Whether you are delivering training in-house or looking to bring someone in to do this for you, keeping your team engaged is likely to be one of your primary concerns. If you’re able to capture and hold the attention of your group throughout the training, you’re far more likely to achieve results and sustainable change. And being able to demonstrate that your team remain engaged throughout training will support you in getting buy-in for future training investment. So, what’s the secret to keeping your people engaged during training? Pacing. Read on to discover how pacing can help you to maintain engagement during your next training session.
Broadly speaking, pacing is about speed and flow. This about the mental speed of the session, in terms of how much content you are covering in a particular time, the intellectual pace – the learning curve over the session – and it is about the energy levels and mood in the room. All in all, pacing is part of taking your learners on a journey that is right for them.
If things are too slow, unchallenging or the energy levels are too low then you risk boredom, feeling patronised, lethargy and ultimately disengagement from the learning.
If the material is too fast, the delivery is too quick or the group is overly excitable, then there’s a chance you might overwhelm your team, leave people behind, or miss key details. Again, this can lead to disengagement and confusion.
Finding the right pace is a crucial skill that goes beyond mere knowledge of your subject. This is about having a powerful rapport with your group; knowing what they have already learned, what their next steps are, what mood they are in and having the flexibility to adjust your session in response to non-verbal feedback.
Pacing means that you are managing the underlying rhythm or energy of a session. If the rhythm stays the same all the way through, you have a high chance of losing people. A one hour lecture can be just as off-putting as a full hour of a practical activity based task. The trick is to plan short bursts of different learning activities so that there are changes to the pace. This prevents your people from becoming fatigued or restless and helps keep them engaged for longer.
In this way, the same hour of learning can feel like a good piece of music – with different verses and rhythms, all related to the same underlying pulse. Periods of excitability may be used to break up moments of intense focus or challenging learning.
It’s not uncommon to get so caught up in the “head” elements of training that the body gets overlooked. Planning for movement can help to maintain engagement. This can be as simple as standing up, putting post-its on a wall or changing seats. Or as ambitious as racing to the other end of the office to move objects around, using dance to represent ideas – know what your team are up for, but get the body moving!
In busy meetings and brainstorming sessions, mindfully inviting 1-5 minutes of reflection can be an excellent pacing activity. It gives your introverts processing time and encourages busy talkers to connect to their inner thoughts. The time can also help people to consider other perspectives, plan and organise their ideas (especially useful for challenging topics or diffusing conflict).
Allow time for your group to apply the learning of the session to something real at work. Design practice presentations based on your service or plan out your next team project. Make the learning immediately relevant to the team’s workday to get engagement and buy in.
Give your team time to chat for 1-2 minutes in pairs about what they have just learned. This creates a sudden burst of noise (and energy) in the room as well as ensuring all learners have something to say when you want to hear feedback.
Halfway through a lengthy task you could have a check-in, where people partner up and share their progress so far and give each other feedback, ask questions or share ideas. This can be done with movement if you feel people have been sat for too long.
A carousel is where you have 3-6 activities happening simultaneously in a room. Each group starts on one activity and then moves around the room, allowing them to work for a short amount of time on each. This introduces movement and noise to the room. It can sometimes be better than having the whole group complete the activities at the same time, in consecutive order, as there are more likely to be differing experiences, less resources required and more opportunities for the group to feedback their experience – as they did not see how other groups approached their task.
Though they may not be directly related to the session learning, taking 5 minutes to play a game can be invaluable in restoring energy in the group. Warm-up games inject energy into the room, wake people up and help them shake off the lethargy they are feeling. Cool downs help them calm from an excitable or nerve-wracking activity and prepare them for more focused activity.
Pacing doesn’t mean that your session has to be consistently upbeat and energetic. In fact, doing this will turn off the more introverted and thoughtful learners. Pacing is about creating learning situations that capture and hold the engagement of all the different personalities in your team. Changing pace regularly helps keep things fresh and engagement high.
If you’d like support with pacing training or maintaining engagement with your teams during learning programmes, The Self Leadership Initiative can help. The SLI provides bespoke training and workshops to support corporates, charities and educational organisations to develop powerful teams of self-leaders and has 7 years’ experience in delivering engaging learning experiences.