The importance of engagement

150 150 Ellen Ensher
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Blog by: Lena Jennings, Kendall Miller, Vijay Palanivel

The most important step in designing a training workshop is knowing your audience.
Whether you are presenting to a small group of 20 or a large group of 200, there are many things you can to do in advance to ensure that your presentation achieves the desired response. The most important is to know and understand your audience as well as the venue logistics.

To connect with your audience, you need to understand why your topic is important to them. What do they expect to learn from the presentation? Don’t assume the audience is like you. They may have cultural or geographic biases and the more you understand them, the better you can express yourself to them and avoid speaking gaffes. It is also important to know the level of knowledge they have about your topic, so you can present the information with the correct tone to keep people interested and engaged. There is nothing more insulting than to present basic information to a highly knowledgeable audience, and conversely, speak at too high a level for a novice audience.

Our audience was Verbum Dei High School. Verbum Dei is a Catholic High School, established in 1962 for young African American in need of a private education. The schedule was altered by administration to accommodate a work schedule along with academics. The Corporate Work Study program has high school students placed in clerical entry level jobs within different corporations in the Los Angeles area. These corporations pay a fee to have these students work for them and in return have a student from each grade come in on one day of the week. Owing to the young ages of these students, they must be very responsible, respectful and engage in a Safety Training workshop before working.

The hardest part for us was to make dull information such as Safety Training engaging for high school boys.

To start we conducted a needs assessment through a focus group with a handful of Verbum Dei students to learn about their experiences on the job. Through these interviews we found that students experienced difficulty in integrating themselves into the workplace and understanding workplace culture. We also had the opportunity to interact with Christina who was one of the trainers. By interacting with both sides we were able to get a better understanding of the needs of the training. The students were interested in developing the entertainment portion of the presentation. They felt that the materials explained in the presentation lacked flavor and were a tad bit from an earlier time period. The trainers were more concerned about ensuring that presentation included all the federally required information for safety. Their priority was ensuring that the presentation would be able to fulfil a checklist of information.

After conducting our needs assessment we realized we needed to train our clients on three different areas including: identifying hazards in the workplace, effective workplace communication and workplace ergonomics.

In designing our training we wanted to ensure we had multiple points of engagement to ensure our participants were actively listening and engaging throughout our presentation. We did this through incorporating a modified version of the game heads up, a scavenger hunt and conversation cards.

In this training to allow for user interaction and implementation of skills taught in training session we created a modified version of the game heads up, or a reversed version of the classic game, Charades. Participants will form teams of 2, and will have a deck of cards with various safety scenarios that they must act out and have the other person correctly guess what scenario they were acting out. On these cards, we have different office hazards, identified in our training session to including proper ways to lift a box, desk posture, emergency exit procedures, safely using a fire extinguisher, box cutter safety and many more. The purpose of this exercise is to give participants a controlled and safe experience before entering into the workforce.

Next we incorporated a scavenger hunt for students to walk around the building identifying several safety hazards and safe practices. The scavenger hunt allows for students to practice firsthand lifting a box, having proper posture at a desk, interacting with an executive respectfully and identifying the fire extinguisher in the building.

Our last point of engagement within our training session were communication cards. These cards provided scenarios of daily workplace interactions giving students the opportunity to practice having those conversations. With these three points of engagements students were able to internalize the material that was taught and allowed them to get up and raise the energy in the room.

Involving your audience is essential to making an impact. Your presentation should pull them in, get their attention and stimulate their thoughts and understanding. This can be done in a number of ways. The way that you plan your presentation will be critical in terms of using language and ideas that your audience will understand. You must also ensure that there is sufficient time for questions and discussion. The way that you deliver your presentation should create a bond with your audience. Your use of eye contact, gesture, spoken language and energy should communicate effectively and enthusiastically with all areas of the room, thus ensuring that the audience receives positive messages about you and your material.