Tip #244: Theatrical Aspects of Training

Many years ago, I realized that I could combine my love of teaching and my love of acting in a career as a trainer. As a result, I have a strong bias. I truly believe that all good trainers have a theatrical aspect that enhances and enriches the learning experience for their participants.

Let me be clear. I am not talking about presenters who charm audiences by acting out dramatic or humorous stories rather than providing useful learning. I think the best trainers incorporate credible subject knowledge, awareness of adult learning principles, and a sense of the dramatic into their training.

Please think about the good trainers that you have enjoyed. Although not all good trainers share these characteristics, these theatrical aspects certainly make learning a more vibrant and exciting experience:

  • Good trainers are frequently charismatic, with a special magnetic charm or appeal. They know how to captivate and work a crowd.
  • They have a flair for the dramatic, able to create intense or gripping excitement. The classroom is their stage. They know their lines and they know what is effective.
  • This is not to suggest that they are insincere or artificial. They simply know how to make an entrance, how to make an exit, and how to improvise a scene. Without missing a beat, they can easily segue into acting out scenarios, demonstrating interpersonal techniques, or interacting with the group.
  • They move with a natural grace and sense of purpose across the front of the room and among the seated participants. They know how to use the space available.
  • They are highly expressive, speaking clearly and projecting their voices throughout the room without the need for amplification.
  • They use their entire bodies to convey both thought and emotion.
  • Many of them are masters of vocal inflection and timing, knowing when to raise or lower their voices, and when to pause for dramatic effect.
  • As a result, good trainers are also spellbinding storytellers, engaging most of the listeners’ senses with complete and compelling descriptions of people, places and events.
  • They are even striking in how they present themselves and what they wear, such as bold or vivid colors.

The next time you attend a training program, see if you notice the theatrical aspects that enhance your learning. My guess is that these aspects will be so naturally infused into the program, you will be unaware of them unless you consciously focus your attention. However, you will be engaged, enthralled, and energized!

Last week, we focused on the theatrical aspects of training.

Ralph Schwartz, the Training Director for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, responded:

Good morning, Deb. To add to this tip, several years ago in my research on career development, I discovered the work of Richard Nelson Bolles, “What Color is Your Parachute?” In his book he talks about transferrable skills. Teaching and training are both professions that have skill sets that are derived from the broader category of “Performing and Amusing”:

“GETTING UP BEFORE A GROUP OF PEOPLE AND PERFORMING IN A MANNER THAT ILLUMINATES, GIVES PLEASURE, OR BOTH. Exhibiting showmanship, amusing, making people laugh, acting, dramatizing, modeling, singing, dancing, playing music, giving poetry readings, making oral presentations, exceptional speaking ability, thinking quickly on one’s feet, writing with humor, fun and flair.”

Training is to me a hybrid form of performing or presentation. If you have a special talent in this area, it will come natural to you. Thanks for sharing your Monday AM tips! Ralph

Susan Hubbard, the Training Manager for the University of Chicago Facilities Services, wrote:

I know I fit into this category and the most effective trainers I know do, too. I noticed years ago how a great trainer I knew wore bright colors and how that helped keep attention focused on her in the room.

Thanks for saying this is not to suggest that such people are insincere or superficial. It’s surprising to learn how distrustful many introverted people are of a really outgoing personality. They don’t think this person could possibly be that happy to see them. They don’t realize that some of us may just naturally be upbeat and extraverted. Susan

Thank you both, Ralph and Susan!

On a totally different topic, we have a question about the use of PowerPoint for which we need suggestions.

Karen Phillips, the Training and Development Manager for Ultradent Products, Inc. wrote:

Hello Deb:

Thanks for a great training last week.

I would like to ask a question about not needing to dim the lights during your ppt portion of your lecture. I observed that you never needed to do so. Is that because you had colored background? I struggle with getting the lights off and on during my sessions. We do a fair amount of hands on with the products ( need the lights on) and a fair amount with ppt ( getting the facts straight). I will of course be using less after last week 🙂 . But I am always having to turn the lights down when doing the ppt portionÉ..they complain they can’t see it. Suggestions? I responded that: I really am not sure about why folks are able to see my PowerPoints. I always use the blue background, with the bright yellow print. Perhaps black and white fade to gray in the light. I hate dimming the lights- it makes ME want to go to sleep, so I avoid it every time. I do check to make sure the PPT is easy to read with the lights on- and sometimes need to pull blinds or curtains.
So, my suggestion would be to try the blue background with yellow print and see if that makes a difference.

If you like, I can also send out your message in the next Laurel Learning Tip, to see what people suggest. Folks are usually very helpful and responsive. Just say the word!

Karen said the word, so now we both ask if anyone can give us some useful suggestions about what colors work best so that PowerPoint can be seen without needing to dim the lights. Thank you in advance!!

This week, we start a new series of quick tips to make training more effective and enjoyable for you and your participants. We begin with a counter-intuitive tip for handling participants who consistently come late to class.

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