This is the third in our seven-part Facilitation Tips series. In this blog, we examine some success strategies in how to open an instructor led session for increased engagement.
If you are teaching, you are responsible for learning experiences that change behavior. Nothing sets the tone for a successful session more than opening the session with a bang! More than likely, all of your learners will be new to you and to one another. They may be concerned that they won’t do well in your session. They may be nervous (and you might be too)!
So here are a few best practice tips for opening a session:
- Use music! If you haven’t thought of this one, try it out. Get a cheap set of speakers or if your overhead projector is configured for sound, grab a Spotify account or other media sharing site and pick some tunes! Have music playing as your learners come into your session, at break or at the end of session.
You could do a theme or mix it up, totally up to you. If you love the blues, play the blues. It can be a conversation starter, even with people who might be totally unfamiliar with the chosen style. Don’t have it blaring, but have it sufficiently audible that people take notice.
When it is time to call your session to order, have some brief discussion around what the music is and why you picked it. It may tie into the theme of the session or it may be a nice way for your learners to get to know you, especially if you will spend a great deal of time together.
- Plan some sort of activity that gets people talking and to know one another. “Deep Dark Secret” is a fun short game to play that coincides with introductions. After you begin your session, introduce the game “Deep Dark Secret” (it already sounds intriguing, right?). Instruct the learners to give you their name, and one or two demographics you desire like position, location, etc. Then ask them to provide the group one “deep dark secret” about themselves. Tell them it can’t be something easy like “I love my children” but has to be something intriguing or unique like “I once was on a bus with Cher” or “I grew up next to Bruno Mars”. Then give everyone just a minute to think of something and begin the exercise using yourself as an example. “My name is xx and I worked a summer job when I was a kid at a theme park where I met Arnold Shwarzenegger’s son”. Give the group a moment to react (someone will almost always say something) and have a bit of conversation around that. Then go around the room and have each person tell their secret.
If you are using name cards on tables, approach each person and pick up their name card while they are telling their story and write their secret in one word or two on the front of their card. It’s useful as an icebreaker throughout the day and helps people remember what each person said.
We once had a lady whose deep dark secret was she worked in the adult film industry. When we all went “REALLY?” come to find out she was an accountant for a movie biz. We all had a great laugh about that!
- Another great opening idea is to ask your learners what they want to get out of the session and then use butcher paper to write those thoughts down. This helps in a couple of ways. It helps them begin the talking process – after all, you want them engaging with you throughout your session, so no better time to start than at the top of the session.
It also helps you as the facilitator understand better where they are all coming from and where any “holes” might be in the instruction. It also helps you spend more time of the areas they express and lightly cover areas they may not be as interested in.
At the end of the session (or the day) go back to your list as check back in with your learners to see if you covered what they needed.
Opening a session is all about getting people comfortable, oriented and ready to learn. The more you can remove the fear and trepidation and make a warm inviting space for your learners, the more well received your sessions will be.
Join us next week for more in this series!