ATD Blog

Throw Away Garbage Activities

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Your latest project is to develop an instructor-led training solution for a sales team. During the project kick-off, you learn that the team will use this training to learn about changes to their sales process. The team leader tells you that some members are resistant to these changes, so there is added pressure to make the training highly interactive—in an effort to excite the team about the new process.

Even worse, your training follows the sales team retreat, after lunch, on a Friday. This is an unfortunate time slot, complete with a resistant audience. It is time to dig into your bag of tricks for something that engages participants.

You decide to start the training with a game of two truths and a lie to get their buy-in and kick off the afternoon with something active. From there, you will tell a fun anecdote about yourself, play New Sales Process Jeopardy, conduct a sales role-play, and have a speed round of Kahoot to finish with a bang.

You’ve certainly designed something engaging … but have you given the participants what they need?

Enter Learning Objectives

For many participants, training means time away from daily tasks. We have a responsibility to make sure we don’t waste even one moment of their time. There is nothing more frustrating to a group of participants than not learning anything from an activity. We are failing our learners if they are looking around half-way through an activity to ask the person beside them: “Why are we doing this?”


Just because activities are fun and interactive, doesn’t mean they address the needs of the learners. In other words, these activities may be garbage. As trainers, we are increasingly pressed to make training more engaging and exciting. Consequently, we may leave behind a few fundamental pieces of training development—matching activities to objectives, and balancing those activities with content.

Learning objectives are the reason we are in the training room in the first place. Objectives should be carefully crafted, and activities must be developed to adequately match each objective. Long before we put together a list of fun and engaging activities, we should have created some good actionable objectives.


Case in Point

Let’s consider the scenario we opened this post with and list what we are trying to accomplish with training.

  • Identify steps in the new sales process.
  • Compare and contrast the old sales process and the new sales process.
  • Explain why the new process was put in place.

Now that we set objectives, let’s analyze our initial training design.

  • Icebreaker: two truths and a lie. While two truths and a lie is a fun icebreaker, it has no place in this training. Guessing what a participant is lying about has nothing to do with sales training. While a skilled facilitator may be able to make some sort of connection to the topic at hand, this training could benefit from an icebreaker that more clearly involves the sales process.
  • Activity 1: anecdote about yourself. Every moment a participant spends in training is a moment away from their work, life, and family. While it is great to give your participants background about yourself, it has to be relevant to the objectives. If they are not learning about the subject matter from your story, you are wasting their time.
  • Activity 2: game of Jeopardy. While common and fun, Jeopardy is typically a review activity and content has yet been introduced to review.
  • Activity 3: role play. Role plays are notoriously groan-inducing and a resistant audience may balk at the need to act something out, or may not take their roles seriously. Role plays often work best if you can build buy-in from the previous activities and you are using it to meet the third objective.
  • Activity 4: game of Kahoot. This activity might work. Kahoot is also a review or baseline tool, and if this activity is put at the end of the training, it might work as long as enough content was introduced in earlier activities.

What activities would you use to create this training? Join me at ATD 2018 International Conference & EXPO for the session: Tipping the Scales: How Garbage Activities Are Ruining Your Training. In the meantime, check out the Train Like a Champion blog for posts on instructor-led training activities and icebreakers.

About the Author

Heather Snyder is a passionate learner who started her career as a computer geek on a helpdesk. Always driven by her appetite to find the best ways to absorb new information, she discovered a passion for training. After spending eight years as an informal trainer, she began her role as an e-learning designer in 2013 which led to her current role as the director of instructional design at Endurance Learning. Heather is the president of Helena Toastmasters club 487, an outdoor enthusiast, an aspiring writer, a bad joke teller, a computer tinkerer, and a mother of two amazing little girls.

1 Comment
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Very nicely describe seriously, every student has to know about the garbage activity how to through away this and make a good thing with it, there are lots of gadgets use in it and the issue related to this thing anyone can contact Kindle Customer Service which is very nice too to help.
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