Stop Boring Me!

It’s 2:30 p.m., but it feels like 6:00. You’ve been in this seminar since sometime this morning and, while it’s been full of good information, you’re on overload and squirming in your seat. Can you relate? We all can. Later, when you try to bring all your carefully written notes back to your team at next week’s team meeting… they are likely to feel just the same way.

It’s 4:00 p.m., but it only feels like 2:00. This day can’t possibly be over! Where has the time gone? You were just getting started. That’s strange. There was no 300-slide PowerPoint presentation, no 20-page handout. Yet you’ve learned several pieces of great, useable information. You feel empowered and inspired to use it tomorrow. This was definitely one of the best speakers you’ve heard in years.

Data dump or inspired training? Which one would you rather sit through? If you’re like most of us, it is inspired training that results in participant-centered learning. Confucius knew what he was talking about in 451 B.C. when he said, “What I hear I forget; what I see I remember; what I do I understand.”

Do you want to breathe life back into your team meetings and training sessions? Then, make the shift from manager or lecturer to transformational trainer. Take the information and skills you want to relay to your team members and transform it from instructor-led teaching to participant-centered learning.

Bob Pike, an expert in adult learning and training, uses the 90/20/8 rule in his training sessions. No module they ever teach runs more than 90 minutes without a break. Participants are asked to participate with or review the presented material every 20 – 30 minutes, and they try to find a way to involve people in the content or change the pace of delivery every 8 minutes. This is based on Tony Buzan’s book, Use Both Sides of Your Brain. Buzan’s findings are that the average adult can only listen with attention for 90 minutes and can only listen with retention for 20. In a 2-hour team meeting, you have (6) 20-minute segments. The following is a simple formula to turn those segments into interactive learning modules that keep your team’s interest and help them truly learn rather than just listen. (And how much do we love that it nicely coordinates with Lionesses? A lot!)

C.A.T. – Chunk, Activity, Test

Chunk Content: There is no end to the content you might wish to teach such as improving phone skills or taking better x-rays, more complete data entries or understanding the business statistics and goals. Your objective is to have them do more than simply listen, understand, and agree. The key is to help them retain, perform, and replicate. Whatever the content, first break it into small, manageable chunks. For example, if you want to improve phone skills, divide that topic into four sections such as 1) introduction and rapport, 2) identifying patient concerns and needs, 3) offer appropriate solutions, and 4) get necessary information and resell value. Prepare the content to be taught in these smaller modules.

Activity. In advance, select a participation exercise for each of the four topic sections. After teaching/discussing one of the modules of information, create an exercise where the team members can get their “hands on the material” themselves. For example, you might do an exercise called “Each One Teach One” where participants teach their partner the new skill as if they had not heard it before. For the second topic section you might have each participant go to the board and add a possible question that might be good to ask a patient on the phone, creating a practice list of great questions. For the third topic section, create a “triad” with three participants in each group. One will act as a patient, one as the team member, and one as an observer. They role-play an easy scenario and rotate. This allows for a triple review and everyone gets the hot seat once. For the last topic section, use a “dice roll” where participants role a die and recall things that they have learned or will commit to doing better for every number they roll. In this formula, everyone has fun, learns, actively participates, and is engaged in mind and body.

Test. There are many kinds of testing mechanisms such as written “fill in the blank” reviews with group-designed questions based on the material, skills practice exercises, or even taping yourself or hiring a “mystery patient” service. It is in the fourth and final piece that you not only test the learning of the participants but, more importantly, the effectiveness of the trainer. If your group continues to struggle and fail at passing the test, it is likely that you should look harder at your ability to train, relay, and teach the information.

We can all recall at least one teacher in our lives that had a tremendous impact on our learning. Most likely they were different from the rest. They somehow made the material come alive for you and helped and encouraged you to continue to struggle until you had that feeling of accomplishment when you finally succeeded. Help your team (your students) get their hands on the material more often and more quickly. Stop doing the data dump and help the material come alive for them. Encourage them through the struggle of learning something new. If you want inspired learning, don’t just look to your students to become better learners, look to yourself to become a more inspired trainer and teacher. Then, you’ll find that you’re both looking forward to those team meetings and training sessions!

Hey, I almost forgot! It’s also Music Monday (always the first Monday of the month) and so, just for some fun… enjoy Teach Me Tonight made famous by the iconic Dinah Washington and brilliantly covered here by the massive talent of Amy Winehouse:

Amy Winehouse – Teach Me Tonight

“Did you say I’ve got a lot to learn?
Well, don’t think, I’m tryin’ not to learn
Since this is the perfect spot to learn
Oh, teach me tonight

Let’s start with the A B C of it
Roll right down to the X Y Z of it
Help me solve the mystery of it
Teach me tonight

The sky’s a black board
High above you
If a shooting star goes by
I’ll use that star to write I love you
A thousand times across the sky

One thing isn’t very clear, my love
Should the teacher stand so near, my love?
Graduation’s almost here, my love
Come on and teach me tonight

I’ll use that star to write I love you
A thousand times across the sky

One thing isn’t very clear, my love
Should the teacher stand so near, my love?
Graduation’s almost here, my love
Teach me, please, teach me tonight”


“The illiterate of the future will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.” 
~~Alvin Toffler

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