How to Run Seminars and Workshops: Presentation Skills for Consultants, Trainers and Teachers / Edition 3

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The Trainer's Guide to Training

Most new trainers and presenters know all they need to know about their chosen subject. Unfortunately, few of them actually know how to present what they know. For more than a decade, Robert Jolles's How to Run Seminars and Workshops has taught tens of thousands of people how to sell, teach, stand up, and deliver an effective training session on almost any subject in almost any setting.

This new Third Edition updates this classic guide for anyone who has to get up and move an audience. Just as he did in the book's previous editions, Jolles-former head of Xerox's world-renowned "train the trainer" program-shares proven, effective techniques for winning over an audience, holding their interest, conveying important information, and moving that audience to take action! For seasoned pros, this is an invaluable tool for becoming a world-class seminar and workshop leader. For novices, it's a step-by-step self-teaching guide that provides the confidence and the techniques speakers need to survive and thrive in front of an audience.

Packed with straightforward, trustworthy advice, this reliable resource covers all the bases for today's professional trainers and speakers, including research and preparation, questioning techniques, pacing, visual aids, evaluation and support, feedback, and more:

  • Creating your own seminar business
  • Recognizing different personalities and types of behavior
  • Training groups with diverse needs
  • On-site preparations
  • Maintaining the audience's interest
  • The latest technology and visual aids
  • Giving feedback and coaching
  • Presenting your best self to the audience
  • Developing a training staff
  • And, most important, how to sell your message

Trusted by thousands of professional trainers for the latest tactics and practices in seminar and workshop leadership, How to Run Seminars and Workshops, Third Edition is the ultimate guide for anyone who makes a living sharing what they know with others.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780471715870
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Publication date: 8/12/2005
  • Edition description: REV
  • Edition number: 3
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 796,812
  • Product dimensions: 8.44 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.86 (d)

Meet the Author

ROBERT L. JOLLES is President of Jolles Associates, Inc., an independent training consulting firm, and a training consultant for more than 100 Fortune 500 companies, more than fifty financial institutions, a dozen universities, and powerhouse corporations like Disney, Nortel, Toyota, and Xerox Corporation. He is also the author of Customer Centered Selling and The Way of the Road Warrior.

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Table of Contents




1. Creating a Seminar Business.

2. Working with Adult Audiences.

3. Recognizing Trainees’ Levels of Behavior.

4. The Personality Parade: Training All Different Types of People.

5. The Pace Race: How to Train Groups with Diverse Needs.

6. Anatomy of an 8:00 A.M. Start: Finalizing On-Site Preparations.


7. The Secret of Success: Selling Your Presentation.

8. Twenty-Five Tips on Maintaining Interest.

9. The Art of Effective Questioning: Getting Trainees Involved.

10. Using Visual Aids.

11. Technology and Training.

12. Giving Feedback and Coaching.

13. Tricks of the Trade.


14. Inside the Mind of a Trainer: How to Present Your Best Self.

15. The Value of Good Training: Hiring Effective Trainers.

16. Avoiding the Training Trap: Problems with Relevance and Respect.

17. Developing a Training Staff.

18. Evaluation and Support.

19. Adventures in Cross-Training.

Epilogue: What’s Next?


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First Chapter

Working with Adult Audiences

When I was about six years old, I wanted very badly to grow up and be a basketball player. I was totally hooked on the sport and longed to be tall and famous. As I grew, so did my aspirations of adulthood. I passed through various stages of wanting to be a football player, an astronaut, a doctor, a lawyer, even the President of the United States. In fourth grade, however, these dreams took on a more serious focus.

I wanted to be a teacher. I had a fourth-grade teacher named Ms. Tuttweiler. She was everything a teacher should be. She was compassionate, she was kind, and she was sensitive to the needs of your typical 10-year-old. She had a spunky side, too! If you were caught chewing gum, Ms. Tuttweiler made you wear it on your nose. If you talked too much, she made you talk to yourself for a few minutes back in the coat closet. She even discouraged note passing by reading that private little message in front of the class. The funny thing is, even with all those punishments, everybody loved good old Ms. Tuttweiler. I liked her so much that I actually felt an inspiration to teach. Unfortunately, for most of us who are drawn to corporate training, this harmless role model can often expose us to some potentially dangerous situations.

