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April 2019
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TD Magazine

Alter the Agenda

The situation

Budgeting time can be difficult, and facilitating has unique wrinkles that are difficult to account for during the planning process. The timing can also often fluctuate based on learner feedback. What are some good ways to be an agile instructor and roll with the punches?

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The trick

Your session will often not flow as you planned it. Preparation is key, but you should also expect the unexpected. Here's how you can effectively appease your learners:

  1. Use your schedule of content as a resource guide, not a textbook. Set aside mandated content that you must get through to make the experience a success, and think of the rest as supplementary material that you may or may not need.
  2. Be smart about breaks. People can only sit around and listen to an instructor for so long. Rather than having one 15-minute break, for example, split it into two or three breaks totaling 15 minutes. This is particularly important in the afternoon.
  3. Be up front with your learners. Let them know how the day is going to run—but also how flexible it will be. Make sure to mention breaks, too.
  4. Let the learners have a say in every aspect of the session. If they seem to be steering a discussion to a certain important element, tailor your content accordingly. If they appear to be needing a break earlier than you anticipated, give them one.
  5. If a discussion is particularly engaging or there's one last point you want to touch on, ask the learners if you can extend the session. Keep it to no more than 30 minutes, but five or 10 extra minutes is more acceptable.

Pro tip

Remember that your discussion is ultimately meant to help your learners. You can't guarantee success, but the more you empower them throughout the session, the more likely they are to own the content and apply it when they leave.

About the Author

Nelson R. Santiago is a talent and leadership development leader with more than 20 years of experience working with all organizational levels creating, promoting, and delivering training solutions designed to enhance organizations’ business and strategic plans. Nelson is passionate about creating an interactive and authentic learning environment that supports development and employee engagement. Currently, Nelson is an internal ATD Faciliator. Prior to this role, Nelson served at several government agencies, including North Carolina Municipalities, the U.S. Coast Guard, the State of North Carolina Human Resources, and the Abu Dhabi government. Nelson has worked with multiple organizations in over 35 countries, designing and delivering programs in leadership and management development, team building, compliance, communications, customer service, change management, performance management, and many other topics. His work has always been focused on meeting the strategic needs of the organization. Nelson’s outstanding strengths include leadership, communication, facilitation, coaching, and emotional intelligence. Nelson currently holds certifications as ATD Master Trainer, DDI Certified Facilitator, and Gallup’s Certified Strengths Coach.

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