In-person training sessions: 5 tips to increase engagement

In-person workshops and other training sessions give employees the opportunity to learn something new that will not only help them in their work life, but can also help them develop on a personal level too. Making sure these sessions are engaging is vital: it will benefit the employer and it will benefit the trainee. And it will also benefit the trainer! No coach or course facilitator wants to feel as if they are wasting their time and energy – and precious, valuable expertise – on disengaged, disinterested trainees. But how do you increase engagement and create more positive, fulfilling outcomes for everyone involved in the room? We’ll give you our five top tips to boost engagement and make your in-person training sessions more effective.

Professional training has seen a lot of change over time. From something that was offered and undertaken in a rather haphazard, half-hearted way, these days training offerings at work have become an employee ‘must have’. The job market and what people are looking for from employment shifted during and after the Covid pandemic. Its effects are still being felt and, at least for the time being, employees have the upper hand.

Replacing a member of staff can be an expensive operation, both financially and in terms of morale and knowledge loss. The average cost of replacing an employee varies depending on the role and how much they earn. Research by Oxford Economics and Unum in the UK found that the average cost of losing an employee earning £25,000 a year or more is £30,614: not only do employers have to pay to find a new hire, but it will also take at least 28 weeks to get them up to the same level, which will involve huge costs in productivity.

So, retaining the best people is just as important as attracting new talent. In both cases, employees are looking for opportunities to grow and develop at work. They are invested in their own personal and professional path, and expect companies to be invested in it too. A recent LinkedIn Workplace Learning Report noted that “94% of employees say they would stay at a company longer if it invested in their learning and development”.

Providing the right sort of training is key – and making sure that it is engaging and purposeful is vital.

In-person learning is still the preferred method of workplace learning

In these new days of hybrid living and working, trainers and facilitators should be aware of all the elements that can conspire to make their work more demanding – and know how to address them to increase engagement. While some training might be undertaken on an entirely remote basis, which has its own challenges, there are times and situations where employers want their staff to be in a room together. And employees seem to prefer it too.

A Statista survey published in 2022 found that the most preferred workplace learning methods of employees worldwide in 2019 was learning in a classroom with a group: 42% percent of respondents preferred it to other ways of learning.

Workforces in many sectors may now have a much larger proportion of remote or hybrid workers, but this does not mean they specifically want online training for their staff. On the contrary, professional training in person may be one of only a few opportunities for teams to come together in person. In some ways, this gives even more responsibility to the trainers and facilitators of professional learning sessions: there is a lot more invested in them for companies than just what their staff can learn.

Continuous professional development needs to be concrete and measurable

It’s all very well for an employer or employee to say they are committed to ongoing professional development. It’s completely another to do it properly so that it has a positive impact. And while there is often a lot of talk about how it can be difficult to engage learners in online sessions, knowing how to properly engage trainees is in-person is just as important. The challenges and problems may be different, but they are still there. Luckily, there are effective ways to increase the engagement of trainees in in-person settings, and therefore improve the outcome of their training.

And just because you have a physical classroom of people doesn’t mean you have to forget all the things available to you in online training sessions. We can take the best of both worlds and create engaging professional development opportunities that will do what they should: create value for the participants on a personal and professional level, and therefore maximise the value of the training for the company that is paying for it.

So, how can you make in-person training more engaging? Picture the scene: you have spent hours travelling to a venue you have never visited before. You are a little apprehensive to be away from home for a period of time and spending it with people you know only on a professional level. Maybe you have only ever met half of them ‘virtually’. Maybe you have never met any of them, but they all know each other already. Perhaps you are staying in a lovely hotel in a destination you are excited to visit, or maybe there are a million places you would rather be. Whatever your thoughts and feelings, positive or negative, there is a lot of emotion wrapped up in what should be little more than a simple training course.

The choice of venue can impact how different people respond to the training – and maybe as a facilitator you have no control over that. It will be something you need to work with and you should have strategies in place to ensure your training can create the greatest sense of involvement and participation possible.

