As a trainer you want your training to be remembered. Otherwise, what’s the point?

The trouble is, most training – especially technical training – is presented in the least memorable way possible. Technical training is often a long slog through a list of features. I can’t remember my shopping list. How am I supposed to remember a four-hour list of technical details?

I was in a training session recently for a company that was shifting their email from Outlook to GMail. The trainer was knowledgeable and helpful – she was able and willing to answer everyone’s questions – but I can’t remember any of the training.

We started on the left-hand side of the screen and trudged our way through each of the menus: “General”, “Label”, “Inbox”, “Accounts”, “broccoli”, “mustard”, “sour cream”. No, wait, that was another list.


What did I get out of that training? Well, I know that you can change the background colour of your emails.

Monotony and lists create inattention and boredom. How can you make your training memorable and compelling?



Let’s see how…

Our brains are engaged by open questions and unsolved problems. Every great Hollywood movie holds our attention for the span of the film with one big question. How can we stop the robots? Will she get back home? Or the classic: whodunit?

Your training may not save the world, but it does need to answer a question someone cares about.

As a payroll administrator, how will this new accounting package make my job easier?

Once you’ve got your training framed by the big question, it’s time to think about the details.

You can use contrast in your presentation style in lots of ways to keep your training engaging.

Contrast facts with stories. You need to get the information across but lists of facts are hard to remember. Cement those facts with stories that illustrate them. Up above, I told you that lists of features are hard to absorb. Then I told you a story about some GMail training. That story didn’t add any new information, but it changed the pace of the writing and – hopefully – helped make the point stick.

Small dashes of humour can help. In the GMail story, I started off listing the menu items: “General”, “Label”, “Inbox”, “Accounts” and then drifted off into my shopping list: “broccoli”, “mustard”, “sour cream”. I’m sure no heads were laughed off or sides split but it illustrated the point (lists are hard) in an unexpected way.

You can switch between lecture-style presentation and workshop-style interaction, and between theory and practice, between seeing and doing, to add contrast.

One of the most important contrasts to add is between what is and what could be. People should come out of training wanting and able to do things differently. When you contrast the way things are with the way they could be better you provide the impulse for that change.

Ask yourself: what do I want this training to change. Then use the idea of that change to create the contrast that makes your training memorable.

Remember the GMail training? (If you do, you’re doing better than me.) Don’t run through your product features like a shopping list. Create memorable moments with the brain-waking power of contrast.

Create big-picture contrast with that most powerful contrasting pair: problems and solutions. How will shifting from Outlook to GMail make my life better?

Create small jolts of contrast throughout your training to keep your trainees’ brains alert. Use questions and answers, data and stories, what is versus what could be.

You can slog through a list with no preparation. But what would it be worth if your training was two times, five times, or ten times more effective?

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