I’ve been facilitating a series of 3-day train-the-trainer sessions in Uganda and Zambia over the past two weeks, working with groups of health educators to help them transform their presentation delivery from a traditional, didactic approach to a more learner-centered, interactive delivery.
On the first day, as I facilitated a variety of activities around adult learning theory and engagement strategies, the energy in the room seemed high. I asked participants to take a sticky note and write one word or phrase about how they were feeling after the first day. Responses such as “enjoyable”, “gaining a lot”, “awesome” and “this training is perfect” were submitted to me.
A funny thing happened on the second day. I turned the reigns of the class over to the participants in order to allow them opportunities to integrate the adult learning theory and engagement strategies they had learned on Day 1 into their own presentation delivery.
After the first presentation, the room was pretty quiet. After the second, there was a noticeable difference in the energy in the room… not in a good way. Following the third and fourth presentations, I looked around the room. People just looked bored.
Something needed to be done. Before anyone else presented, I asked the group to tell me what they thought the difference was between the energy in the room on the first day compared to how it was in this moment.
One participant raised her hand and sheepishly shared: “I’m a little bored today.” Another participant observed: “Yesterday you had us moving around. And working in small groups.” Still another said: “Yesterday we were writing on sticky notes!” and the whole group laughed. I did indeed have them writing on sticky notes the prior day… a lot.
I asked the group what happened when they used the sticky notes on the first day.
“We all had to answer your question instead of just letting one or two people answer when today’s presenters have asked questions to us.” Everyone was held accountable!
“Sometimes you had us write on a sticky note and then post it at the front of the room.” Movement!
“We could attach the sticky notes on someone else’s back and they didn’t even notice!” The room erupted in laughter. Humor!
After a short break, the practice presentations resumed. Almost every presenter asked the group to use sticky notes in one way, shape or form. We ran out of sticky notes by the end of the day, but it was a small price to pay for transforming the energy and increasing level of engagement in the room.
After one group used sticky notes, the next group used sticky notes plus another engagement strategy. The momentum built, and as I reflect on it, I really think the simple use of sticky notes opened the door to the participants’ willingness to try a small, low risk way to get others to participate. Once they saw that this worked, they were willing to try other strategies as well.
I’d love to hear your thoughts. What is one simple strategy or tool you’ve used in order to open the doors to participant engagement?