How to persuade learners with stories, emotions and more

Found this great presentation on eLearning by SHIFT eLearning on Slideshare:

The secret recipe to a truly persuasive eLearning course is simple, at least in theory. Professionals in the fields of psychology, advertising, marketing and copywriting, have talked about some “rules” on how to persuade people. But all these rules lead us to two things: the human brain and human emotions.

Great stuff!

+Alesandra Blakeston

rule 6

Training from the back of the room

SharonBowmanI’ve recently re-read a book by Sharon Bowman entitled Training from the Back of the Room.  If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it as being both practical and also full of interesting and thought provoking theory!  It combines our current understanding of how the brain works with practical exercises designed to make any training course fun and effective!

I thought I’d take the time to summarise some of the main points in the book.  Please note,  this is only a summary.  There are some fantastic games and tools in the book and it is well worth a read!

4Cs of training


Trainees learn more and actually remember more of their training when they can connect their past experiences and their current understanding and knowledge of a subject with what they are learning.

Therefore for the training to be useful, the trainee must be able to connect what they will learn with:

  • What they already know
  • What they think they know
  • What they want to learn
  • What you want them to learn
  • Each other


This includes the global learning objectives, their own learning goals, the other trainees.  Ask questions; get the trainees to participate and ask each other questions; review the objectives and goals.  Ideally the trainees should try things out, make mistakes and express their opinions.  Not only will they be more engaged, but they will connect with each other and with the training material.  Trainees learning from other trainees is a much more effective method than a trainer lecturing from the front of the room.  Ensure the work environment is friendly and cooperative rather than competitive!
Concepts are the important facts that learners need to know in order to demonstrate competency.  Often a trainee knows more than what they think, and the parts they don’t know, others in the course will.

Teach only the need to know information

It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking of yourself as an expert when you are a trainer.  Instead, try to think of yourself as a facilitator.  Your purpose is merely to help the trainees to get to the information they need.  Instead of spending 2 hours lecturing your class on everything you know about a subject, get the trainees to teach each other.  You can of course, fill in the gaps, but limit the information flow to only what the trainees need to be successful.

Keep it simple, Keep it short

Everyone’s brain gets tired.  In a world of people raised with TV commercials, we’ve become accustomed to breaks every 10 – 15 minutes.  After this we get cranky and start to fidget.  The brain needs to be refreshed and to be re-stimulated in order to keep the training effective.

conceptsUse graphic organisers

Make it visual, and make it organised to appeal to the creative and the logical trainees in the room.  Not only do people learn what they write, but they remember where they write.  We all have a visual spatial memory that remembers how information is set out on the page, it remembers charts, diagrams and pictures.  Get the trainees to make their own notes, it’s more personal and more likely to be remembered.  Since it’s active, it’s more likely to keep the brain stimulated.

Try using concept maps.  Get the trainees to create their own as the training continues.

  • Basic maps (also called cluster or bubble maps).
  • Flow chart maps
  • Burger maps
  • Free Flow maps
  • Timeline maps

Be interactive

Each trainee in a training session is surrounded by an array of sensory information.  Their brains will be working overtime trying to process what is relevant and useful and what is not.  In addition, often in a training session, the training relies on using only the eyes (to read the PowerPoint presentation) and the ears (to listen to the presenter).  This is highly ineffective as there are many other ways that the trainee can learn:

  • Hearing
  • Seeing
  • Discussing
  • Writing
  • Reflecting
  • Imagining
  • Participating
  • Teaching it to others

Personally I learn best when using a combination of drawing and explaining it to someone else – you could argue that I was a born trainer.  But in fact it’s simply how my brain processes information best.  When I am trying to explain it, my brain is sorting and re-organising the information I have, trying to find the best way to explain, that makes sense to me.  As a visual, that is usually in the form of a diagram.  Other people I know like lists and colours.  Some prefer a more practical hands on approach.  The best training covers ALL of these styles to ensure that the information is conveyed and retained.

One-minute reviews

Used to clarify misunderstandings, misconceptions and confusion.  They also work as refreshers for the brain!  Get the trainees to review the learning with each other.  They will correct each others’ mistakes and helps them form more connections!
Concrete Practice
Regardless of your learning style, until you have put the training into practice, or actively reviewed the information, it is not real.  By actively participating, you have a better chance of transferring the information from your short term memory to your long term memory and therefore of retaining and regurgitating it later.

Concrete practice is not watching the trainer perform!  It is not watching a video, or watching one or two trainees do the task.

concrete practiceConcrete practice is physical!

Mistakes ARE PREFERRED!  However, skill building is the objective of concrete practice, not highlighting shortcomings.  Handling the way the trainees make mistakes during the physical practice is very important. They need to know that mistakes are NORMAL and that the trainer will be there to point them in the right direction.  Not to take over, or to use one trainee as an example of how not to do the task!  Concrete practice must include active participation by everyone.  Each learner should have multiple opportunities to demonstrate and practice the skills

Concrete practice is collaborative!

Get the trainees to help each other perform the tasks.  Get them to encourage and build up each other.  Competition in this case can actually be harmful.  Humans are social we exist in networks.  Collaboration (working together) increases the chances of learning and retention.  Competition focusses on the trainees individual performance, so they stop helping each other.  Often it only helps those who thrive on adrenaline fuelled situations and even then, it only helps them hone what they already know.  Instead down play the competitive aspects and focus instead on group learning.

Individual accountability is key!

The trainees need to know what it is they are expected to know and how they can determine their own competency. Individual goals and accountability helps to keep the learners focussed.  Tie the training in to the learning outcomes using practical activities.  Teach back activities ca be really useful here.  It helps to deepen the trainees understanding as well as make them aware of what they have already learned and how much they still need to learn to attain their learning goals.  It also increases the social connection and gives them confidence to continue as they clarify and strengthen their training.

