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Participant Rewards and Ice Cream for Breakfast

ice cream

I don’t eat ice cream on a regular basis, but I do enjoy a scoop when the occasion calls for it. This weekend celebrates Ice Cream for Breakfast Day. Due in larger part to the sheer originality of celebration, I am excited to surprise my children Saturday morning a bowl of Ben and Jerry’s Phish Food while we are still in our pajamas.

In spite of the annual limits of this holiday, I may normally be discerning in participating. I am not against giving my kids ice cream for breakfast, but I tend to set aside novelty this rare for special occasions. However, my kids each hit a milestone this week and I am more than happy to celebrate with this wonderful holiday that reminds me why novelty is important.

Rewards and celebration are a big part of an achievement. I reward my children when they stretch themselves to do well. My husband and I share a special meal to celebrate even the smallest of milestones. My colleagues have an entertaining toast tradition we share to mark achievements.

Training Participant Rewards

participant rewards - swag

In training, facilitators tend to reward engagement or success by handing out SWAG like stress balls or car decals. If you are not familiar with SWAG, it is an acronym for Stuff We All Get and it is exactly as exciting as it sounds. As a trainer, I want participants to be rewarded for good work and participation. I want to show people that I have put thought into all parts of this training. I don’t think I am showing thoughtfulness by giving out company pens I grabbed from the supply closet on the way to the training.

As I make plans to celebrate on Saturday, I am reminded that rewards need to be more than just SWAG. They don’t need to be expensive or opulent, they simply need to have meaning. If training and development professionals are going to reward our participants, it shouldn’t be thoughtless or worse, insulting. If your goal is to engage participants with a reward, I suggest making it worth everyone’s while and make an effort to match rewards to the objectives. Below are a few suggestions for rewards to engage your learners that are not your typical office SWAG.

Pieces of a puzzle

puzzle pieces as participant rewardCustomized jigsaw puzzles with pieces handed out gradually over a multi-day training motivate participants to continue engagement and inspire a bit of competition to complete the puzzle. With a quick web search, you can find customized puzzle services offered by various companies online. The completed puzzle should relate to the training, perhaps by including the objectives or displaying performance support.

Extra consulting time

Subject matter expert and trainer time is valuable in any workplace. In one of the best immersive training sessions I have attended as a participant, the facilitator and subject matter experts granted consulting time to anyone who showed a predefined level of engagement. Our team earned a lot of free consulting hours that week and we grew very close to that great facilitator.

Swiss army multi-tool

swiss army knife to reward participants

This may be a stretch, but my point in this reward is more about being relative than the actual item. I received a mini Swiss Army multi-tool as a part of a recent training, and it was brilliant. Holding the tool while listening to the training served as an excellent visual and having a tangible item to take home gives me a chance to show others what I learned long after the training ended. The facilitator also explained how he buys them on the cheap from TSA after they are confiscated from airline passengers. Now I have a fun story each time I reach for my stainless-steel, pocket-sized scissors, and this training won’t soon be forgotten.

All training sessions should be meaningful and engaging. To accomplish that, trainers must respect all participant interactions and that includes participant rewards. If you really want participants to engage with their rewards, give them something they will remember; like ice cream for breakfast!

What are the best participant rewards you’ve seen in a training session? Let’s talk about it in the comments!


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