In March I facilitated a 2-day Soft Skills training for more than a hundred people for a client in South Dakota. Do you know how hard one must work to keep 100 people fully engaged for 2 full days?
Hard. You have to work hard. And creatively. Of course, one must have endless energy too.
Fortunately I am anointed to engage audiences with boundless energy and stories. But it takes more than that. You have to engage audiences and keep them nearly spellbound. Or else you’ll lose them to their smart phones or thoughts.
I was going into the final inning of this 2-day training in South Dakota. Participants had just returned from lunch. If you’re a seasoned trainer, you know that the hardest part of training is right after lunch. That’s when you are at the greatest risk of losing your audience.
So, here’s what I did. Immediately after lunch I instructed my audience, already clustered in small groups of 8 at round tables, to think of a company. Any company. Small groups thought of all sorts of companies: Wal-Mart, Zappos, a taco restaurant, and pretty much any business you might imagine.
Then I explained to my audience that they would be calling up the company they chose. They would have one person in each small group make the call from their cellphone while the rest of the group listened in on speaker. They were to make a routine customer inquiry. The goal was to look for what made the call amazing, mediocre or poor and then come back and give short presentation to the large group.
Because my audience was large, more than 100 people, I had several groups leave the ballroom and find quiet spots throughout the event center. I allowed 10 minutes for the call activity.
After about 10 minutes, I called the groups back in and we heard presentations of horrible customer service calls, WOW calls and lots of unimpressive, but not really bad calls.
This activity served 4 purposes:
1. It got my audience up and moving right after lunch, a time when people might otherwise surf their phones or drift somewhere in their heads. Or even sleep.
2. All audience members were fully engaged. They were engaged in choosing the company, engaged as they tried to figure out where the exercise was going, and they were fully involved in making the call and preparing presentations.
3. Participants learned what a great call sounded like and felt like. In the debrief after presentations, we discussed how we could take the great and apply it to their own calls with customers.
4. People got to hear what bad and mediocre calls felt like. The goal, of course, was to make sure they never left customers with the bad feeling of poor customer service.
Keep your audiences engaged with energizing activities that teach an important point. (This is particularly important after lunch and in the late afternoon.) When you do, your audiences will have more fun, learn more and they’ll think you’re awesome.
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