The first, and most important point that you have to understand, is that what worked with a child will not work with mature audiences. When asked to conduct training, the first instinct new presenters have is to draw on their previous experiences in the classroom. It is not that most of us do not have corporate training experiences to utilize. It is just that for every hour of adult training, there have been about 500 hours of other schooling. Assuming a schedule that allows for five to seven hours of schooling in a day, an approximate number of hours of schooling from kindergarten through four years of college would be about 21,420. In a corporate environment, to have structured training for 40 hours in a year can be viewed as excessive. Not only do those early schooling years represent numerous hours, but as a child you are more vulnerable to change.

With this in mind, try asking an adult to put a piece of gum on his nose if you do not allow gum chewing. Read aloud a message that an adult is passing to another adult in the seminar. Needless to say, these ideas would backfire horribly in a training environment. For most presenters though, what other experiences do they have to draw on?

Adults must be dealt with in a mature manner, and with that in mind, I would like to show you some basic needs that adults have that are different from those of a child. It should be noted, however, that these are ideas that I would like to see implemented with the way my children are presently being taught. Unfortunately, as you will read, there are certain things we can get away with when teaching children that we cannot get away with when training adults.

This chapter illustrates the differences in working with adults as opposed to children. I will point out these differences, and why they are important. I will not go over the solutions to some of these problems. Later on, when the creation of effective training is covered, we will also cover a process that will speak to these differences with concrete solutions in mind.


One of the first major differences between teaching a child and training an adult is the necessity of attention to surroundings. Children are really exceptional when it comes to the atmosphere in which they learn. If you drive past most schools, you will notice a rather peculiar sight. It looks as if the larger buildings have actually spawned some children of their own. Those odd structures are referred to as "temporary classrooms." Speak to children about the difficulties of learning in a small, cramped environment, typically too warm in the summer and too cold in the winter, and they will politely respond by telling you, "It's neat."

Not so for an adult. For whatever reason you choose, adults come to training with a different attitude. Anything less than first class becomes an immediate knock of the training itself. You can have the best curriculum, the best presenter, and the best combination of students. Often, if the surroundings are not appropriate, your message will fall on deaf (or distracted) ears.

A classic example of inappropriate atmosphere is the case of on-site training conducted in a field office. Thousands of dollars are being spent for participant guides, trainees' time out of the field, a presenter's time and travel expense, but to save those last few pennies, the training is conducted on-site. Typically, you can count on physically losing every student in your training session at least once for an extended period of time. Training is constantly interrupted for emergency phone calls, and with students coming back from breaks and lunch late because of important problems. The distractions are endless. For a few more dollars, the training could be moved across the street (although I would suggest across town), eliminating this problem.

Try to establish an atmosphere that is relaxed yet businesslike. If this sounds like walking a rather precarious tightrope, you are right! For an inexperienced presenter, the desire is often to create that relaxed atmosphere at all costs. What can start off being an attempt for a relaxed atmosphere can often wind up turning into a total lack of discipline. I can remember early in my career a time when I was asked to step out in the hallway by an observer who had just watched my seminar. I had worked extremely hard to create an atmosphere that was relaxed. I had done such a good job, that as the observer was going over his evaluation, the students could be heard in the other room tossing things about, ringing bells, buzzers, and any other objects I had left behind. I sheepishly looked at the observer and muttered, "Perhaps I did too good a job creating a relaxed atmosphere."

I have also observed instructors who lean too heavily to the opposite extreme. In an attempt to create a businesslike atmosphere, the seminar room takes on the look of a prison. The presenter creates a threatening environment. Students do not speak unless spoken to; the presenter's word is all that matters, and little interaction occurs. Not only does the seminar not benefit from other experiences and points of view from the participants, but there is an air of resentment among the students.

