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L&D lessons from… a photobooth?

Photobooths almost instantaneously draw people into an event, breaking the ice and allowing people to move past initial awkwardness to having a good time. Is there anything L&D professionals can do to replicate the photobooth experience, drawing participants in, reducing initial awkwardness and lowering anxiety?


Last weekend I attended a fundraiser and near the entrance was a photobooth. And there was a long line to wait in order to get pictures.

It seems photobooths are en vogue these days – at wedding receptions, birthday parties, church gatherings, office holiday parties. Inside the photobooth, children and adults alike giggle, make funny faces, wear silly hats. The photobooth is an instant icebreaker for some, a must-do destination for others.

On the other hand, there’s training. I can’t say people line up for most training courses. There’s not much giggling or enjoyment that comes out of the training room.

Are there lessons that the photobooth can teach L&D professionals?

The thing about learning is that when anxiety goes up, the ability for people to learn goes down. Herein I think is the biggest area that L&D professionals can draw upon the photobooth experience.

Photobooths seem to be a universal icebreaker in many social settings. I don’t think it’s practical (or even wise) to bring an actual photobooth into the training room for your next workshop, but following are some small, easy things I’ve found that seem to draw people into the training room just like photobooths draw people into an event:

  1. Mr. Sketch Markers. Honestly, I’ve never seen grown adults get sillier over a single other training material. As soon as people realize that the markers are scented, trainees begin to sniff every marker sitting at their table, debating with others – co-workers or strangers – over which color has the best scent.
  2. Table toys. Some presenters like these, others hate them. Of course, presentations are more about your audience’s experience than it is about the presenter. And audience members seem to universally love table toys. I’ve seen people decide not to sit at a particular table because it didn’t have the toy they wanted.
  3. Photos from a previous day (or perhaps even photos from earlier in the day). People love seeing themselves (even if they don’t want to admit it). Using a scrolling PowerPoint presentation and posting photos of audience members in action will immediately draw their attention to the screen during break times. While this could add an element of fun, it can also help remind audience members about material covered earlier in the workshop.
  4. Statistics about the audience. If you have some information about the audience, you can set up a PowerPoint presentation to scroll through automatically during breaks that could include information such as “63% of today’s audience members have ‘manager’ in their title” or “29% of today’s audience members have a Twitter account.”
  5. Trivia questions. If you don’t have pictures of the audience members or statistics about them, then perhaps you can set up a series of PowerPoint slides to scroll through automatically during breaks that ask questions about content covered or content coming up.

There are a lot of thought leaders in the learning and development space who insist learning doesn’t have to be fun. I’m not suggesting here that learning must be fun, but I am insisting that learning doesn’t have to be boring. By bringing some elements into your next presentation that can serve to easily break the ice and easily draw your participants into your lesson, you can reduce anxiety and create an environment in which learning can flourish.

What kinds of activities have you found to almost automatically draw your audience into your presentations? I’d love to hear your tips in the comment section. 

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