Destiny’s Child; Crosby, Stills & Nash; TLC; and The Bee Gees are among the most famous and successful trios in music history. The opening act of any successful training course should also include a famous trio. This trio positions your training courses to begin effectively. The trio I’m referring to is the objective, benefits, and overview. They are the opening act of any effective training program.
The opening of a training course is very critical. It sets the stage for virtually everything else that follows. Long before any content is ever presented or any hands-on activities are conducted, the infamous trio needs to be addressed. From my experience, just the mere mention of a clear objective, an attention-grabbing benefits statement, and a high-level overview does wonders for setting up your participants for learning success.
Below, I’ll list several reasons why this trio is so vitally important.
An objective specifies the purpose or intent of the training instruction. It clearly states what the participants should do during and after training. In essence, the objective provides a specific, measurable target.
Objectives can be categorized in two ways: performance based or non-performance based.
- Performance based objectives focus on a task the participants must perform (e.g. create an Excel spreadsheet). If you are delivering true skill-based training, I recommend positioning your objectives as performance based.
- Non-performance based objectives focus on knowledge rather than tasks (e.g. list the steps in creating an Excel spreadsheet).
I recommend using non-performance objectives only when you are faced with challenges or limitations as they relate to training a specific skill. Some of these challenges could include shortened classroom time, the absence of tools and equipment, or high participant enrollment. These circumstances often prohibit the participants from actually performing various tasks during training. If this is the case, non-performance objectives are sufficient.
In addition to telling your participants what they will learn (the objective), we must also tell them why it’s important to learn it; in other words, the benefit of the training.
A well-crafted benefits statement catches the attention of the participants and creates buy-in and motivation. Once buy-in is established, it can lead to higher levels of participation in the course.
I recommend addressing three aspects when crafting your benefits:
- The importance of the training task(s) to ensure success back at the job.
- The advantages of performing the task(s) well.
- The consequences of performing the task(s) poorly.
I suggest getting creative in the way you express the benefits. Some creative ways might include telling a personal story, sharing a thought-provoking analogy or metaphor, stating an eye-opening statistic, or asking a rhetorical question.
I favored the rhetorical question technique when delivering sales training at a prior job. I simply asked “How many of you would like to make more commission dollars on the first and the fifteenth of the month?”
That simple question typically grabbed my participants’ attention and allowed me a small window of opportunity to express the importance of the sales concepts I was about to teach.
Before presenting the specifics of your training, it’s important to give the participants context or the “big picture” of the topic. This is done by providing them with a high-level overview.
When delivering an overview, I usually tell the participants how the information fits into their overall job structure, including where and when their training task(s) will be performed.
I also highlight any pre-requisite tasks, any upcoming activities and exercises, or any post-training requirements needed in order to meet the objective.
Lastly, I’ll give a preview of the training content by referring to a prepared agenda. This agenda can take on one of many different formats from a flipchart to a handout to a PowerPoint slide. Whatever format or medium used, the agenda gives your participants a “sneak peek” into the upcoming aspects of their training course.
Similar to a concert, the opening act is usually tasked with warming up the crowd before the actual star takes to the stage. Consider using the trio of the objective, benefits, and overview as the opening act to prepare your participants before the real star – training – takes to the stage.
Greetings from Chicago! My name is Jeff Welch and I’ve been a Course Leader with Langevin Learning Services since December, 2000. However I’ve been involved with Langevin since the mid 90’s. I attended Langevin courses as a participant before becoming an instructor.