The presenter's role is to walk the tightrope between relaxed and businesslike. This can often mean crossing back and forth depending on the situation. I often refer to the role of a presenter as more of a "teflon" position. For example, sometimes the joke that is told by a student can and should be laughed at by the presenter. Other times, depending on its appropriateness, despite the punch line, it cannot be laughed at. I am not suggesting that presenters should not be human, merely that they constantly must exercise careful judgment.

You are the role model; you are the one who must keep the seminar on an even keel. As the presenter, it is your responsibility to use your best judgment to create the kind of atmosphere most conducive to good learning. When in doubt, leave it out!


When a child is not kept interested in school, the mischief that child can get into is generally containable. Sometimes it may mean a trip to the principal's office or some other threat. The mischief an adult can get into can be a lot more damaging to the training that is being conducted.

As I mentioned earlier, threats are not an effective way to maintain an adult's interest. As a matter of fact, the only effectiveness threats may have within your training is to initiate contact between student and presenter. Additionally, adults can be more openly hostile about their lack of interest within the training. With the potential for a full range of audience emotions playing a part within your training, it is important to try to keep the trainees' interest any way you can. Unfortunately, this can sometimes result in an unfair level of stress on the presenter.

One rule of thumb I usually follow, when working with a new group of trainees, is not to worry about being instantly interesting. It is unrealistic and can contribute to the type of stress that burns out so many presenters so quickly. I have often fantasized about walking into a room of trainees I have never met before, approaching the lectern, slowly opening the curriculum, and being met with a crescendo of applause. Good fantasy. The only thing lacking is reality. In fact, when a presenter walks into the room, the tension and anxiety of the trainees goes up a notch. There are a number of unknowns and other factors that will soon be touched upon contributing to this anxiety, but it is certainly not the stuff that fantasies are made of.

The goal I establish for myself, and suggest for others, is a little more modest. I assume that when a group of trainees first meet me, there will not be much interest. I will give them time to worry about what they are wearing, where they are sitting, what I look like, and so forth. By the first break, I would like to think that I have created a spark of interest. By lunchtime, maybe a couple of head nods of approval. By the end of the day, we have interest. By the end of the second day, we have a lot of interest. By the end of the third day, they cannot wait to start the next day. By the end of the program, it is my hope, they have just completed the best training they have ever attended.

A number of techniques can be used to get and maintain interest, which I will systematically outline in Chapter 7. The key point is simply this. If you are going to establish a goal regarding the interest you intend to generate within your training, let it be this: From the first minute to the last, at no time will you allow the interest you are working for to take a step backward. Forward, ho!


One of the greatest aspects of working with adults is the abundance of experiences they bring to the training room. I am not, however, necessarily referring to their experiences within your given subject matter. Subject matter experience is definitely a positive in most situations, but it is the trainees' other experiences that can often be the diamond in the rough a lot of presenters miss out on. These experiences can be just the link that is needed to teach a difficult concept.

Let me provide you with an example. When I came out of college, the first job I ever had was as an insurance salesman for the New York Life Insurance Company. I had certain strengths and weaknesses as a salesman, but my ability to, as I used to call it, "teach the sale," served me well. An example of this was my ability to explain the difference between whole life insurance and term insurance. As an apprentice field underwriter, I watched intently as certain agents would spend literally hours trying to explain the difference to customers who made the unfortunate mistake of asking. Like any good trainee, when the explanation became endless, customers would fake their best "Oh, now I get it," and the salesman would move on, mercifully putting that topic out of its misery. The reality is, these salesmen rarely made the sale. If a presenter does this, the presenter will rarely get his point across.

