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How To Keep Learning Going After Training

keeping learning going after the session

A lot of magic can happen during a training, conference, or webinar, but what happens after the session ends? Keeping the learning going after a session enables trainers to build on what happens in a session; however, designing this may not be easy. This week we sit down with Nancy Bacon of Nancy Bacon Consulting to learn how she finds ways to engage after training. She discusses tools, resources, and a few ideas on how others can approach learning after a session.

It should be noted that this podcast was captured before social distancing recommendations were put into place. While gathering may look a little different than it did a few weeks ago, everything in this podcast continues to apply for those of us who can meet and talk virtually. Whether virtual coffee or virtual meetings, now more than ever, it is important to find ways to continue to come together in new ways.

Listen using the player below. Please leave us your thoughts in the comment section or on twitter @train_champion.

Conversation with Nancy Bacon

Heather Snyder: Hello and welcome to the Train Like You Listen podcast, a weekly short podcast for learning and development professionals. I’m Heather Snyder and today we’re talking about how to keep the learning going after a training event, with Brian Washburn and Nancy Bacon

6-Word Introduction

Heather Snyder: Nancy, we like to start things off with a six-word summary that describes us today. What would be a six-word memoir for you? 

Nancy Bacon: Let’s go with “nonprofit learning strategy, imagine the possibilities.” How about you? 

Heather Snyder: Mine is “I always want to learn more”. How about you, Brian? 

Brian Washburn: So for me, my six words today are “after training I want better performance”. 

So Nancy, thank you for joining us. I’m excited to have a chance to talk with you a little bit. The first thing I wanted to jump into right away is when it comes to learning and training, what do you think is the difference between a learning experience at a conference and a learning experience during a more traditional training session, like an in-house training session? 

Learning Experience Differences: Conference vs. Training Session 

Nancy Bacon: I think it’s interesting that you’re asking this question because we think about them really differently. We think about a conference session, produced through some call for proposals, and it happens within a constellation of many other sessions and mainstage events and exhibitors and all that other stuff happening. You know, typically a subject matter expert might teach you something or update your knowledge about something.

And we think that traditional training sessions are different from that, that they come together because there’s a need or an opportunity to close the gap on some topic. You know, a specific audience is invited to come learn something from an experienced trainer. So a conference session is different from a training session.

Learning Experience Similarities: Conference vs. Training Session 

And I actually think that the more we shift our thinking to think of them in the same light, we have lots of opportunities. So instead of thinking about their differences, let’s think about their similar similarities. That both are or can be focused on a specific audience, so centering that learning around the needs of one specific group.

Both can happen within that larger constellation of experiences. So conferences are already set up to be that way but you could put a learning event, an isolated in-house learning event, and you can wrap around that technical assistance, coaching, peer connection, inspiration, access to key resources, like all those things that support the learning to happen. A conference makes that happen in a short time, maybe a day or two. But an in-house training actually has some opportunities to spread that out over time. 

Brian Washburn: Nancy. One of the reasons why I was really excited to have a chance to speak with you is because you’ve done a lot of work around how to sustain learning after an event.

Most of what I’ve read from you has come from the conference side, which is why I asked that question, frame that question that way, but I really liked what you said in terms of how, you know, they’re, they’re not different. If L&D folks really want people to keep the learning going after a training experience what should they be thinking about when they first sit down to design that experience?

How Do You Sustain Learning After A Training Experience?

Nancy Bacon: It’s important to spend a lot of time with the actions that you hope people will take after they spend time with you. For example, I spent a lot of time training nonprofit board members. I think a lot about what I hope they do, not just what they’re able to do, but what they actually do after spending four hours with me. In my mind’s eye, I might see them advocating for their mission with policymakers, or I see them conducting a board meeting where everyone is speaking up. So once we identify those actions, we can backtrack to the information, tools and support they’re going to need to make that happen.

When I’m sitting down to plan a training experience, I’m going all the way back to what I want them to be able to do. And then I fill in all the gaps so that I can do whatever I can, that they’re able to do those things. 

Brian Washburn: One of the questions that I ask a lot of times is around low-hanging fruit. So, do you have any thoughts or examples of low-hanging fruit, simple things that people can do to keep the learning going after an actual training experience? 

What Are Simple Ways Trainers Can Help Learning Last After a Training Session?

Nancy Bacon: Give them a tool. So for example, in the nonprofit world, fundraising people, in particular, are always talking about “I’m stealing that great donor letter from so-and-so”. And I keep talking about it, you know, let’s get rid this word “stealing”. Let’s use this idea that we are creating models that other people can use. And a lot of times people don’t do stuff because they lack the tools to do it. They lack a sample, a template, a checklist. One of the low-hanging fruit for me is to really find what are some of the tools that we could give people so they can take the knowledge we gave them, but then actually take action with it? 

Brian Washburn: When it comes to learning and development practices or designing, sometimes it’s really tempting for me as a designer to sit down and say, “I think this is what’s going to work”. Do you have any research behind what actually works in terms of not just keeping learning going, but having people actually retain and apply stuff afterwards? Is there, is there a research that backs, what can help people do that better? 

Is There Research Behind How To Ensure Learner Retention After Training?

