I’m sure we can always relate to at least once where we have been asked to attend training where we were extremely apprehensive as we’ve been thinking about what will happen or what we will be doing.  It’s that fear of the unknown taking over our brains which can be even worse when we walk into the room!  Therefore, what you do as the trainer with your delegates when they arrive is so crucial to the overall success of your session.  Here are four simple steps to follow that will help you create an environment for learning:

Prepare the learning environment - Make sure the room is comfortable in temperature and furnishings with space for each person and their personal effects.  Make sure that there are essential amenities or at very least access to them such as water and even better Tea/Coffee and biscuits.  Make sure that you are clear in your administration of the day that you brief all of the human elements such as breaks, lunch, toilets, fire alarms/emergency routes and any contract/rules that need to be set.  Looking after that human element will help put people at ease and familiarity with what is available is a key part of that; learning best takes place when people are comfortable!

Greet each person - Make sure you greet each person with a ‘hello and welcome, make yourself comfortable’ given with a warm smile.  If arriving individually then also offer a warm handshake or if in a group, acknowledgment and eye contact with them all individually as they arrive.  Remember that if your body language is friendly and welcoming they will relax much quicker and will start to mirror and match you and everyone else as they relax too.

Get to know them and each other - Sparking conversation with your delegates is another way of putting them at ease but it’s also a compelling way of engaging them right from the start and more importantly learning about them.  Asking non-probing questions initially such as ‘how was your journey’ and ‘have you traveled far’ are an excellent starting ground and a great way of sparking discussion within the group especially if your delegates don’t know each other.  It also works brilliantly if you can get your delegates to agree on their own set of rules for the session as it’s also another great way of them engaging with each other.  Making sure that you ask them what they would like out of the session shows that you care individually about their needs and allows you to refer to these during the course and also identify at the end, that the training has met their requirements.

Take away those unknowns - Make sure in your introduction that you tell them what you are about to cover with a clear plan, aims, and objectives of what will happen.  Remember if you have any activities or assessment that you include these and importantly give an opportunity for questions about what is expected; getting these out in the open is so important as if not, they will be a distraction in the minds of your delegates.

Remember the golden secret to a successful session is to treat your delegates as THEY would like to be treated and following these 4 simple steps will help you set up an environment where learning has the best chance to take place.

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.