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A “Train the Trainer” Tip: Start Your Sessions With a Bang


A “Train the Trainer” Tip: Start Your Sessions With a Bang


istock_000009305487xsmall3by Guila Muir

What’s the best way to assure your train­ing par­tic­i­pants groan inwardly and “turn off” when you first open your mouth? Sim­ply by doing what you’ve always been told: By intro­duc­ing your­self and pro­vid­ing your credentials.

Why not gen­er­ate your audience’s curios­ity, inter­est, and invest­ment from the out­set? Use a “Hook” before intro­duc­ing your­self or your pro­fes­sional cre­den­tials. If your hook is well-crafted, you will have already gained cred­i­bil­ity when you do intro­duce your­self. The par­tic­i­pants will be much more open to hear­ing your message.

What is a Hook?
First, what a hook is NOT:

  • An extended exer­cise or activity
  • An irrel­e­vant joke
  • An apol­ogy of any kind
  • A mean­der­ing, “off-the-cuff” mum­ble meant to make YOU more com­fort­able in front of the class.

A Hook is a short, care­fully crafted state­ment that indi­cates you know who your audi­ence is and what they care about. It should elicit some sort of emo­tion in your lis­ten­ers, whether that is quiet reflec­tion, hilar­i­ous recog­ni­tion of a feel­ing or sit­u­a­tion, or sor­row. The emo­tion doesn’t have to be “pos­i­tive.” But it must res­onate with your audi­ence and its mem­o­ries or expe­ri­ences, while being rel­e­vant to your subject.

Three Ideas for Pow­er­ful Hooks

Quickie Quiz:
Cre­ate a 3–5-question quiz and ask par­tic­i­pants to take it the minute they sit down. It’s best if the ques­tions are slightly provoca­tive or con­tro­ver­sial. Through­out the class, answer and clar­ify the issues.

Here’s a “real-life” exam­ple cur­rently being used in a Risk Man­age­ment class for super­vi­sors:
•    What per­cent­age of claims and inci­dents filed against this com­pany were closed last year with­out pay­ment?
•    If an employee is sued because of an act s/he com­mit­ted within the scope of their duties, the employee must pro­vide his/her own legal defense. (T/F)
•    This com­pany is self-insured for Auto Lia­bil­ity and Gen­eral Lia­bil­ity. (T/F)

Care­fully con­structed ques­tions are often the eas­i­est and most pow­er­ful “Hooks.” Ques­tions can begin with the words “How many here have…?” or “Did you know that…?” Your ques­tion should demand a phys­i­cal response from the par­tic­i­pants, such as nod­ding, rais­ing hands, even stand­ing up.

This tech­nique gives even “dry” sub­jects the emo­tional con­tent you need to hook the learn­ers’ interest.

Here’s a real-life exam­ple of a visu­al­iza­tion “Hook” from a super­vi­sory class on wage and hour laws: “Close your eyes and imag­ine that you are a 10 year old child in the 1930’s work­ing in a fac­tory 12 hours a day, 60 hours a week for 10 cents an hour. You’ve never seen the inside of a school…your feet are cold and you get just one meal break a day. How do you feel?” Ask the par­tic­i­pants to open their eyes. Debrief thoughts and feel­ings; con­nect to the course topic and state the learn­ing outcomes.

Remem­ber: to keep your audi­ence actively engaged from the get-go, you must HOOKtheir inter­est in the first few min­utes of class. Wait until they’re hooked to intro­duce yourself!

Read more arti­cles to boost your Train­ing Skills. Learn about Guila Muir’s Train the Trainer Work­shops.

Guila Muir is the pre­miere trainer of train­ers, facil­i­ta­tors, and pre­sen­ters on the West Coast of the United States. Since 1994, she has helped thou­sands of pro­fes­sion­als improve their train­ing, facil­i­ta­tion, and pre­sen­ta­tion skills. Find out how she can help trans­form you from a bor­ing expert to a great pre­sen­

© 2014Guila Muir.

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