An experienced salesman then told me to draw on the customer's experience to get the point across. He suggested using an example of purchasing a house. Many adults have either purchased or considered purchasing a home. Using that experience is what made the point easier to understand. My explanation sounded something like this:

The differences between whole life insurance and term insurance are similar to the differences between owning a home and renting a home. When you own a home, you pay more up front and your monthly payments are higher. As a trade-off, your payments remain consistent and although no one can guarantee exactly how much money you will make, chances are if you stay in the home for three to five years, you should make a significant profit. Whole life insurance is very similar in concept. Your monthly payments will be higher but never increase. No one can guarantee exactly how much cash value your policy will earn, but after three years it should be significant.

When you rent a home, the initial rent is usually considerably less than what a mortgage would be on a similar structure. However, rents are raised at various times, and when you leave, other than perhaps the repayment of a security deposit, you receive nothing. Term insurance is similar. Premiums are lower, but they can be raised through the years, and when you leave or quit the policy, you receive nothing.

Now I am not claiming to have made anyone an insurance expert, but in the 30 seconds or so that it took you to read the example, you gained a basic understanding of the concept. When was the last time your insurance agent tried to explain the difference, how long did it take, and how well did you understand it?

Another example that I use a lot in the more technical training assignments that I have worked on involves the computer. Many trainees who are forced to incorporate the computer into their training suffer from the dreaded illness referred to as "computerphobia." To soften this fearful device, my approach was to break it down into understandable experiences and terms they can all relate to.

See this computer keyboard? It is a lot like a typewriter keyboard that all of you have probably used at one time or another. The monitor is a lot like the television set you curl up with at night, and the central processing unit acts like the brain.

Once, while conducting a Train-The-Trainer in Egypt, I was having a great deal of trouble communicating a difficult concept. Most Egyptians are clueless to many of our customs and sports, as I was to theirs. Finally, we found soccer (referred to as "football" by the Egyptians), and I found myself happily clinging to soccer examples to illustrate key points for the remainder of the course.

Some trainees will exhibit mental blocks relating to certain information. It is the presenter's job not only to become aware of this, but to find a way to communicate the information to the trainee. It may be your analogy of a golf swing, a reference to a book that you read, or maybe even a movie that both of you have seen. Unlike a child, an adult has a wealth of experience you can relate your information to. It is that common ground of experiences that you must find to facilitate effective learning.


To list logic as one of the key components to working with adult audiences may seem a bit obvious, but it is critical just the same. Curriculum developers often have limited experience in the subject they are writing about because they are sought after for their writing ability.

When curriculum is developed, subject matter experts are called on to help with the creation of a course. Their involvement is usually to get the writers up to speed as quickly as possible and then step aside. Even when the development is carefully monitored, reading curriculum is one thing; teaching it is a whole different story. This is why pilots exist. One of the intents of a pilot is to take what is technically correct and determine if it is being presented in a logical manner.

One of the first points I look for when handed a new course to study is whether I need more information than what is available to understand it. I have often said that the first emotions experienced by a presenter sitting through a seminar he is to teach can be the most valuable. Whatever emotions you perceive, the students most likely will feel, too, at the exact same spot. What's more, if while teaching the material, you find yourself wishing you could refer to material that has yet to be taught, you probably are experiencing a clue that there may be a logic problem.

When trying to figure out curriculum logic, often a presenter can walk away unsure which came first, the chicken or the egg. Sometimes, despite consistent confusion among trainees, a presenter will become so out of touch with the fact that there has been constant trouble in one area (dating back to when he first taught the material), he will mistakenly begin to believe his own excuses as to why certain messages are not working. Trust your initial instinct, and do not be afraid to try to reshuffle your curriculum to deliver a more logical message.


Not everyone in this world has a Type A (or slightly hyper) personality, but when it comes to training, one thing is certain among all personality types: Adults cringe at the thought of sitting for extended periods of time. Unfortunately, due to less-than-creative previous teachers or presenters, most of us assume that attendance at a training session will mean nonstop sitting. The truth is, successful training can be so much more.

