Table of Contents

Training Tip: The Messy Start

training room

Imagine a world in which the training session begins as soon as each individual learner enters the room.  The learners don’t have to wait for the official start time.  There’s no awkward sitting and waiting and passively watching other learners enter the room, wondering who (if anyone) will sit next to them.

Imagine a world in which a facilitator can break the ice without eating up a single minute of precious classroom time.

This is the world of the “messy start”

The messy start is a strategy I first experienced in grad school.  My professor (Jean Singer) posted a flipchart with the following instructions at the entrance of the room:

“Welcome.  As you enter, please grab a marker and write your response on each of the flipcharts posted around the room.  Then walk around the room and read what your colleagues have written.”

Normally there’d be a series of 4 or 5 questions related to the day’s topic posted on flipchart around the room.

I’ve adapted this strategy to my training sessions – I’ve found it a useful way to get my learners thinking about the topic at hand as soon as they walk into the room.  Participants who show up 10 minutes early now have something to do.  Even before the session begins, I get an idea of how much my participants know about the topic at hand, what their expectations for the session are and I have a host of participant thoughts to reference throughout my session (“When it comes to getting organizational change to stick, several of you wrote that there need to be adequate incentives.  This is true, but even before we think about incentives, there are several other things to keep in mind…”).

How does the messy start work?

flipchart with people
  1. Come up with 3 or 4 or 5 questions related to the topic you’d like to have your audience think about.
  2. Write each question on a separate piece of flipchart paper.
  3. Hang these flipcharts around the room prior to participants entering.
  4. Distribute markers around the room for each participant.
  5. Post instructions for the messy start activity outside the entrance on a flipchart and/or on the projection screen.
  6. Greet participants as they enter the room and encourage them to pick up a marker and begin writing.
  7. Be sure to refer to the comments that participants have written – during your introduction and during the session as each topic arises.

Looking for other great training activities?  The all-in-one presentation creator, Soapbox, is the tool you need to help you lesson plan with ease. Not only is Soapbox jam-packed with awesome activities just like this, but it will also help you write your objectives, create ready-to-print handouts, a facilitator guide, and slide deck. The best part? All this can be done in as little as 5 minutes! Ready to make your life easier? Fill out the form below.

Articles Similar to Training Tip: The Messy Start

How to create a training plan in under 10 minutes

Using a lesson plan template (which is the most downloaded resource from this blog) can help give you structure. Using Soapbox can save you all sorts of time (and still give your presentation some structure)!

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.

Better PowerPoint
Erin Clarke

Creating Better PowerPoint Slide Decks, Faster

PowerPoint can be a very powerful visual aid and important tool for training… if it’s done well. Creating a better PowerPoint Slide Deck is about organizing your thoughts before you even open PowerPoint on your computer.

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!

activities cookbook

Download the Training Activity Cookbook

Enter your email below and we’ll send you the PDF of the Endurance Learning Activity Cookbook.

training facilitator evaluation rubric - page 2

Download the Facilitator Evaluation Rubric

Enter your email below and we’ll send you the PDF of the rubric to help you assess the skills of someone delivering training.

Download the What's Possible in L&D Worksheet

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.