I am sure everyone who has been in a training class has met at least one trainee who couldn't hide his/her boredom. The more polite of these bored trainees try to stifle their yawns (or yawn with their hands covering their mouth). Those who have lesser control over their own physiology and/or psychology fall asleep outright. Some of the bored trainees who are less sensitive to the feelings of the trainer and their fellow trainees find ways to distract themselves – like working on their laptops, web-surfing on their smartphones, drumming on the table, sketching etc.
Irrespective of how the boredom manifests itself, a bored trainee is a problem for the trainer. A bored trainee brings down the overall energy level of the class. Also, it is common knowledge that yawning is contagious. The sight of trainees yawning can actually get the trainer yawning too – and it is very difficult to yawn and talk at the same time! While this sounds humorous, it is a very uncomfortable situation for the trainer. It is very easy for a trainer to lose grip over the class. Ultimately the training does not stick and the trainer gets no satisfaction. Overall, this leads to a waste of time and other resources.
Now, what makes a trainee bored ?
If it is the post lunch session of a training class, it is completely reasonable to expect a drop in energy levels. Obviously a good strategy to manage this would be to engage trainees in hands-on activities or games that need them to move around (where possible). A monotonous lecture is the last thing trainees would want at this time.
Personally, I try to avoid having training classes post lunch. I try to finish the “lecture” part of the training in the morning and leave the post lunch session for hands-on learning. If trainees need to learn something important, why not have them do it early in the day when their energy and attention levels are at a natural high? If you have a training session that is going to take 8 hours of theory, divide it into two sessions of 4 hours each and have the sessions only in the morning (before lunch). It might sound idealistic and impractical, but if you want to deliver training that really sticks, you need to identify when trainees will be most engaged. What is the point in trying to lecture someone when they it is hard for him/her to listen?
If you think you need to proceed with the training even if the trainees are not at the peak of their attention levels, then some serious rethinking is needed. What exactly are you trying to achieve through training ? Training should not be a mere formality. If it is reduced to a formality, then resources (time, money etc.) are being wasted. Training should be viewed as a way to achieve real business results, not something to just get over with.
More on handling bored trainees in future posts.