There are three basic reasons to get adults involved in activities when you are conducting training. The first is morale. Let's face it: Hearing from a presenter that the course you are attending will be a 16-hour lecture is enough to make the strongest stomach weak. Remember: In the business of training, the presenter is guilty until proven innocent. In other words, if students previously had a bad experience with a similar course, they will assume they are in for the same treatment again. If the training previously dragged, had no interaction, or was boring, the students naturally assume it will probably happen again. Morale is damaged before the presenter even opens his mouth.

The second reason for wanting to involve adults in activities is to stimulate interest. What are some of the most memorable and interesting courses you ever attended? What made them that way? I am willing to bet the success of this course centered around some kind of activity.

An example of a successful activity-centered session involved a course that I started teaching for Xerox. I was reluctant to teach it because I had taken it as a student years before and disliked it. My memories of the class were that it was dull and that it was filled with hours of useless theory. What's more, everyone I knew who had taken this course shared my opinion. While being coaxed to teach the class, I was promised that some changes had been made. I was still skeptical, however, because I knew the curriculum content could not be drastically altered. Despite the course's poor reputation, when I finally taught it, it was a tremendous success due to a small, but significant delivery change. Although the curriculum had not changed, a simulation had been added to the course, tying together the previous three days' material. The students loved the activity and loved the course. Even though the simulation did not begin until the third day of the program, the anticipation of the coming activity made the course exciting.

The third benefit of involving adults in activities is to increase retention. Again, think back on some of the lessons you learned and still remember from the classroom; I have a sneaking suspicion there was an activity run around that lesson. There is an old saying that goes something like this:

What people hear, they forget.
What people see, they remember.
What people do, they learn.

Activity to promote involvement within the curriculum is a technique used by many top curriculum writers and presenters. Performing a task, rather than being told about the task, benefits the trainee's morale, interest, and ability to retain the information taught.


In any type of training, there is an overall goal involving what is being taught. This is sometimes referred to as "the big picture." What is it that you want the students to get out of the seminar? Adults demand to know this.

The issue really can be traced back to a simple fact about working with adults. For many, it has been a long time since they have attended a training seminar, and frankly, many have forgotten how to learn. We are often not dealing with a college student who has been conditioned to follow and absorb a professor's lecture. We are dealing with possible confusion and anxiety relating to what is, and is not, important. The signs are often obvious early in a presentation. All the trainer needs to do is watch the trainees' note taking for the first clue. Often I will start a seminar by passing out a participant package. Some trainees immediately uncap the highlighter like a drawn weapon. As I welcome the students to the course, I can spot trouble from trainees who have already highlighted the participant package cover to capture the course name and other housekeeping information.

"Glad to have us here, hope our trip was a good one, gotcha!"

Boy, I would hate to miss that critical information in my notes! Given a little time, the trainees' materials begin to turn the color of that poor, overworked highlighter. Even when I make eye contact with these individuals, there is a sense of note-taking pride. This look is not much different from that of a young child's proud gaze, as he brought home that first clay pot made in school. Could there be a finer pot anywhere? The only difference is the trainee's eyes are saying, Is there a finer note taker anywhere?

I would like to think that in every seminar I teach, everything is critical information. In fact, that is unrealistic. In a well-written movie, some parts are filled with action and other parts are designed to let the audience collectively catch its breath. This also allows the audience to better focus on the key portions of the story. Curriculum is written in much the same way. There are what is referred to as "nice-to-knows" and "need-to-knows" within the material. This assists trainees in focusing in on critical information. By giving trainees the big picture and informing trainees of the goals of your training, you are in a better position to influence their perception of what is and is not as important.

Without a sense of the goal of your training, your trainees may experience problems focusing on the really important portions of the curriculum. Many of us just cannot maintain that level of concentration for long lengths of time, especially if it has been a long time since we attended school where these skills were necessary. Clear the air and let students know you will be sure to emphasize the need-to-knows and share with them the overall goals of your training. While you are at it, give those boxes of highlighters to another seminar.


