When teaching skills such as telemarketing, selling, or service, you need to cover concepts and then provide lots of time for practice. Alas, workshop time is almost always at a premium. If you spend a lot of time teaching concepts, you won’t have enough time to practice applying those concepts and the results will be unsatisfactory.

To free-up workshop time, you can teach concepts and information ahead of the workshop in self-study pre-work.If possible, design the pre-work so it appeals to most learning styles. For example, design the pre-work so it includes:

  • Reading (visual).
  • Exercises that include observation and listening-in (audio).
  • Exercises or tests that require typing, writing, underlining or highlighting (tactile and kinesthetic).
  • Exercises that require students to think through scenarios or write about their experiences (experiential).

The good news

Reading will teach most people the needed concepts and information, all by itself. Reading works well for a few reasons: Very, very few people require just one style of learning information. Most of us are used to a heavily visual delivery, perhaps because that’s how we’ve been taught since childhood. And most adult learners add their own preferred method when possible. For example:

  • “Audio” learners often listen to music while reading. Some also like reading in the midst of their noisy work area, too. (Whereas strongly visual learners find that distracting.)
  • Tactile and kinesthetic learners often highlight materials and take notes on their own.
  • Kinesthetic learners often take frequent breaks – getting up and moving around.

Notice that the added component does not match the visual – it doesn’t have to. Instead, we give our brain’s preference something to work with and that makes it much easier for the visual to sink in.

Notice, too, that the heavily experiential learners are left out. You can help by encouraging them to bring questions and concerns to their manager or trainer while they’re reading. However, most won’t do that and so trainers should be prepared for these folks to raise questions and concerns in training. They’re not trying to be disruptive, they’re just trying to get information to sink in.

The bad news

If your crew is not likely to complete pre-work on their own someone will have to manage things so it’s completed. Otherwise you should skip pre-work altogether.

Work time will still required : Making people complete pre-work on their own time undermines buy-in and that pulls down the return on training investment.

And you’ll still need a little time to cover concepts and information in a workshop.

The last bit of bad news is that once you get to the workshop, it can be easy to over-cover or over-review. Let’s face it, many trainers like the spotlight. In addition, one of the best ways for students to delay the dreaded role-play is to keep asking questions and raising concerns. Those experiential learners will be right in there with them, but for different reasons. Don’t let any of that impact the workshop: Make yourself put practice in the spotlight; and challenge students to test-drive the skills, leaving the decision about whether they work for later.