Different ways to share learnings from a training event
Options, Issues, Questions and a Case Study
For the past few weeks I’ve been thinking on and off about a question:
What’s the best way to shareback with others learnings and insights from a training course?
I’m no expert in learning & development, but one of my colleagues who works in L&D reassured me that:
“This is one of the most challenging pieces to get right around training.”
And I was a bit stuck, so I asked for some help — something I’m trying to get better at doing. I asked some folk at work, I asked on Slack, and I asked on Twitter.
I got some great ideas, and so I wanted to capture them in one place and also share them further. This post is only possible because people shared ideas on Slack and Twitter, so HT and thanks to everyone who shared with me, including Emily Webber, Mark Dalgarno, Mike Fosker, Ian Ames, Chris Thompson, Ben Unsworth, Lindsey, Ross, Lisanne Boon Yew Chew and Tim Ottinger.
I got one piece of feedback that “the sharing what I learned thing whiffs of ‘business can’t be arsed to pay for you all to grow’”. I get the criticism. Financial limits exist, however, and training events can be expensive and there are many ways to learn. So I think it’s important to explore the question of how to spread/scale/sustain the benefits and learnings from training and conferences and thereby maximise value for money.
Some people recommend you do four things after training: Reflect, report back, plan and implement.
There are many ways you can think about for sharing learnings and insights from a training event (whether a course or a conference) and no ‘one size fits all’ approach. Here are some options:
- Share slides or handouts from the event
- Share a recording (but consider the impact of making a recording on ‘live’ participants at the event— eg their willingness to ask questions or openly share challenges)
- Is there a book — or TED talk/video — by the trainer on the topic?
Share that instead. (If it’s a book, you could run a bookclub on it.)
- Write a blog post
- Do some live sharing/micro-blogging during the event, perhaps with a dedicated hashtag — eg via Twitter or another (possibly internal) channel
- Share who is attending the training event, so others know who they can reach out to if they want to speak to someone about it.
- Hold a discussion between those on the course that others can observe or watch back — eg using a User Experience fishbowl format — you could do this daily for a multi-day event
- Present back to people who haven’t been at the event— could be an informal ‘lunch and learn’ type of presentation, or a more formal workshop or webinar
- Create a structured content series based on the learnings. For example: each attendee selects one topic that they share on (eg by recording a short video, or write about, or deliver a webinar around)
- Do some sketchnotes (not something I can do…)
- Run a world cafe event (“a structured conversational process for knowledge sharing in which groups of people discuss a topic at several small tables like those in a café”) in order to stimulate a large group discussion (Here is some advice on running a virtual world cafe, which you can do using tools like Zoom & Miro, which has a template for this)
- Turn the training into a ‘101’ version and run follow up workshops for others internally
- Train the trainer
- Ask attendees to focus one action/topic every week for a period of time, sharing and discussing their insights & experiences on that topic via an open internal channel, so others can observe/contribute
- Put it into practice: Work together on some real work (eg a project or issue that involves applying what they learnt), and then present that back to a group (eg senior leaders) after X amount of time, including a reflection on the impact of the training on the work.
- Other activities/challenges that relate to the ‘real world’: give people a framework/‘in a box’ experience that they explore with their team and then return to share; create hackathon-style activities from the sessions that get attendees together to solve and collaborate on real topics and problems.
Issues & Questions to think when deciding which option to go for
Time, effort, skills, benefit
- What will be the benefit? What will users/recipients get from what you’re sharing? (Start with user needs, thinking about the outcome you’re trying to achieve)
- How much time/effort are you going to put in to sharing your learnings?
- Do you have the necessary skills?
For each option, you could do a quick sort of cost/benefit analysis. For example, sharing slides (if you’ve got permission to do so) is undoubtedly the easiest, quickest option. It costs almost nothing in terms of time or effort. But without adding context, or a chance for discussion/interaction, how much benefit are others going to get out of it, what will it achieve?
Train the trainer is probably at the other end of this scale: high cost (in terms of time & effort), and potentially much higher benefits in terms of others learning. But an issue to think through here is whether the people attending the training have the skills to train others. So, unless the training covers both the specific subject matter and how to train others on this content, then this option can be tricky and the results uncertain. (And asking people to train others also potentially takes them away from their core role/specialism, which they could be much better at, so it may be inefficient as well as ineffective.)
Even just presenting back to people who haven’t been at the training/ conference involves effort and people shared with me that in their experience, even when this was a company policy, it often did not happen or only happened late. One solution someone proposed to this issue is to make sure attendees have some dedicated time to prepare internal follow-ups.
Passive vs active learning
Receiving materials from someone else’s training course can be a very passive activity, and I’m not sure they cut through when there’s lots of information flying about. So if your intended outcome is to help others to learn, I doubt this option alone is very effective.
I fear this same issue applies to blogposts [kinda ironic for me to say that here perhaps…], where someone is sharing their digest/take-aways from an event, although they do at least have the benefit of some personal curation/ reflection. And there’s no limit to their reach/scale.
People generally learn more when they have to actively engage with the contant. So, in order to help others to learn, a key question for me is one that Mark Dalgarno asked me: How can you do something active with people who want to learn what you learned?
A case study
Background/context: a group of us at work are going on a course (10 hours of training). Demand for the course amongst my colleagues far outstrips the number of places we have on the course. It’s £££, so whilst I’d love to have lots more people do the training next year, I don’t think I’ll have the budget. This isn’t one person sharing with their team, it’s many to many (60 to over 1000).
All the options above are on the table, and this is where I’ve got to so far:
A problem shared: I’ve pulled together a group of 8 of us to work on this question.
We’re going to follow a blended approach — providing follow ups via a variety of approaches (eg listen, read, do, share).
Live sharing: Thanks to one colleague’s suggestion, I’ve created a channel in Slack, added all the people doing the training and advertised it in a couple of places. Anyone in our organistaion who wants to can join the channel. The idea is that it’s a place where people can follow the vibe and conversation of things going on during the training. People attending the workshop can share their impressions, takes-aways, and other things to unpack and discuss later. Those following along asynchronously can get in on the conversation at their convenience. Hopefully that will enable us to share thoughts/reactions live, and can lead to some daily discussion. I’ve already got some positive feedback for taking this open approach. In tandem with Slack we’ll have a Miro board to capture some of the converstaion in the workshop. The material in these two tools will also give us an archive to return to later.
Sharing a list of attendees: Thanks to another colleague’s suggestion, I’m going to share the list of who is attending the training, so others know who they can reach out to if they want to speak to someone about it.
A blogpost: As it happens, I already have a blog post on the same topic as the training course that triggered this question/post, so I am (re)sharing that.
Presenting back: I guess we will do some sort of presentation back — eg a couple of colleagues who went to a Mind The Product conference a couple of months back did that in our product guild, and it had an engaging conversational feel/tone to it. A question is how we would most effectively do that: I love Mark’s idea of a world cafe. I would never have thought of that. I think it would be something new fresh, new and engaging. So it’s currently top of my list for follow-ups after the training. I’ll see what the rest of the group think when we meet after the training to decide what to do beyond the slack channel.
Identifying user needs: I’m asking the people who want to learn about the content of this course what would work for them. Comments in the Slack channel may also give us some signals about what would work for folk and so how to scale to the next level.