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A Training Activity that Leads to Discussion Every Time

Ever wish you could get your participants to engage in thoughtful discussion? This activity will do the trick.
group discussions

“G****mmit, I knew he was going to make this hard!” exclaimed one of the participants as we got underway.

Earlier this week I was asked to drop by a client’s meeting with a group of their trainers. I’ve worked with these trainers for several years and they have adopted the dialogue-based approach to training in which my company specializes. I wasn’t asked to help them work on their facilitation or delivery, I was asked to come in to help ensure everyone understands the “why” behind this dialogue-based approach. So I reached deep down into my bag of tricks to find a way to unearth any resistance or misunderstanding that may still exist among these trainers.

I’ve written about this activity, called How I See It, in the past. The formula is simple: write a series of “absolute” statements (statements where there is no wiggle room) and then have participants discuss amongst themselves whether they think the statements are true or false. Part of what makes this activity so engaging and what helps it lead to good discussion is that “I don’t know” is never an option. You must choose either true or false.

The tricky part to the design of this activity is finding “absolute” statements that could be up for debate. Here are several examples and some of the discussion that came out of this activity for our group:

HowISeeIt1 1

For this group, this was an easy one. We’ve long-since preached that it’s nice for people to tell us that our training was the best they’ve ever attended, but that’s not “success”. The group cited things like retention, change in behavior and organizational results as better measures of successful training and trainers. Not much disagreement on this statement, but it did get them warmed up!

HowISeeIt2

Here’s where the conversation really started to get good. Why would Brian even be in front of us if this weren’t true?

It is true that I’ve spent years imploring these trainers that lecture and PowerPoint (alone) isn’t the most effective way to train people. But, as several astute participants pointed out, sometimes lecture is absolutely the best way to get information across. In fact, there are plenty of (mini)lectures designed into the training curricula that we’ve developed for them.

Furthermore, activities need context and need to align with the objectives of the session, otherwise you have what my colleague Heather has called “garbage activities“.

HowISeeIt3

Participants’ eyes narrowed as they debated this statement. Didn’t Brian tell us that participants needed to have a comfortable atmosphere in order to be able to learn? But if people are “comfortable”, why would they want to or need to learn anything new?

Indeed, it’s the edge of discomfort that a lot of learning happens. And what people were recalling from earlier conversations, I had shared with them that participants need to feel safe, which is an important distinction from needing to feel comfortable. If participants don’t feel safe – if they fear being embarrassed or criticized when they participate – then they will never try something new. If they are free from those fears, then they will take on uncomfortable assignments and activities in order to learn and grow.

HowISeeIt4

Hmmmmmmm. This is one that most of the participants felt was true. But it led to a very good discussion about the role of facilitators and co-facilitators during small group activities. It helped reinforce the point that small group time is not break time for facilitators, and it also led to discussion about the use of laptops or cell phones by facilitators at any point.

How I See It is an activity that never fails to garner extremely engaged participation from trainees. I’ve used it in all sorts of contexts – train the trainer, sales training, diversity training, customer service training. If you give it a whirl sometime, I’d love to hear how it works for you!


Need some help creating training that helps foster honest dialogue among your participants, drop me a line and let’s talk!


Crunched for time? Soapbox is a tool that can help you put together an entire training plan using How I See It and more than 100 other activities in less than 10 minutes. Sign up below and we’d be happy to offer a quick demo!

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