We were at the dinner table the other night and my husband tossed out a word that was new to me: twitterpated. He assured me it was a real word and made reference to the Disney movie “Bambi“. I thought he was mocking my Twitter use, so I looked it up. Sure enough, the online Urban Dictionary offers the simple definition of “to be completely enamored with someone/something”.
Hmmm….so I wonder if there is any connection to the name given to the Twitter site and this definition. When first using Twitter, I was certainly “twitterpated”. I think I’ve moved past that stage now and am more focused when using this social media tool.
This emotional state has connections to the training function. When people are truly excited about something, especially something new, they have a high motivation to engage. In the right setting, this can lead to accelerated learning. I see “twitterpation” as part of the learning process for participants about to engage in training. The flow goes something like this:
Highly Curious/A Bit Nervous> Drawn In/Want to Learn More> Fully Engaged/Making Mental Connections
Professional trainer and Speaker’s Hall of Famer Bob Pike talks about “breaking the preoccupation” of the participants at the top of a session—to get them to mentally “join” you in the training room. If trainers can harness the excited energy of twitterpation and help learners focus it towards the learning goals, then the learners will benefit.
“But my learners are FAR from excited when they enter the training room” you say. Yes, I’ve had my share of less-than-enthusiastic folks join me. Here are a couple of ideas that will get them in a better frame of mind, if not exactly twitterpated.
Ahead of Time: Set Expectations
When at all possible, I communicate directly with participants in advance of the program. I send an email that’s separate from the “logistics” type of stuff. Just a quick note to say I’m looking forward to meeting them. I try to reinforce that the session will be engaging and interesting (but not necessarily “fun”—I find that some are put off by that word.)
On the Day of the Session
This is basic, but even we seasoned trainers get rushed and take a short cut. Greet everyone before the class starts. Look them in the eye, shake their hand and make an effort to know their name. Participants have a more difficult time being saboteurs when the trainer has made personal contact.
If You Suspect Large Scale Resistance
Meet it head on! People are amazed at this suggestion—“You mean, actually TALK about it—right out loud? Where everyone can give input?!” Yep. If you know for sure that the majority of the group is in a bad frame of mind, my opinion is to address it. I’m not talking about opening the floor for a huge gripe session. You can set the expectation by saying, “I’m aware that there are some issues of concern around XYZ…how about if we take a few minutes to get those on the table so we can air those concerns? Then we’ll be in a better position to set those aside [for today’s session] and move forward.”
Or, a more subtle approach is to do an Expectations/Reservations opener. Put the group into smaller sub-groups and have them create a list of “What I Expect from Today’s Session” / “My Concerns About Today’s Session”. As you debrief this, you’ll surface some of the more pressing concerns and be able to set expectations about what the training will (and will not) be about.
These are just a few ideas for getting training participants in a positive mindset and ready to learn. Please share with me some of your favorite ideas for engaging learners. I look forward to the conversation.