2017-2020: From designing e-learning modules to designing and facilitating workshops

Lessons learned and a few tips to future trainers

Three years ago, I had the opportunity to start working for AbbVie in a new HR role. This new role was still in learning & development, but did not include the design of e-learning modules. I have not used Articulate Storyline over the past three years, but I have had the opportunity to explore another area of L&D: the design and facilitation of instructor-led workshops.

It may sounds a bit backward to go from e-learning to the classroom; after all, we’re all talking about micro-learning, and the classroom seems clearly obsolete, right? Well, not entirely. As I learned pretty early in my career, there’s no best delivery method for training. It depends on multiple factors such as the audience, the complexity of the topic, the budget, the time, the objectives, etc. Thus, going to a classroom for a workshop is still very appropriate in some situations.

Realizing I had not posted for three years and a half, and that there were low chances for me to go back to e-learning design in the near future, I thought it would be interesting to change the scope of my blog from e-learning to learning & development in general. As I am moving away from learning & development and taking on more traditional HR responsibilities, I still want to share my love for learning & development and my experience. The last three years have been incredible: I have been able to use my experience as an e-learning instructional designer in a different way, and to transfer it to the classroom.

Here’s a quick recap of what I have accomplished over the past three years:

  • I planned for yearly training offerings with my team, scheduled workshops and parterned with the business to help them identify needs & learning resources
  • I got certified by DDI to deliver their front-leader workshops
  • I got certified by VitalSmarts to deliver their Crucial Accountability workshop
  • I designed my own workshop, using internal and external resources, and facilitated several times in front of large audiences, getting amazing feedback and having a real impact on the business
  • I facilitated several workshops about leadership skills, change management, personal brand, as well as new employee orientation
  • And more.

And now, what I learned and what I believe every new trainer would like to know:

  • Nobody was born a great speaker or a great trainer. Some people may like it more than others, but in the end it is all about practice, confidence, and more practice.
  • There are many ways to improve your facilitation skills out of the classroom. You can consider joining a Toastmaster club to improve your public speaking skills, as well as taking acting classes. I took acting classes for 10 years during my childhood. I learned so much about public speaking and it helped me build confidence.
  • Co-facilitating the first session(s) with an seasoned trainer is a great way to start and learn.
  • Review the feedback from participants, don’t take it personaly if there are “negative” comments, but take it as an opportunity to improve. Also, keep in mind that it is hard to please everyone!
  • Taking acting classes and being on stage for 10 years taught three critial lessons that I believe are applicable to the facilitation of workshops:
    • You can’t practice your acting skills and your role if you don’t know your lines. First, memorize your lines, then, you can go to reharsal and practice your role. In the classroom, it’s similar: before anything, master your content. If you don’t understand the skills that you are teaching, if you don’t master the flow of the workshop (content, activities, etc.), how do you want to do a good job at presenting it?
    • Speak in front of the audience, learn to project your voice. This one is a bit difficult for some people. Some of us are fortunate to have a voice that is easy to project in a room, that is loud and engaging. Some others have to practice more to project their voices. We can all practice and get better.
    • Unless you are acting in a Shakespeare play that the audience knows by heart, nobody will know it when you forget your line or say the wrong one (unless the discussion does not make any sense, of course). Improvise and keep going! In the classroom, it is the same and even more applicable: you are the expert! People don’t know what you’re supposed to say, how the activities are supposed to be done. So don’t worry if you don’t follow your script (if you have one), if you explain things diffently than usual… just keep going! You’re the only one knowing you did not do things according to plan. Adjust, correct course, and don’t say anything about it! Just keep going.
  • Instructional design skills are amazingly useful when it comes to facilitating workshops. It gives a much deeper understanding of the flow of the workshop, the role of each lesson/activity. It is much easier to make decisions about what elements of the workshops are essentials to the learning of the participants, and which ones can be skipped if you’re running out of time.
  • When it comes to designing workshops, it’s a very similar approach than designing e-learning content: you want to ensure you keep the participants engaged. For that, it’s necessary to have a lot of interaction, videos, exercises, knowlegde check etc. Being in-person adds more options for the activities. We can explore things like role-play, group exercises, flipcharts, group discussions, etc.
  • You don’t know the answer to a question? No big deal. You can either:
    • Send it back to the group to ask the opinion of other participants.
    • Acknowledge that it is a difficult (and good question), and brainstorm with others.
    • Acknowledge that you don’t have the answer, but you can look into it and provide an answer later.

This is already a long blog post, so I’m going to stop there. I really enjoyed working with Articulate Storyline, and to be honest I miss using it and creating e-learning content. But being in the classroom or in front of a large groups at offsite meetings is also an amazing experience.

If you have the opportunity to become a trainer/instructor/facilitator (whatever title you prefer to use!) but you are worried about your ability to do it, keep in mind that we all have to start somewhere, and you will get better with more, more and more practice.