take a broader view — which can ultimately be helpful in describing the potential of the material to your audience:
“It’s kind of like in NASCAR — the winner of a given race knows the strategies and tactics of the drivers who come in 2nd and 3rd. It actually helps them to win. So, today—we’re going to explore Competitive Analysis, so that we might find ways to help US come across the finish line, first.”
(This example courtesy of an actual LTEN PrimeTime! For Trainers workshop participant!)
Try skipping the objectives or agenda slides and take your audience somewhere outside the classroom (figuratively). Tell a story or share an article that paints a picture of something that is unexpected, or different from what the audience is expecting.
Then, use a bridge to bring them back to the classroom — and set the table for your content. In the NASCAR example above, the trainer used an article from the sports section of USA Today to take us to Charlotte — and asked questions to engage with the audience — and then used the bridge above to set the table for the content.
A little bit of reflection, critical thinking and creativity can go a long way toward generating a strong and compelling opening to your workshop. This is an investment that can produce a powerful return.
Maybe it’s worth taking it for a test-drive?
Brian Lange is with Perim Consulting and serves as lead facilitator for LTEN PrimeTime! For Trainers Core and Masters Workshops. Email Brian at firstname.lastname@example.org.