I am preparing for a full day’s training, and I mentioned that fact casually to a neighbour over the weekend. “Goodness” she said, “how on earth do you keep them awake for that long?”
A valid question. If, of course, the training was delivered in one solid continuous block it would be indeed almost impossible to keep them awake!  But we have been doing this for a long time, and we have a few tricks!
First, we understand that it is absolutely impossible to keep people awake if you bore them to death;  a lesson I learned very early on in my army career.  One cannot say that the “Angle of Declination’ is an earth shattering topic; and trying to interest a group of hot and tired soldiers after an couple of hours spend marching hither and thither across a hard standing parade ground in tropical Far North Queensland, would indeed be an exercise in futility. So to manage to ‘keep them awake’ I had to devise a number of artful ways of concealing the fact that they were being lectured at.
Secondly, we also understand that our audience’s attention span lasts only as long as their comfort zone.  When they become uncomfortable for any reason, they loose their interest in anything other than their personal ease. 

A full day’s training can be really overwhelming if it is not approached the right way.
It is necessary to understand that you simply cannot spend the whole day ‘training’.  You really need to divide the whole day into manageable portions.  Luckily, our day’s training consists of a number of skills that can easily be handled individually.  Each skill is taught as a separate and complete topic in itself.
Then we take great care to ensure that each portion is handled in a very interactive way.  Can you remember from your school days, when you were forced to sit and listen to a recitation of facts and figures which, while essential, were dull and uninspiring?  You may remember the dull factor, but I wonder if you remember the facts themselves?
Interactive training is a byword in Trischel, we are known for our innovative training methods.  We take seriously the fact that most people learn differently, but the best method of delivering information is to use all three of the VAK principles.  We like to get our students involved personally and actively in the subject matter and have been known to introduce the humble Bean Bag as a highly effective training aid!!
Some topics adapt quite naturally to this approach, but others may need some very lateral thinking on ways in which we can incorporate activities designed to teach – and yes, to keep them awake.
Games, role play, group activities, buzz groups, case studies etc, are all ways in which we can incorporate our students physically in our training.  But there is one much simpler fact which is often overlooked when planning for a full-on day of presentations.
It is this – never, never, ever keep your students sitting still for more than 15 minutes.  Unless you are very lucky, the chairs supplied in most training rooms are designed to create personal discomfort within twenty minutes, and the good presenter knows that and stops before pain starts!
Even individual topic session need to be further broken down into 15 minute lots. After 15 minutes of the teaching phase, we need to change the focus entirely.  Movement, relaxation or change of activity must be included to ensure that our student’s are maintaining their focus on the topic in hand.
Too many new trainers [or indeed anyone having to give presentations that last for over an hour] focus entirely on what they need to say, on how they are going to say it, and lose sight of the length of time they intend to say it in.
If you have to give a presentation for over one hour, you too will face the same problem that we face – how are you going to keep them awake?  Even you will have to consider how to break your topic up into more manageable portions, making sure that each one is no more than 15 minutes long as a maximum.
Even you will have to consider what methods, other than just standing there and talking them to death, will you incorporate into your presentation.  Remember that learning takes place on three levels, hearing, seeing and doing.  How can you incorporate that knowledge into your presentation?
A quick and very easy solution – use question and answer mini sessions. Or you could include quick and simple learning games which you can find on Google; and if all else fails stop and give them a two minute comfort break to allow them to move and stretch and get the blood flowing through those numb limbs again. 
If you consider these simple techniques as well as your well researched, prepared and rehearsed presentation, you should have no difficulty in “Keeping them Awake”
Michele @ Trischel

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