Building rapport in your training sessions is like climbing a hill
A couple of years ago I had the pleasure of meeting the lovely Colin and Jean in a very snowy Aberdeen. Although they had never met, it turned that they shared an off-shore connection with common colleagues and friends, so rapport built quickly with them once the ‘ice’ had been broken. Getting rapport built quickly in your room is so important, as you will get a common bond and get them working as a team much earlier which (as a trainer) is going to make for a better learning environment and make life so much easier for you. But what if Colin and Jean didn’t have that common ground, would it have been harder?
Well, the answer to my question is a definitive “No” as I would have used my tried and tested techniques to get the team talking, working together and building that rapport from the moment they stepped in the room. Here are my four techniques to help build that rapport quickly:
Ask Simple Questions – Lots of simple questions such as “How was your journey today?” or “How did you get here today?” or even talk about the weather will help break the ice and get people chatting. Make sure you join in too, sharing your experiences and keeping the conversation flowing.
Include Everyone – When people arrive or aren’t necessarily included when a conversation is flowing, they sometimes feel awkward and excluded. So to help, I will say things like, “Oh Jean, myself and Colin were just discussing the trains today and how busy they are, how did you get here today?” so get as many talking as you can. This early facilitation by you is going to pay dividends later.
Make a Contract – Doing this right at the start of the day will get them talking, agreeing on rules and establishing a common ground as a team. It’s also going to help you maintain the right learning environment.
Do Introductions – Do some informal introductions asking simple questions such as “What’s your experience?”, “What would you like from today?” where you as the trainer will go first. Also, my favourite tip in introductions that works brilliantly (even in a room of people that know each other) is “Interesting Fact?”. You’d be amazed when you ask this question how many times I hear “I didn’t know that about you and I’ve known you for years.” Once I ended up with an audience that I could have made up a circus act with! We had a stilts walker, a juggler and someone who had been the person on the spinning target getting knives thrown at them! You’ll really hear the conversation flow with this one even beyond your sessions.
So why did I say in the title that building rapport was like climbing a hill? Well, the quicker you get to the top of the hill, the faster you get to take in the lovely view after all of your hard work. My techniques above are based upon climbing the set of steps within the model called the Rapport Triangle (sometimes called the Communications Triangle) as quickly as possible to reach the top which is “Peak Rapport”. When we’ve established that “Peak Rapport”, we can look at the view in our room of people; communicating effectively with fantastic teamwork, in a great learning environment.
Scott Fraser is a Master Trainer at Target Training and delivers our PTT Train the Trainer courses and our Advanced PTT Train the Trainer courses. You can read more about him here.