What happens after a training session?

A participant walks up to you after your training session, smiles, and says: “Thank you. That was by far the best training session I’ve ever been to. I have to tell you, I’ve been to a lot of these sessions and I didn’t have high hopes for this session, but my boss told me I had to be here. I wasn’t looking forward to it. But now I’m so glad I came.”

As long as you’ve made your content relevant for your audience and have designed opportunities for engagement, a comment like this may not be uncommon.

But what happens next?

Two people I respect very much in the learning and development space, Nancy Bacon and Mark Nilles, recently published a short eBook for conference planners on how to design a more effective conference. I think there are some key lessons in there for anyone who works in the training space. 

I was particularly drawn to Chapter 4: Make it stick: Post-conference activities. What struck me most was how you can replace the word “conference” with “training session” and most of the ideas hold true.

In this chapter, Nancy and Mark describe three activities you can take to reinforce the learning after the event:

  1. Implement a booster program
  2. Offer post-conference discussion groups
  3. Incentivize blogging by participants

I’ve long-maintained that training should be a process, not an event. By engaging any of the activities that Nancy and Mark describe in this chapter (and selecting the appropriate approach depends on both your audience as well as your available bandwidth to continue engaging your participants after the event), your participants have access to post-event support to put their new learnings into action. Without this support, the odds that key learnings are effectively put into action decrease dramatically.

Whether you’re a training designer or a conference planner, I recommend giving Nancy and Mark’s eBook a read. It’s short (only about 30 pages). Then come back here and let me know what you think and how you think it might be applied to your world.

4 thoughts on “What happens after a training session?

  1. Hi Theresa! Congratulations on a successful 20 hours of video training. That is awesome! We stay in touch with folks in a few ways. First, for all programs we send a 30-day later email inviting them to remember how they felt leaving the training, asking them to tell us one thing the did because of the training, and sharing a small piece of the content in video form in case they want a fresher. This winter we have launched a boosting program informed by Mark Nilles’ work. (https://washingtonnonprofits.org/learning/next-level-nonprofit/). We occasionally organize “office hour” follow up conversations one month later. That is meant to hear the barriers holding people back/ give them quick answers. For a conference that had significant traction, we held community meetings with a discussion guide to move the ideas of the keynote speaker forward (https://chunkflipguidelaugh.com/2018/05/01/conferences/).

  2. Hi Theresa—kudos on the successful video training and for looking for ways to support and reinforce the learning process initiated through that program. I can offer a few pointers and few ideas based on several years of supporting learning retention for workshops my organization offers. The most important pointer is to keep the post-training activity as easy as possible for participants to engage in. I don’t mean to suggest that it needs to be simplistic or dumbed down, but the easier it is to engage, the more likely participants will engage and get value out of the ongoing effort. The second pointer is to tie learning reinforcement to the utilization of techniques and information (as you mention you’d like to see them do)—so beyond ‘knowing’ and into ‘doing.’ In other words, help participants think about how to successfully apply techniques in the workplace, rather than simply reinforcing knowledge. In terms of how to accomplish this, you could send a series of questions using a survey tool like Survey Monkey. Even straightforward multiple-choice knowledge check questions can be useful, especially if you provide thoughts on how to apply that knowledge in the workplace after the answer the question. You could also simply send emails with questions and/or quick reminders and guidance from the video series. If you think your learners are engaged, you could also have them ‘keep the fire burning’ by assigning one participant per week to share something back to the group about what they learned or how they’re using it in the workplace. This can be a creative and fun exercise by encouraging participants to do that sharing through a haiku or meme—even if it’s not a ‘serious’ learning activity, it encourages the participants to reengage with the material. Hope that helps. I’m happy to talk to you about these and other ideas if that would be helpful. (I also recently wrote 5 short articles on learning retention that can be read here: https://www.humentum.org/blog-tags/learning-retention.)

  3. Hi Theresa! Congratulations on having strong engagement on a video-based training! That is no small achievement. Our program is based on about 100 webinars/ year and 50(ish) in-person workshops/ year. Our core in-persons use video (which lives on our learning portal: wanonprofitinstitute.org) We have a “one month later” boosting email that goes out that reminds people of what they learned and invites them to remember how they were feeling upon leaving the event. (Use think a lot about emotions and how to honor and harness emotions to drive people to continue to stay engaged.) We invite participants to tell us what actions they have taken. We include a few of the videos in this email as a chance to refresh. Based on Mark Nilles’ boosting work, we launched a more thorough boosting program this winter. Information about that is here: https://washingtonnonprofits.org/learning/next-level-nonprofit/. We work with a grantwriting trainer who runs “office hours” to catch folks needing quick answers. My direct email is nancy@washingtonnonprofits.org if you want to connect further.

  4. A coworker and I just completed facilitating a 10 session/20 hour video training with many positive comments on each session. At first, I was concerned that attendees would feel as if they paid money to just watch videos. BUT the presenter, who also developed the content was so engaging that everyone was super excited and felt that the time was enjoyable, as well as, learning new knowledge. I would like to keep the fire going so I am thinking of doing a post training group to see if they are utilizing the techniques and information.
    I would like to hear from others if they have done follow up on video trainings/with discussions and what did that look like. How do you keep attendees engaged? emails? texts? tips? or what techniques can we use to keep the momentum up. Thanks

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