Jul 14, 2010

7 Reasons why people sleep during corporate training sessions

Recently I attended a 90 minute training in my office. Though no one slept (including yours truly) many came to the edge. It reminded of the numerous times I have seen people sleeping off in such corporate training sessions.

There is something which the trainer does wrong. In this post we will understand why this happens and how corporate trainers (be it IT or HR or others) can make sure people are awake while they present.

Reason #1 Dark rooms

The environment has a role to play. If you keep most of the lights off, then be prepared to see people dozing off. I have realised over many years that keeping lights on makes sure less people sleep off. The dark room and the cozy air conditioning make a great case to sleep. I am already yawning just by the thought of it :-)

Reason #2 Too technical

If you are training sales & marketing people to use the latest IT system then you have a challenge ahead of you. When you conduct training sessions on technical matters, make sure you prepare that extra bit hard to ensure you carry every one with you. The moment someone misses out on what you just said, they loose interest. Loss of interest puts them off and they are off to sleep.

To make a presentation less technical talk to a few participants before you make the presentation. Not only should you understand their need, you must also know what they already know, what they want to know and how they will use your information. Then make the presentation and run it through a 'layman'. If your layman, who does not know what you know, can understand the presentation, they you have a useful non-technical presentation which anyone can understand.

Reason #3 Talk to the slides

If you are sitting and looking at your laptop while presenting then your audience cannot be with you. Get up, move around (use a wireless presenter to change slides). Establish eye contact with people. Make sure they know you are talking to them. You are helping them. Move around, touch people, go close, interact. The presentation I last attended suffered from this very problem. The presenters (there were two of them) sat down at one place and kept looking at the laptop while presenting. They kept looking at the laptop and we kept looking at the slides.

It would be great if you ask questions to participants regularly. This will tell you if they are understanding, this will keep them awake. You can try what I once tried during a training presentation. I gave away chocolates to people who answered my questions. It helped me and should help you as well.

Reason #4 Never ending saga

If your audience does not know how long is the training session, they might lose you midway. When we don't know how far is the destination, we always feel it is too far. So what we can do is to share, at the start, how long the presentation is going to be. Do not share the number of slides you have. Share how many minutes will your session will last. That will help the audience.

One more suggestion. Do not be slow and bore people. Move at a brisk pace. If you are constantly interacting with your audience, you will get to know (or will be told) to slow down a bit. It is better to be a bit fast than to be slow.

Reason #5 Merry go round

Repeating something very important is acceptable. But repeating small things too many times is not. It makes people switch off ("I do not want to know how to log in and log off two times. I already know it. So let me check my mail or look around here and there"). Do not repeat stuff in a presentation unless participants ask or you get to know from their body language that the last point you made was unclear to the audience.

Reason #6 Passion & Compassion

You might be an IT expert who loves the software. You know everything about it. But understand that your audience might not share the same passion for the subject. Hence you need to be passionate but also be compassionate. Realise that your audience has come to learn something from you and your job is to help them. Do not go overboard. Tell them how much they need to know. For more, some of them can always approach you later.

Reason #7 Voice modulation

I slept through many classes in my college days. But there was one professor who made me doze off in 90% of his classes. What was different between him and all others? Voice modulation.

He used to talk for 1 hour in the same tone. No up, no down. Like a dead man's heart beat. No excitement in the voice at all. If you talk the same way, most of your participants will doze off as well.

A last piece of advice for trainers.

To make sure no one sleeps make sure your content is interesting. Only being helpful is not enough. When we are interested we are awake. When things get boring we switch off (and doze off). We will not always do what is good for us. As a trainer you have to 'train us in a manner which is interesting to us'.