Four Steps to More Engaging Training Design

A little while back, I was showing a tech industry executive – someone who knows both his way around the C-suite and who knows his way around training design – a lesson plan that was generated by our training design tool, Soapbox.

“Hmmmm. When you first told me about this, I thought I’d see some sort of instructional design model integrated into the way you designed this.”

I pointed out that the lesson plan actually did follow the formula of a 4-step instructional design model. He looked at the lesson plan again and smiled. “Ah, I see it now. Yes, this is good.”

Being intentional about the design of your next training program by using a model rooted in adult learning theory can make the difference between a meandering, ineffective session and an engaging session that leads to change. Following is the model we use Continue reading

Turn Your Favorite Board Game into a Training Activity

Games are a great way to help learners learn and apply content. The thing about games, however, is that they can be deceptively tricky to create. At least the good ones are.

On Monday, Brian shared instructions for a great training game, “Elimination”. As a team, we’ve been frequently meeting up in our local board game shop to study game elements as we work to develop a cooperative deck-building game for an upcoming train-the-trainer session. With a little manipulation, you too can turn a well-known game into your next great training opportunity. 

Training Game Building Level: Easy

Some of the best-known family games can be an excellent template for your next training game because the game mechanics are usually quite simple. In addition, game rules can be notoriously confusing (and frustrating) to pick up the first time that one plays a new game. If participants are already familiar with the game-play, they will be more easily able to focus on the content that you’re trying to reinforce (or introduce) in your game.

  • Go Fish – The basic objective of this game is matching. Create your own match cards and you’ll be ready to go. Lots of things can match such as a Customer Profile + Sales Strategy, Product + Correct Packaging, or Problem + Solution.
  • BINGO – Manipulate BINGO to be a check-for-understanding game. Set up player boards to have various answers. Ask your questions and have participants mark what they believe the answer to be. We’ve actually used BINGO to make observation/peer evaluation forms more engaging. Regardless of how you set up your BINGO cards, when someone calls out BINGO, make sure they share how they achieved BINGO. 
  • Apples to Apples – At its core (excuse my pun), apples to apples is a game of describing things. Manipulating this game to your content can be a fun and engaging way to check participants’ prior knowledge on a topic by simply creating your own category and description cards. 

Training Game Building Level: Medium

Some popular adult party games work as a great template. It will take a bit more creativity to get these games ready for your next training, but it will be well worth it when you put these to use as a mechanism to spice up a curriculum that you facilitate repeatedly. 

  • Wits & Wagers – Love pub trivia? Wits & Wagers is a trivia game mixed with a little bit of a poker flare. Players guess the answer(s) to a question and then bet on how solid their answer is. Simply modify this game for your training by writing your own question cards. 
Simply buy this game and use all of the gameplay elements. All you’ll need to create is your own question & answer cards tailored to your content.
Write your own question cards.
  • Concept – In this cooperative game, players work to guess a word or phrase based on a series of picture icons. The great thing about this game is that you can use the concept picture game board to describe ANYTHING – including important words or phrases vital to your training. Modify this game for your training by creating your own concept (word) cards. 
The gameplay is quite simple. Just follow the clues marked by the green elements: A tool that is mechanical and cuts wood – It’s a chainsaw you’re describing!
Create your own word cards to match your content. Increase the difficulty of the game by having players guess a phrase.

Training Game Building Level: Difficult

For the most part, all deck-building games follow the same general gameplay concept. Once players become familiar with the play order, playing these games in a group is a great way to understand how situational factors affect a person’s ability to accomplish a goal. Manipulating these games to develop your own training game will be a more time-consuming process, but your learners will appreciate the extra effort. 