Nancy Bacon: Oh, sure. There’s a lot of research and that’s where it’s really fun to be in the L&D world right now. There’s a– it’s just such a rich place to dive into that. I lean a lot on Cathy Moore, author of Map It, Emma Weber, who wrote Turning Learning Into Action. Will Thalhimer‘s doing fantastic work in this area and so many others as well. So I think there’s a lot of good research to lean on.

Lately though, I’ve gotten very excited to dive into behavioral economics and social psychology and some of those other topics outside the learning world to see what those folks are thinking about. So people like Daniel Kahneman and Richard Thaler and Robert Cialdini and many others. We’re trying to help people make good decisions. And a lot of that decision-making research is done within the economic psychology world. 

Brian Washburn: Are there a few nuggets that would be eye-popping that would, that would catch someone’s attention?

Economic Psychology And The Research Behind Decision-Making 

Nancy Bacon: Well, so Robert Cialdini, for example. I’m just listening again to the book on tape called Pre-Suasion. And I first heard about his work through the Tagoris folks, Jeff  Cobb and Celisa Steele.

Robert Cialdini talks about pre-Suasion, So how do we set up a situation for success before we even open our mouths? And so the example I like to use is that we often are harping on board members, that board members don’t do stuff. And we’re– you know, they don’t do advocacy, they don’t do fundraising. You know, let’s talk a lot about what they don’t do. So because of Robert Cialdini’s work in psychology, I have really shifted how I frame that. And he has a lot of research about how you set up a tone of positivity and people lean into that positivity. If I talk about how courageous board members are to step forward and to serve this role, and how important it is. And I just need you to do one more courageous thing. I need you to get involved in advocacy, or I need you to help us raise money. And then let’s talk about how we’re going to do that. What I have– I have found a very warm reception to that. This notion of setting yourself up for success, setting your learners up for success. We talk a lot about it in with priming, but Robert Cialdini has been really helpful to me to shape some more ideas around that. 

Brian Washburn: Are there tools that you have found useful in helping learning continue after an event? 

Tools For Helping Learning Continue After Training

Nancy Bacon: Being a nonprofit person. We never really have funding for tools. And so I know my colleague in writing Conferences That Make a Difference, Mark Nilles, he has talked a lot about BoosterLearn and it’s a fantastic resource that he has found useful.

Most recently we’ve used MailChimp, frankly, between tagging and the timing function of MailChimp. You can craft emails and drop them to a group of people without paying for a new system. I don’t really have a whole lot of tools other than that, except not a tool, but how do you use time? I mean, we talked earlier about how do you set people up for success? And I think a lot of that is when you think about doing this and that one of your tools is using time better because if you create your boosts at the time that you’re creating your workshop, then you’ll be able to have more success as you implement that program. 

Brian Washburn: Yeah. And MailChimp, I think will be one that’s that a lot of people are familiar with in terms of marketing campaigns, but using that as a tool at the fingertips of learning and development professionals could be a really, really helpful and unique way for people to reimagine, you know, what they can be doing to keep the learning going.

Heather, I’m going to toss it over to you for wrapping up with our speed round. 

Get To Know Nancy Bacon

Heather Snyder: Absolutely. And that was some great advice, Nancy. Thank you. So we do like to wrap every podcast up with a speed round. Are you ready? 

Nancy Bacon: Go for it. 

Heather Snyder: What’s your go-to food before you give a presentation?

Nancy Bacon: A banana. 

Heather Snyder: Is there a book that you think L&D professionals should be reading?

Nancy Bacon: Yeah. So the book that I really appreciated, it came right at the right time for me, is the book called The Art of Gathering by Priya Parker. And it’s a fantastic book. I actually read it and listened to the book on tape. And it’s fantastic. And there’s a quote from her book that has changed a lot about how I approach events and, frankly, life. And here’s the quote: “the event begins at the point of discovery. 90% of an event happens before people come together.”

Heather Snyder: What’s one piece of training tech you can’t live without?

Nancy Bacon: My chime that I got in a Buddhist book shop in Northeast Seattle. I love it because it’s such a calm way to bring people together that people often comment on it. So like, you know, when I want to call people together again, I ring my chime and they feel like they’re in a Buddhist retreat, which is a great thing if you’re trying to encourage reflection. 

Heather Snyder: Absolutely. 

Brian Washburn: I love, I love that example and that actually inspires me to go out right now and get a chime. I am forever trying to bring people, bring the group’s attention back to the front of the room. And I used to have a chime and it used to work really well. And now it’s just– I’m left to shout– to shout people down. “Come, I need your attention back up here.” 

Heather Snyder: Which isn’t nearly as calming as a chime. I love that idea. 

Nancy Bacon: No. It’s much nicer to be just very mellow. And it catches people by surprise, which is always lovely. The first time you hit it, people are like, “what’s that?” It’s my chime. 

Heather Snyder: And that’s all for this week. Make sure you never miss an episode of this podcast by following Train Like You Listen on Spotify, iTunes, or any major podcasting service. We want to hear from you. Leave us your comments on the blog or tweet us at @train_champion.

This week’s podcast is sponsored by Soapbox.  Sign up today for a free demo at


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