One of the most basic techniques used when working with adults, as well as with children, is to incorporate a steady diet of repetition. It probably is no mystery to you that the chances of increasing retention go up substantially the more you repeat a message. What a lot of presenters do not know, however, is there is an art to using repetition effectively within a seminar room. The mistake many presenters make is never re-connecting their curriculum with the experience. Eventually the trainee has to start using the presenter's terms and not his own.

To help clear this up, let's use an example I mentioned earlier relating to learning the names of certain pieces of computer hardware. After detecting some computerphobia among our students, we decided to simplify these terms a bit and reference their experiences with a typewriter. One of the goals for this module may well have been for the trainees to be able to comfortably use the terms associated with computer hardware. Let's face it, although the trainees might now understand the various pieces of hardware, I would not be real keen for them to leave my seminar calling the central processing unit a "brain." Here is an area where you can rely on repetition to help you. Each time you have the trainees repeat these terms, tighten up their explanations. What follows is a possible dialogue:

PRESENTER: Okay, now what is this called?
TRAINEE: The brain.
PRESENTER: Right, also referred to as the central processing unit. Later
PRESENTER: Now what is this called again?
TRAINEE: The brain.
PRESENTER: Also referred to as?
TRAINEE: The central processing unit.
PRESENTER: Excellent.

Repetition allows the presenter to clean up the responses being provided by the trainees. The intent is to provide a bridge using the trainees' experiences. You can begin to remove that bridge using repetition and have the trainees using the terms and concepts that they need to keep the new material clear in their minds when they leave the seminar.

The advantages of repetition also relate to another concept previously covered. Repetition helps the adult learner focus on particular goals of the training. Repetition provides tremendous, yet subtle assistance in guiding student thinking. When you keep repeating a message, it begins to unconsciously look like a need-to-know item. Make sure you carefully choose which pieces of curriculum you want to repeat so that the trainees better grasp the importance of the information.

Repetition is a powerful tool to assist in adult learning. It not only increases retention but, selectively used, it allows you to fix areas of curriculum that need tightening and guide the trainees in learning critical information.


If you listen carefully when working with adults, sometimes you might actually hear a faint ticking sound. That noise is a time bonb that could have been set as recently as the last training session the trainee attended or as long ago as a bad experience from this trainee's school days. It involves the element of surprise. A successful tactic in war. A misery with the adult learner.

Remember how you felt being informed of a pop quiz? I can still hear the groans from my schoolmates and feel the knot in the pit of my stomach. After announcing a pop quiz to an adult learner, you may find that knot on the top of your head! Adults hate surprises. Frankly, if I felt surprises would assist your training in the least bit, I would not be so hard on this tactic. They do not.

Adults have much larger egos than children. Without carefully going over what trainees can anticipate within your training, you run the risk of badly embarrassing them. Embarrass a child, and that child may just tell his parents. Embarrass an adult, and you are looking at possible aggressive behavior either immediately or down the road within your training.

Although it may appear obvious that a presenter should avoid tests or quizzes without first telling trainees of his intentions, other requirements are less apparent and are just as upsetting to adults:

  • Will there be any form of involvement during the seminar itself?
  • If so, will your feedback be based on the trainees' level of participation?
  • Do you want the trainees to take notes throughout?
  • Will the seminar cover the same old stuff as last year's session?

Then there is the question of feedback:

  • Will any formal or informal feedback be provided to the trainee's mentor or manager?
  • What affects that level of feedback, either positively or negatively?

This factor has the potential to be a highly emotional issue.

The frustrating element to the issue of establishing requirements with adults is that most adults will not request this information. Therefore, it is easy for the presenter to skip over telling the trainees what is anticipated of them. In a perfect world, regardless of the last time the trainee attended a seminar, this information would be provided up front and fairly. The problem is, this is not a perfect world. This information is rarely provided up front, and trainees become scarred from these surprises. That is why I mentioned the ticking of a time bomb. It is hard to predict, but an adult is going to accept the unfair practices of attending courses without a clear set of requirements for only so long. Then he is going to blow! The real kicker is that this explosion may come before the presenter barely opens his mouth. Bad luck? Bad trainee? Once again, the presenter simply becomes guilty until proven innocent.