  • Dominion, 7 Wonders or Harry Potter Hogwarts Battle – These games follow a structure of acquiring resources that allow you to perform actions. Ultimately these resources and actions enable one player to more effectively accomplish the mission. Using this format, create your own card deck containing resources (such as a train-the-trainer class, SME, etc.), actions (secure time, describe need, give a demonstration, etc.), and mission goal (win the sale, build a process, etc.) to build an awesome deck building game that will allow participants to apply their learning in a whole new way. 
Follow the card format of Dominion to create your own card deck. (Yellow cards are resources, white/blue/purple cards are actions, and green cards are points earned toward accomplishing the goal.)
The action cards from Harry Potter Hogwarts Battle follow a similar design where you gain coins (resource), lightning bolts (to accomplish your action), or hearts (to stay alive).
Add dimension to your game by adding coins, tokens, or player profile mats.
  • Settlers of Catan – Catan follows the same gameplay as above (resources, actions, mission) but adds in the extra element of a game board and physical building development opportunities. In this gameplay, players will use their resources to build towards what they are trying to accomplish (in this case, a civilization). Adopt this gameplay style by building your own game pieces, game board, and play cards. This game style would be ideal for a situation where resources and actions are limited and repeatable (such as money), but there are multiple strategies by which you can apply your resources or actions to accomplish a goal. For example, we’ve used these elements to overhaul new employee onboarding. Players were able to experience the mission of our organization and see how limited resources impacted the decisions that were made.
To use this gameplay template you’ll need to create your own cards and game board.
Collect and spend resources to accomplish your goal (to develop a civilization).
This game has only 5 possible resources (cards) and limited actions (building costs). Yet there are multiple strategies to employ to achieve your goal.

Have you used gamification in training? Tell me what games you’ve adapted (or would like to adapt, now that you’ve read this post) to fit your content, in the comments below.

Training Game: Elimination

We’ve put together a lot of training programs in which participants need to be able to take in information and then quickly determine the most appropriate options to move forward while eliminating other choices.

To help participants accomplish this, we’ve created a game that we’ve ingeniously named: Elimination. If you conduct sales training or onboarding or manager training or really any type of training program in which you want to help your participants make decisions quickly, feel free to steal our game.  Continue reading

Asked to speak about a topic? You may actually be an imposter… just not for the reason(s) you think.

I’ve seen a lot written about “imposter syndrome” on LinkedIn recently.  In short, imposter syndrome is when you doubt your own abilities, especially when you’re asked to publicly show them off.

My colleague, Heather, wrote about this phenomenon among L&D professionals last year in this blog post.

I’ve worked with a number of people – from early career professionals to senior staff – who express doubts about what kind of wisdom they could possibly have to offer others. It’s quite a natural sentiment.

The truth is, however, that I’ve seen more actual imposters among those who have been asked to share their expertise with an audience and who feel confident in their wisdom and their experience. I’ve seen imposters among doctors, lawyers, tech executives and learned academics (among others). They’re smart people, to be sure, but where they come across as true fakes is Continue reading

The S.T.O.R.Y. model for storytelling

Sometimes the simplest way to bring your content to life is to tell a story. Storytelling is a means of educating people that has been around for millennia.

Just because you have a story to tell, however, doesn’t mean you know how to tell a story in an engaging, effective way. The S.T.O.R.Y. model can help give structure to the way in which you plan for, and ultimately tell, your story. Continue reading

How an “anchor” is different from an icebreaker (and why you should be using anchors in every presentation).

“If we’re running short on time, I’ll typically cut the anchor activities and jump right into the content.”

I was leading a train the trainer workshop and some of the people who were using our curriculum were sharing tips and tricks for how to facilitate a session, especially when the curriculum was so packed and it was so easy to fall behind.

I cringed.  Continue reading

When a presenter tries using a pick-up line on the audience…

A friend of mine was sharing her experiences recently on a dating site. She had met an international man of mystery – Tomas – on a site. He seemed good looking enough and successful. Tomas was Portuguese and apparently made his money by doing something with gold bars and China.

And then on his most recent trip, Tomas got stuck in China and couldn’t get his gold bars out, unless… Continue reading