What the learner thinks and says and does is more important than what the instructor thinks and says and does!

In a series of learner focussed closing activities, get the trainees to:

  • action planSummarise what they have learned
  • Evaluate what they have learned
  • Make an action plan
  • Celebrate the learning experience

Conclusions should engage the trainees until they walk out of the room!  They help the trainees to reflect and to make the final connections in their learning.  The action plans help them to cement the training into place with more active practice.
Final Points
Hopefully, you found this summary useful!  Before I read this book for the first time, I was already doing some of the 4Cs, but not all and not systematically or deliberately.  Now years later, I am happy to say that the 4Cs are endemic in my training sessions.  I can proudly say that I teach from the back of the classroom!

+Alesandra Blakeston

A ship that floats in water can also sink in it

smooth sailingThe title of my blog today is quite unusual for me in that it doesn’t seem to be very inspiring; the post will be though!  It is an important point, one that I’ve been trying to make sure that my interns know.  For the most point I try to instill confidence in my interns; get them to see their potential and get them to feel ready for life in the “real world”.  However, I also don’t want them to over-reach or be overconfident and then lose their confidence and have to begin again!

I was reminded of this saying after reading these two posts “Strike a balance between over optimistic views and realistic attitudes by Ferdinando Pennarola and “Tips For Success In Your Personal Development” by Tongue95David.

Incidentally this post also applies to myself as well as my interns.  This week sees me back in the States, looking for a place to live before starting a new position within the company I work for in August.  It’s going to be a big change for me; I’ve spent the last 14 years working within one group with a completely different manufacturing process to my new position and group.  I’ve also worked mainly in Europe (UK & France), so USA is going to be a little different.  As a result, I’m very excited to start this new challenge and I’m learning lots and lots of new things all the time.

For me and for my interns, starting a new position is a good thing.  Change is good!  When a company hires you (or transfers you) they want you to succeed.   So they are going to give you the resources and the help that you need getting started.  However you have to be open to it.  You have to be willing to change, to be open to differences in culture and routine, and you have to embrace the change.  You may have been top dog in your old position, but who knows what will happen with your new one.  Be humble, be open and you will soon be sailing at full speed.  If you keep your mind and habits stuck in the ways of your previous position though, you may just sink!

Of course this also applies when you don’t change position.  You could be working the same position for several years, a change occurs and suddenly your boat has hit a metaphorical iceberg and you start to sink.  So how can you avoid becoming the next Titanic, and keep your boat afloat?  Here’s a few ideas that could help!

1. Know yourself, your strengths and your weaknesses

Work on your weaknesses and play to your strengths.  Be open to training, be honest with yourself and others and challenge yourself so that you are always in the mindset of continuously improving yourself.  If you embrace this concept, you will soon get used to change!  Being weak in an area is not a liability, it’s not a fault.  It is simply an area to improve an area that you can grow.

The original Titanic courtesy of wikipedia
The original Titanic courtesy of wikipedia

2. Build up a network of people whose strengths compliment your weaknesses

If you cannot do something yourself, then the next best thing is to know someone who can.  They in turn will have weaknesses, so sharing your strengths will help them as they in turn help you.  Of course, don’t just stop there, you never know when someone in your network will be able to help you solve a problem, even in subjects where you feel you are an expert.

The same applies to having the answers.  Know who to go to in your organisation (or within your network) to find the answers.  You don’t need to have all the information yourself, just know where to get it!  No-one is perfect, and no-one is expected to be perfect.  The old adage information is power is just that – OLD.  Information is now freely available to all via the internet.  Tomorrows leaders won’t be subject matter experts, they will be experts at using information.

3. Be receptive

Be receptive to criticism.  You will never get it right 100% of the time, but you can always learn from your mistakes and improve your techniques!  Remove the words “but” and “no” from your vocabulary.  Instead ask “why” and “how”.  Say things like “Could you please explain?”

Be receptive to new ideas and new opportunities.  You know the saying, you cannot teach an old dog new tricks?  Well, you can, but only if the old dog wants to learn!  No matter your age, if you are closed off, you won’t improve.  If you are one of the older generation, find yourself a reverse mentor, to keep you young and keep you up to date with new technologies.  If you are one of the younger generation, find yourself an older mentor to help you gain experience and help you avoid the common pitfalls.

leaders4. Remember there is always someone that knows more than you do!  

No matter how good you think you are, there is always someone better.  In addition, since technology is constantly changing, it’s probable that what you know will also become outdated and need to be updated.  The best leaders aren’t worried about looking stupid or of making mistakes, they simply want to continue developing and growing both themselves and their people.

And that’s it.  I’m sure there are many other tips, so please post them below.  I’ll probably not post myself so much this week due to the travelling, so apologies in advance, but next week I should be back on track.  In the meantime, feel free to post your comments and look through my older posts.

+Alesandra Blakeston

Training, Learning and Development Quotes

Slide27I was reminded recently of a quote by John F Kennedy:

Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other

As a leader and a trainer, you can see why I would appreciate this one!

I fully believe that as a leader my job is not just to develop my team, but also to recognise the potential in them, leverage their existing talents, to encourage them to see themselves for who they are and give them the confidence they need to become the people that they can be.

I also think that no matter how much we learn there is still infinitely more that we could learn, but also because when I train someone I want to inspire them to push the boundary of the subject, to learn more than I could ever teach them.


Then I was reminded of another quote, this time by Socrates:

Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel


Since my post a few weeks back on Leadership Quotes, I have received a few requests for quotes on training, development and learning so here goes…

Hope you find them as inspiring as I do!  As usual, the presentation is available for view on and you can download the *.PPTX version here.

Alesandra Blakeston