Teaching is an art form. Great teachers hold our attention, make us laugh, help us to fully understand complex subject matter and, most of all, inspire us.
Gaining this kind of engagement from your students takes practice and experience, but even if you’re new to teaching, there are steps you can take to make your workshops or training as interesting as possible.
Ready to set aside those snore-inducing lectures, and make your events fun and interactive? Start with these 9 fun workshop ideas:
1. Make it relevant
First and foremost, to earn people’s attention, you need to make sure the content you’re delivering is useful to them. How do you learn exactly what they want out of your course? Ask them.
Conduct some initial research with your target customers to shape your course content, or send a pre-event survey to your attendees so they can pinpoint problems or topics they’d like to hear about.
On the day of your training or workshop, kick off by giving a brief overview of what attendees are going to learn and how those skills will help them achieve their goals.
2. Accommodate different learning styles
People learn in different ways. Some of us are visual learners who prefer pictures, videos and diagrams, while others respond to spoken and written word, music, logic, or even physical activities.
To create an inclusive learning environment, try to combine traditional linguistic teaching methods with audio and visual presentations, written handouts, interactive tasks, and group work.
3. Change the room layout
Training rooms are always laid out in the same way – rows of tables and chairs. Challenge the convention and surprise your attendees by perhaps providing beanbags instead of chairs, standing podium tables, or tables with just a few chairs to encourage small groups.
Your choice of venue can also have an impact on engagement. A space full of light, color and texture can prove far more inspiring than a bland, windowless meeting room.
4. Use props
Props can make your teaching even more engaging. These could be practical that literally represent your subject matter (think scales, an abacus, or a mannequin) or they could be ridiculous (try a rubber chicken or magic wand). Props liven up your session, and will help people remember what they learned.
Your training or workshop might be serious, but people learn best when they are having fun.
5. Play games
Need to keep your attendees focused? Tap into their competitive sides. Puzzles or riddles, crosswords, memory games, ordering tasks — all are great ways to keep your attendees engaged and on-task. For added drama, impose a time limit.
Try introducing a quick quiz at the end of each content section, helping recap on what’s been learned, and offer a small prize for the winner.
6. Tell stories or use metaphors
Whatever you’re teaching, try to make it relatable to everyday life by using real examples, case studies, and creative metaphors. People will sit still for hours watching a movie — why not steal some cinematic tricks?
Another bonus: metaphors and stories are central to the way memory works. A great story will stick in your attendees minds much longer than a chart.
7. Play music
Music can set the mood and get attendees energized before your session and during breaks. Play something upbeat to pump them up, and lower it back down to let them know it’s time to start.
You can also use music during the session – soothing classical pieces help people concentrate while completing tasks or group work.
8. Keep it short
One of the best ways to keep your audience engaged is to not overload them with information. Give them too much, and their brains will simply shuts off.
Either make your session a maximum of two hours or, if it’s taking place over the course of a day, schedule in plenty of short breaks. Give attendees a chance to get up, walk around, and grab a cup of coffee.
Give them time to write and organize notes and assist them by providing pens, pads, sticky notes and highlighters.
9. Provide recognition and reward
Attendees will be more motivated to successfully complete the course if their efforts are recognized — and if they have something to show for it at the end.
Let attendees know they will receive personalized certificates to mark their participation. You should also consider extra incentives such as a competition or small prizes for the best students. Again: tap into those competitive streaks!
Teaching is as much about entertaining your audience as informing them. Make your training or workshops lively, varied, fun and unexpected and your participants will learn more — and be more likely to come back for more.