Table of Contents

An Anchor Activity in Every Presentation

An anchor activity is a learning activity designed to anchor new content in a learner's prior knowledge or experience. It's a way to help learners establish a connection to otherwise new or unfamiliar information.
anchor activities

“If we’re running short on time, I’ll typically cut the anchor activities and jump right into the content.”

I was leading a train-the-trainer workshop and some of the people who were using our curriculum were sharing tips and tricks for how to facilitate a session, especially when the curriculum was so packed and it was so easy to fall behind. The idea of cutting the anchor activity made me cringe.

We use a design model that incorporates the following steps:

  1. Anchor
  2. Content
  3. Application
  4. Future Use
anchor activity icon

What is an Anchor Activity?

Similar to an icebreaking activity, the anchor activity will be the first thing that participants experience for each new topic. Unlike ice-breaking activities, the anchor step we use is an intentional design decision based upon Malcolm Knowles work on adult learning (adults are most interested in topics that have immediate relevance to their own work or lives) and Gagne’s nine events of instruction (#3: stimulate recall of prior knowledge).

In short, an anchor activity is a learning activity designed to anchor new content in a learner’s prior knowledge or experience. It’s a way to help learners establish a connection to otherwise new or unfamiliar information.

Anchor Activity Examples

Anchor activities can be something as simple as: “I’d like everyone to think of a time when you were told you had to do something (whether or not you actually wanted to do it). Ok, now let’s talk about change management…”

Anchor activities can be lengthy and complex, too. “Good morning, we’re going to begin today’s session by playing a game similar to Trivial Pursuit, in which you’ll spend the next 45 minutes working your way around a game board and trying to answer questions about today’s content to find out how much you already know, and where you might have some gaps.”

The reason I cringed during that train the trainer workshop is that anchor activities cannot be viewed as nice-to-have or superfluous. When learners can’t connect to new or unfamiliar content, the likelihood that new concepts will bounce off the learners’ brains grows. Skipping ahead and jumping into your content without first helping your learners connect usually looks like this (from a learner’s perspective):

I also understand that trying to squeeze too many “activities” into a presentation can lead to activity fatigue. When you bounce from one activity to the next, the learners may begin to feel like they’re being cheated, that they came for content and information and all they’re doing is activity after activity.

How to Anchor Your Content

Here are a few ways to quickly anchor your content without overusing more traditional, get-up-out-of-your-seat activities:

  1. Have learners briefly think of their best experience with something related to your content (customer service experience, learning experience, being on the receiving end of a sales call, etc).
  2. Have learners briefly think of their worst experience.
  3. Share a quote, lyric, poem or proverb that connects to your content.
  4. Watch a short video or popular commercial that incorporates some of the same principles upon which your content will touch.
  5. Use a short, guided visualization to quickly transport your learners to a different time or place (“I’d like everyone to just think for a moment of a world in which ____ no longer existed. What would that look like? How would it feel? Well, today, we’re going to discuss how we could actually make that a reality…”)

Your audience doesn’t need to be physically active to anchor your content into their minds based upon their prior experiences, but they do need to be actively (mentally) engaged each time you introduce a new topic or concept.

Looking for some help to design your next great presentation? The all-in-one presentation creator, Soapbox will not only create your lesson plan, but also ready-to-print handouts, facilitator guide and slide deck in as little as 5 minutes! Ready to make your life easier? Give us 15 minutes and we’ll help you see how Soapbox can make your life easier and your training better!

Instructor-Led Training Resources

These are some of our favorite resources to support everyone involved with instructor-led training.

Training Delivery and Facilitation Competency Rubric

A rubric is a way to assess performance with a standard set of evaluation criteria. The next time you need to assess the performance of someone delivering training (even if that someone is you), you may find this rubric helpful.

The Role of Co-facilitators

Co-facilitators play an important role in a training workshop. The most obvious benefit is that when you co-facilitate, you get a break from leading the

18 Instructor-led Training Activities

Engaging, intentional, face-to-face and virtual instructor-led training activities can make the difference between a session that helps learners to apply new skills or knowledge and one that falls flat.

Articles Similar to An Anchor Activity in Every Presentation

facilitator competency rubric
ILT & VILT
Brian Washburn

Training Delivery and Facilitation Competency Rubric

A rubric is a way to assess performance with a standard set of evaluation criteria. The next time you need to assess the performance of someone delivering training (even if that someone is you), you may find this rubric helpful.

instructor becomes the pupil with kassy laborie and zovig garboushian
ILT & VILT
Brian Washburn

Turning the Tables: From Trainer to Student

As people who have designed and delivered effective training, Kassy Laborie and Zovig Garboushian know a thing or two about good learning experiences. So what nuggets have they gleaned from a 9-month course that they’re both attending, and that all of us should consider when designing our own programs? Today’s podcast answers that question.

John Crook on role play
ILT & VILT
Brian Washburn

Is this the world’s most effective role play?

When it comes to your training participants, two of the dirtiest, or perhaps scariest, words you can say during a session may be: role play. In today’s podcast, John Crook, Head of Learning at Intersol Global, offers some thoughts on how to make role plays more authentic and robust.

Subscribe to Get Updates from Endurance Learning

Brian Washburn, Author

Brian Washburn
CEO & Chief Ideas Guy

Enter your information below and we’ll send you the latest updates from our blog. Thanks for following!

Grow your L&D Career Today!

The Foundations of L&D course through the L&D Pro Academy provides the concepts and practical experience you need to grow your confidence and abilities as a well-rounded L&D professional.

Enter your email below and we’ll be in touch with an info sheet!

L&D Pro Academy

Find Your L&D Career Path

Explore the range of careers to understand what role might be a good fit for your L&D career.

Enter your email below and we’ll send you the PDF of the What’s Possible in L&D Worksheet.

What's possible in L&D

Let's Talk Training!

Brian Washburn

Brian Washburn
CEO & Chief Ideas Guy

Enter your information below and we’ll get back to you soon.

Download the Feedback Lesson Plan

Enter your email below and we’ll send you the lesson plan as a PDF.

feedback lesson plan
MS Word Job Aid Template

Download the Microsoft Word Job Aid Template

Enter your email below and we’ll send you the Word version of this template.

Download the Free Lesson Plan Template!

Enter your email below and we’ll send you a Word document that you can start using today!

free lesson plan template
training materials checklist

Download the Training Materials Checklist

Enter your email below and we’ll send you the PDF of the Training Materials Checklist.

Subscribe to Endurance Learning for updates

Get regular updates from the Endurance Learning team.