In-person training has its own inherent positives and negatives. A group of people will develop its own dynamics, hierarchies, and behaviours. Sometimes this can be hugely helpful to the trainer. A committed and interested group of people who are all encouraging and positive towards each other is likely to be easier to engage and teach than a disparate, uninvested group where there may be some ‘difficult’ personalities. Training facilitators never know which group will turn up in their classroom. It’s better to be prepared – an engaged group is much easier to manage!

5 tips for increasing engagement during in-person training

1. First impressions count – be proactive with introductions

Make sure that the trainees know in advance how the course will be constructed and what will be expected of them. Ensure you have gathered any relevant information you need to know before the course starts, so you can ensure that any potential issues can be swiftly dealt with. 

Let participants know asynchronously if there is anything they will need to know or do before the course starts, and what will be provided in terms of learning materials: will they need a pen and paper, their laptop, or anything else they might not remember without a prompt? 

You want your attendees to feel prepared and ready to learn from the first moment: there’s nothing worse than arriving and finding out you haven’t got something ‘vital’ because no one told you you would need it.

Then, make sure you introduce yourself and explain why you are the best person to teach them and what you will expect from them in return. Allowing people to introduce themselves can be a good way to start to build up a sense of belonging and team, and establish your legitimacy as a facilitator.

In this purpose, using an icebreaker is a great way to put people at ease and start to build rapport. Make sure you find the icebreaker that is best suited to the people you are teaching and the training you are offering.

2. Use collaborative tools to build a sense of teamwork

When people work together in person, they are instantly required to engage. Collaborative tools, such as digital whiteboards, do not have to be used exclusively in online settings. They can be extremely useful for in-person training too. The trainer can share documents with trainees and allow them to make changes, ask questions, and share ideas within a private group.

Collaborative tools can be used to facilitate group discussions and brainstorming sessions, all of which can be beneficial for learning and problem-solving, and also increase engagement.

Active learning strategies create greater engagement, and this in turns means that participants are more likely to understand and retain the information they are being given. Teamwork can build a sense of belonging. It also brings with it a sense of responsibility and duty to the group to perform well and be useful.

3. Make it fun and varied

No one wants to sit at a desk for hours on end and be lectured to. That was how education used to work, but not anymore. Research has shown that engagement is key for positive outcomes, both in teaching and in life. Variety is helpful to keep people’s attention, particularly as these days our attention spans can be limited. Break up the sessions with presentations, videos, and other media that can make concepts and ideas easier to understand and will mix things up.

Encourage participation by asking questions and encouraging open discussion and feedback, even when participants are not engaged in team activities. This will also help engagement levels. Humour and games where appropriate can also make training more enjoyable and memorable, and therefore more likely to fulfil its purpose. The gamification of education has been shown to be beneficial to learner outcomes.

4. Encourage critical thinking and reflective practices

Using activities that include real-world examples will help trainees to understand how concepts can apply to real life and not just the training room. Case studies can make training more relatable and applicable to the attendees' work situation. Role play can also help to make the connections between the information they are being given and how this new knowledge can be applied in the real world.

Encourage learners to ask questions, both of themselves and others, and to rethink areas where they might have ways for improvement.

5. Make sure you are fully engaged with the people and the process too!

If you look or act as if you don’t really care, why would the trainees? The course facilitator is there to oversee and direct. So the more you engage with the participants, the greater the sense of overall engagement there will be. 

They will feel seen and know that you are invested in their success. 

Don’t hand trainees tools so that they can work things out for themselves and just leave them to it! Establish a dialogue, and make sure any tasks are clearly explained and check that all participants understand each task and what their role in it is.

Don’t forget that different personalities may need more proactive management in in-person sessions: it is easier for more forceful characters to ‘take over’ and a session can quickly veer off track. There’s no mute button! Equally, it may be harder to coax participation from more introverted individuals: make sure you have the time and tools to help them engage fully too.

Do you need help increasing engagement with your in-person training sessions?

As we know, the workplace training courses that provide the greatest benefits are those that have been designed for maximum engagement. They provide the most opportunities for growth to both the employee and the employer. If you are providing in-person training to professionals, make sure you are using the best resources that will create maximum engagement.

Here at Klaxoon, we have all the tools and resources you could need to help you create engaging courses for any kind of trainee. Why not check out our resources page for more ideas: we are here to help you.

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