4 Training Facilitation Tips Gleaned from a Five-Year-Old

“Mommy,” my five-year-old said from the backseat of the car on the way to school one morning, “What do you do for work (pronounced more like wurk)?”

I wasn’t sure where her question was coming from, but in trying to think about how to describe what I do to so her Pre-K mind would understand, I quickly thought that “consulting” wasn’t going to make sense.

So, I chose instead to describe what I do in the context of what I was scheduled to do that day.

“Well, today, I’m going to train some people on their first day of work. I get to help my client get new people excited about where they work and what they are going to get to do.”

“So, you’re a cunductor?” she said.  Her short u that always seems to replace her short o confused me.  

“A what?” I asked.  

“You know a cunductor,” she said with mild frustration.  “Like you help people on and off trains.”

“Oh, a conductor you mean?” I asked.

“Yes, she said.”

I had to chuckle.  In trying to pick a word she would understand opting for training instead of consulting, she used the train to make a connection to actual trains.

I tried again.

“I’m like your teacher at school kind of, but I get to teach adults and help them learn at work.  There are no trains involved,” I laughed.

To which she replied, “So who is your principal?”

This is just one example of conversations we have as her inquisitive mind processes everything around her in a cute, but also thought provoking way.

But her questioning helped me to think about some best practices for facilitating training that may help any of you who are “cunductors” aka training facilitators and leaders, helping adults learn at work:

1. Word choice is important. Consider your audience- age, skill level, position, part of the country or globe, etc.  when deciding if the way your explaining things and your word choice makes sense.  I’m the world’s worst at this but try to avoid catch phrases and sayings.  For example, using “beating a dead horse,” may make sense to some as a way to say we’ve gone over this way too much, but if taken literally and/or being translated into another language, it could cause a lot of confusion.

In addition, avoid using words that are vague and may cause confusion.  For example, “We will break in a few minutes.” As opposed to, “We will break at 10:15 am.”

2. Explain things in more than one way and in more than one medium.  Not everyone learns the same way.   Analogies may help in describing something in a way that may make sense as long as it doesn’t violate recommendations in number one above.   In addition, engaging people in listening, writing, drawing, reading, small and large group discussion and individual reflection activities helps to ensure that content is internalized.  Once internalized, it can then be used to help shape and change behaviors on the job.

3. Slow down when you talk. This may actually be what I’m the worst at in my southern way of talking, but this really hit home for me while facilitating a training this week where everything I said was being translated into another language for about half the participants.  Inserting pauses and breaks in your discussion is helpful.  In addition, inserting a variety of activities helps to break up the speed and prevalence of talking.

4. Gauge your audience’s understanding.  Watching the facial expressions and body language of your participants, as well as questions they might ask, can help you know if they understand what you are saying.  If you are talking too fast, not explaining things in a way that makes sense or using words/phases that are confusing, facial expressions and body language will cue you to this.  I learned quickly in my training this week that the interpreters would look at me funny if I said something that wasn’t easily translatable or unclear.   

In addition, participants would stop me to ask clarifying questions, and some were of the “So who is your principal?” nature which showed me I was off the mark in my analogy or explanation of a topic and needed to try again.

How do you ensure that your “conducting” facilitates adult learning in a way that impacts job performance?

Mary Ila Ward

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