October 2018
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TD Magazine

Put Domineering Learners in the Parking Lot

Thursday, October 4, 2018

The situation

When delivering a learning program, you want people to ask relevant questions. But what if they all come from the same person? A learner who monopolizes your dialogue with the class can discourage other participants from getting involved and push you off topic, but you don't want to make an already engaged learner feel ignored or excluded. What should you do?

The trick

In an in-person training program, you can use a prop to enable hyperengaged learners to stay involved without dominating your class. It enables you to correct their behavior without calling them out or hurting their self-esteem.


Here's how you do it:

  1. Set up a wall chart or flipchart at the side of your classroom. Label it "Parking Lot."
  2. When someone begins taking over a conversation with questions, reach out to him. Acknowledge that his questions are relevant, valuable, and important. Then say that you want to hear them but need to make an arrangement for the sake of time.
  3. Give the learner a pen and large pad of sticky notes and ask him to write down his questions and comments as he thinks of them. Then tell him to post his sticky notes to the Parking Lot wall chart.
  4. Promise to review everything the learner posts on the Parking Lot at an appropriate time and confirm that you will answer any relevant questions.
  5. When you reach a break or appropriate opportunity, go to the Parking Lot and review the participant's questions.

Pro tip

To achieve the same effect as the Parking Lot but with learners who provide excessive suggestions instead of questions, put up a second chart and label it "Resources." Follow the same procedure as you would for the Parking Lot and invite the class to review the suggestions during breaks.

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.

Nelson Santiago is a globally recognized Learning and Performance Strategist who has led consulting projects in 25+ countries in the Americas, Europe, Africa, and Asia. He creates and fosters strategic partnerships with global organizations to align their existing learning and talent development strategies to their current business strategies.

He is currently the global director of talent development and diversity at BioAgilytix Labs in Durham, North Carolina.

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