Gentle Bamboo Solutions

How to Approach Multi-Day Training, Part 1

Calendar | Multi-day sessions

As a trainer, you may occasionally get the opportunity to facilitate a multi-day training program. Such a program has great benefits. Not only do you have more time to cover a wide range of topics, but you can also dive deeper into them. You also get multiple chances to leave a strong impression on your learners.

This week and next, we’re doing a 2-part series on planning and preparing for multi-day sessions. We’ll cover a total of 6 tips to getting the most out of your program, starting with the most important:

Tip 1: Start every session with a complete recap of the previous one.

Sometimes we overestimate the memory and interest of our learners. Sometimes we assume they have a complete understanding of the lessons. Or sometimes we simply don’t think about these details.

When you are presenting a multi-day presentation, you have to re-earn the attention of your learners each day. You also have to ensure they’ve understood the previous concepts before moving on to more advanced material.

Hit two marks with one arrow by doing full recaps. We recommend spending 15 minutes or even more summarizing the previous day’s work. Don’t be afraid to re-explain a concept if a learner expresses confusion.

Your recap is a gift to your learner. By doing a complete recap, you sub-communicate importance. You show the learners that:

  • The learnings you’re providing are important.
  • It is necessary they understand the previous lessons to proceed.
  • You’re willing to slow down for them if needed.
  • You care about their understanding, not just running through the material.

You can even trigger your learner’s memory by doing some form of a test. Try a simple quiz with a buzzer or a small MCQ. If your subject matter can be applied, you could even ask your learners to create something derivative or artistic from the previous day’s learnings.

Remember, you’re there to teach i.e. implant the lessons in the learners’ mind. Repetition triggers retention, and a recap is always appreciated.

Tip 2: Schedule breaks carefully and generously

Today, it is difficult to keep the human mind actively focused for very long periods of time. Unless you’re in a flow state*, you will need to take frequent breaks.

(*We will cover the flow state in a different blog post. But if you’re interested in learning about it, look up the works of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi or Steven Kotler. You can also start with this article.)

Different research shows different numbers – 18 minutes, 25 minutes, 40 minutes, 120 minutes – but they all agree on 1 thing. After the limit passes, learner focus drops quickly. Attention begins to wander and you get diminishing returns on retention and enjoyment.

A break helps learners relax and allow their minds to wander for a while so they don’t get overwhelmed. Integrating small but frequent breaks during planning will help you keep your learners fresh for longer. As a result, your sessions will be more effective.

For full day sessions, we typically see trainers have 3 breaks – a tea break, a lunch break, and another tea break. Our recommendation is to also have a 5-min bio break every 60-90 minutes. You may also consider a 2-minute silence between each topic or section.

Tip 3: Make each day discrete.

Where possible, your sessions should be discrete. That means the training on a day should be complete by itself.

Suppose you are conducting a training session on workplace conduct over 3 days. Some of the many topics you would need to cover are:

  • how to talk to your colleagues in a formal setting
  • how to talk to your colleagues in an informal setting
  • email etiquette
  • maintaining a relationship with your manager and other leaders
  • handling opposite sex interactions

Rather than cover parts of each topic every day, handle a topic completely on 1 day. Using the example above, you may cover:

  • Day 1: how to talk to your colleagues in a formal setting
  • Day 1: how to talk to your colleagues in an informal setting
  • Day 2: email etiquette
  • Day 2: handling opposite sex interactions
  • Day 3: maintaining a relationship with your manager and other leaders

The advantage of discrete sessions is that if a learner misses the training (for whatever reason), at least they get complete understanding of some topics.

Even if a learner doesn’t miss a day, there is value in understanding concepts in full. They may go home that day and start thinking about applying their learnings. As a result, they may be more excited and engaged at the start of the next day.

There is a deep value to completion. When I sit down to work, I’m much more productive, much more effective, and much happier when I work on one thing and finish it. When I try to do many things in one day and don’t complete any of them, I lose motivation. Your learners might feel the same way.

Discrete sessions are also easier for the facilitator. You are able to structure your program better and conduct it easily. Think about the way you structure your sessions – it can turn an average program into a great one.

Join us next week for Part 2 of this series, where we cover 3 more tips on planning multi-day sessions.