Brain Friendly Tips to Engage People in Training Sessions

Have you ever been to training sessions where you’re sitting in one place for long periods of time listening to the trainer drone on and on as they work their way through dozens of boring text filled PowerPoint slides? Did you actually learn anything?

The problem with conventional training is that keeping people inactive for long periods of time leads participants to zone out, day dream, check emails, chat amongst themselves or even sleep!

But there is a better way. Accelerated learning (also known as ‘brain friendly’) techniques help people to learn naturally through all of the senses, absorbing information on many different levels simultaneously. We did this instinctively as children; we practiced it when we interacted with the world using our whole bodies and minds. The key for trainers is to make learning fun and help participants to open up to this way of learning again.

‘The Accelerated Learning Handbook’ by Dave Meier is a book that completely changed the way I approach my training and presenting. The book is filled with information and ideas about how to incorporate brain friendly activities into your workshops. In it Meier says that activity based learning is generally more effective than presentation based, materials based and media based learning because it gets the whole person totally involved.  Combining physical movement with intellectual activity and the use of all the senses can have a profound effect on learning retention. Meier calls this the SAVI approach:

  1. Somatic – learning by moving and doing
  2. Auditory – learning by talking and hearing
  3. Visual – learning by observing and picturing
  4. Intellectual – learning by problem solving and reflecting

So how can you incorporate this in your training sessions? Here are some ideas to try:

You can stimulate the mind body connection by getting people up out of their seats and physically active from time to time. Try having them interviewing each other, using specific movements to remember steps to a process, acting out a set of concepts or building a model. Anything that allows them to get hands on and physical will enhance the learning process.

The auditory mind can be engaged by telling stories that have the learning material embedded into them, asking people to practice a skill whilst describing out loud in detail what they’re doing or by creating a rap, rhyme, jingle or auditory mnemonic out of what they’re learning.

The mind is more an image processor than a word processor so as a trainer or presenter you can help people ‘see’ the point by incorporating dramatic body language, using vivid and picturesque language including metaphors and analogies and by including 3D props, diagrams, icons, idea maps and other images in your session.

Intellectual learning is about what learners do in their minds to process information and make meaningful connections. You can engage this side of learning by getting participants to solve problems, analyse experiences, formulate questions, do strategic planning or to think through the implications on an idea.

These are just a few ideas to get you started. If you’re interested in learning more about how to enhance your training sessions with accelerated learning techniques, I would encourage you to do some further research, undertake a course, get a copy of Dave Meier’s book ‘The Accelerated Learning Handbook’ (no, I don’t know the author or receive any commission!) or join one of the many trainers' networks or LinkedIn groups where brain friendly trainers generously share their ideas and tips.

What is your experience with accelerated learning either as a trainer or a participant? Do you agree that training sessions can be more joyful and effective by incorporating brain friendly techniques?

If you enjoyed this article, click here to access Mel Sherwood’s ‘Top 5 Tips for Public Speaking Success’

Mel Sherwood is a pitch and presentation specialist who prepares ambitious entrepreneurs and business professionals to take centre stage, embrace the spotlight and present with more confidence, credibility and conviction.

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