Allowing the trainees to know, up front, the requirements of the course and what they can anticipate is an intelligent way to start a seminar. Not only does it give the trainees a road map of what to expect, it reduces the charges of aggressive behavior toward the presenter. Establishing requirements also allows you to guide the trainees' thinking from the nice-to-know to the need-to-know. If I know up front that I am going to be tested on certain pieces of information, it will be no coincidence that I focus a little harder when that information is discussed.


In my mind, perhaps one of the biggest differences between working with children and working with adults is the motivation to learn. With children, the motivation is rather typical. Do well, get good grades. Do poorly, get bad grades. All of us can remember the sickening depression of taking that long walk home with an occasional bad grade. I would like to believe that my children's teachers motivate them, but the fact of the matter is, they do not have to because the motivation is automatically built in. As the child grows, the motivation shifts from having your parents see your report card to having college admission offices see your report card.

With adults, there is rarely anything that even resembles a report card. Oh, yes, sometimes when written feedback is recorded, a copy is sent on to the trainee's mentor, but more often it is not. In the instances where the feedback is sent on to the mentor, I would still not recommend using it as the primary motivator. When working with adults, it usually boils down to one point. What type of motivation does the presenter bring into the training room with him? Techniques for establishing motivation in the beginning as well as throughout your presentation will be addressed later in this book when we look at a process to assist your training. For right now, let's agree that if you, the presenter, are upbeat and positive about the material you are asked to deliver, this has a strong effect on the motivation the trainees will feel.

The question of providing motivation to trainees becomes a question of technique and attitude. Both of these skills are controlled by the presenter. The most basic point is that it is a mistake to think the trainees will automatically be motivated by the value of the curriculum. It is not the responsibility of the trainee to attend the training motivated. It is the responsibility of the presenter to find a way to provide that motivation. The reward for you is a highly interactive, participative group of trainees who are eager to face the next challenge.


When you are writing about adult learning, another critical factor to consider is how your message is designed to appeal to the senses of the trainees in the room. One-or two-hour lectures may be fine in a university setting, but they do not work well in the corporate training world.

How much do you still remember from those large lecture classes? What you do remember is often a result of the teacher's ability to affect more than one of your senses during the presentation. When examining how your senses affect what you learn, we must consider not only which senses are most critical, but strategies for using these senses as well.

Let me pose a question to you. Which senses do you think are most critical in our learning process? A great deal of research has been done in this area, with some pretty interesting results. If you were able to ask an infant, he would tell you the sense of touch is critical. It does not take too many lessons in touching the stovetop for this infant to realize it is hot. As the child grows, everything begins to go into the mouth. The sense of taste becomes a critical factor. Finally, reaching adulthood, we become bombarded with different educators lecturing to us, appealing to the sense of sound. That would be all well and good, if our sense of sound were not such a poor sense to rely on.

Numerous studies have been conducted to try to pinpoint just what percentage of learning comes through which sense. Most break the numbers down approximately this way:

The numbers are rather staggering when you consider how much time is often expended trying to get the words of a presentation together. I am not saying that the words we use will not influence what is going to be learned; I am merely interpreting these numbers to say that if you want people to remember your message, you had better be visual. Certainly, using the two senses of sight and sound together make for a very effective combination.

I also want to warn against overreacting to the sense of sight. One of the biggest mistakes made by inexperienced presenters is to attempt to be too visual. There is an old saying that pertains to the use of visuals:

If you emphasize everything, you emphasize nothing!

Hopefully, now I have begun to make you a believer in visual presentations. Let me now suggest that you choose wisely not only the frequency of how many visuals you use, but the variety as well. Later in this book, we will look at the positives and negatives of various presentation aids. For now, simply understand that varying the presentation aids you choose will certainly enhance their effectiveness.

