One morning not long ago, I was setting up to teach my one-day program about preventing employee lawsuits. A man rushed in and said, “I’m the vice president of international sales. I am too important to waste my time in a class like this. I’ve been a manager for 26 years. I know this stuff already. You have to get me out of here!”
I said, “Your boss (the CEO) told you to be here, so I can’t let you out. But let’s make a deal. You stay through to the first break. Participate fully, be a good role model, and if you don’t feel you’ve gotten some value out of it by then, I’ll talk to your boss.” He agreed. During the next two and a half hours I scared the group a bit, engaged them in exercises to apply the concepts, and got them laughing. He started thinking and at the break he said, “I am so lucky I haven’t been sued. I’ve been doing everything wrong!” He stayed through the end of the day and wrote in his evaluation, “This was better than CATS!” More importantly, two weeks later the CEO called and said the employee had completely turned around his behavior.
How do you get results like that? I use a model based on brain science that engages four elements: mental, emotional, physical, and inspirational.
The first element is mental: What do you want them to think? This is where most of us excel. We love giving information, examples, and research. When choosing our facts, though, we must have a strategy. We can’t tell them everything. Usually we want a result from our presentation. We want people to do something. So, we need to limit our facts to those that help participants decide to do something.
But even if all we do is give people the facts, is that enough to get them to listen? All the research says no.
We also need to engage them emotionally. How do you want them to feel? Negative emotions such as fear, anger, and sadness are useful for getting people’s attention and motivating them to want to change. But we also need to evoke positive feelings such as happiness, confidence, joy, and optimism—otherwise they’ll just leave feeling depressed. Insurance company advertisements are great examples of this.
There are at least 10 ways to evoke emotions in a training. Once people are emotionally involved, they want to know the content.
The third element is physical: What do you want them to do? The two aspects to this component are what you want them to do during the presentation and what you want them to do afterward.
People don’t just want to sit there and be lectured to. They want to interact with us. We can get them involved through various activities. We usually want them to change their behavior after the program too. Give them specific, practical action steps they can implement.
The last element is inspirational. I define this as giving people the space to spark their imaginations. How are they inspired? This is where we engage their right brains with pictures, music, and poetry.
Humor also inspires. But don’t tell jokes. Jokes fall flat. Instead, poke fun at yourself. Mine articles and the Internet for their rich veins of humorous material. When people laugh, they let down their defenses. As the award-winning writer Luis Alberto Urrea said, “If you sit with somebody and laugh—not at them but laugh with them wholeheartedly . . . you’re going to cry with them too.”
By engaging our audiences mentally, emotionally, physically, and inspirationally, we create compelling presentations that are fun for us and for our participants and that make a difference in their lives.
Want to learn more? Rita Makana Risser Chai will present From Dreadful to Delightful: Making Mandatory Training Sticky and Fun at ATD 2020 on Sunday, May 17.