Tips for Training Adults Effectively

By Debra Nickelson, D.V.M.

Make sure the content is relevant to the participants.
People who attend your training have specific situations they want addressed, even if they are not sure of which situations. Ideally, find out before your presentation. Then make it clear what situations or problems you are solving. Be concise, and use concrete examples.

Use easy-to-understand language.

Think about having a conversation with someone. You don’t want that person trying to guess what you are trying to say – they will lose the message. Usually, adults will not ask you to explain your vocabulary; they will just tune you out.

Use humor in your training.
As long as the humor is used to put people at ease and help the audience see you as one of them, it can be very effective. Do not joke about religion, politics, sports or anything that could alienate a type of person or culture.

Avoid prejudices.

As noted above, do not make comments that could diminish a person’s self-esteem. Eliminate your own prejudices when addressing the audience and responding to individual comments and questions. If your words and body language are open and inclusive, then your audience will share the camaraderie.

Consider the participants’ knowledge and experience.
Adults bring a vast range of knowledge and experience about whatever topic you are discussing. Ask people to share so they can learn from each other. Many people attend a training in order to meet other people and learn from them, as it is not all about you.

Keep the trainings active.

Considering the average adult’s attention span is about 30 minutes, you must incorporate activities in your training to keep participants focused and attentive. As mentioned above, ask people to share, with the entire group and/or in small groups. Ask people to stand, move about, do some teamwork, write something, look up a topic on their phone, do some on-line polling or present to the group.

Respect the time.

Adults are well-aware of when things should start and end. Even if some people come late or leave early, you must keep on schedule. Practice your presentation and leave time for questions.  

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