Appealing to the various senses to better communicate your message is a time-tested success story. At times, when teaching students this point in a seminar, I will purposely not be visual in certain areas and visual in others. When we review in the morning, guess which group has more trouble remembering the information taught? You got it; the group that was not exposed to any visual aids. Although in reading this book you are actually flooding only one sense, close the book and see if you can remember which percentage of learning comes through which sense. I am willing to bet you will be closer than you think. You would not do nearly as well if those numbers were recited to you in a lecture.


When I was growing up, I was one of those kids who saved the best part of his dinner for the end (truth be known, I still do). When it comes to working with an adult learner, I have also saved the most important part for last. How often have you as a trainee heard someone groaning about why he really should not be in the seminar? Perhaps he feels he already knows the material, or feels it will be a waste of his time. He may not want to be there for any number of reasons. Maybe, that someone has been you. One thing is for certain. If someone feels he will not benefit in any way by attending your training, nothing else really matters. You can put together that best curriculum, recruit the best presenter, provide the best visuals, and attempt to satisfy all the other adult learning principles. The bottom line is there will not be anyone there who is listening. This also means a much higher chance of aggressive behavior from the trainee toward the presenter.

What needs to be accomplished is to answer one question that may or may not be asked out loud. You need to provide the trainees with a W. I. F. M. No, that is not a radio station's call letters, nor did I sneeze. The acronym W. I. F. M. stands for a question the majority of trainees ask themselves before attending any type of training: What's In It For Me?

Does this point sound a little selfish to you? Ask yourself, why would you want to attend training if you felt there was absolutely nothing in it for you? This sense of greed actually becomes a basic human need. This issue was brought out in a rather famous speech in one of my all-time favorite movies, Wall Street. In this movie, Michael Douglas delivers a presentation to a couple of hundred people at a shareholders' meeting. Douglas's character, Gordon Gecco, redefines being under fire in an apparently hopeless attempt to convince his audience that a buyout of their company is beneficial. As he starts his presentation, he is jeered and booed. The title of his presentation is, appropriately enough, Greed Is Good. If you ever want to watch a master speaker give an effective W. I. F. M. watch this movie. By reminding his audience that most of them are attempting to be as successful as possible, and connecting his message to their success, he convinces the audience that in fact, greed is good! The audience ends up convinced, cheering his efforts and supporting his plan.

The question then becomes: Is this form of selfishness or greed a bad characteristic? I say no! I want trainees who are greedy and selfish. I want trainees who want to get the most possible out of training. Who would you rather do business with, someone who is greedy, or someone who is not? I choose the greedy individual. I make that choice because as long as this individual is ethical, he is certainly easier to understand and satisfy. Most people who are successful in business have found a way to channel their greed professionally. If I can appeal to that sense of greed and show how my product can make them more successful, I too will be successful. It is a basic message that is accepted in the training field as well.

I believe that the people in my audience are in fact greedy. They want as much as they can get out of what I have to say. I do not believe they would be as successful if they did not have this goal. We are all greedy to a point. I would much rather have students attending my classes who are greedy and want to know "what's in it for me?" If I am able to answer that question, I will be in a better position to achieve my goals of providing the best training this individual has ever received.

With that said, and the point made that you must convince your trainees there is a need to learn, the question now becomes, how. Before entering the body of the curriculum, how do you hook trainees into your curriculum and give them a need to learn? Ah . . . pardon my own rather obvious hook, but the formula for that will be carefully outlined in Chapter 6, The Secret of Success: Selling Your Presentation. I will give you a hint though: Remember the word "utility."

I hope this talk of selfishness and greed did not offend anyone. I assure you, I am both ethical and honest as a businessman. My intent was to point out a very basic need that most of us have regarding training or any other service. You must be able to answer the question, "What's in it for me?" Hopefully, I have been able to provide a little bit of insight as to where that need comes from.


Working with adults can be a challenging and rewarding experience. The most basic point presenters must know is that their early school experiences are not as big a help as they may first appear. Studying some of the differences between children and adults will make your approach to working with adults more successful and satisfying. It will also provide a rationale for a structured process in the training of adults.

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