Magazine article Talent Development

What Does Meditation Have to Do with Training Delivery?

Magazine article Talent Development

What Does Meditation Have to Do with Training Delivery?

Article excerpt

Find out how the fundamentals of meditation can help you with learner engagement.

What do you do for a living? You've probably heard that question before. How do you typically respond? Are you a trainer? An instructional designer? A performance consultant?

Regardless of your response, as readers of this magazine, we are communicators sharing information to change behavior. But are we really communicating, or are we just talking? Are we focused as much on whether listeners absorb our information as much as we are on how we're sharing it? If not, we are only transmitting information, not really communicating it. That requires both parts: transmission and receipt.

During presentations, we parade words across screens. We push through our content without connecting to our audiences. We forget that our learners each have numerous different concerns pulling their attention a million different ways. As a result, we lose them.

To capture and keep learners' attention, we must take a thoughtful approach to designing and delivering training. Perhaps surprisingly, I propose that we have much to learn from meditation. Using some of its fundamental ideas, we can help learners connect with the moment during our training program and encourage them to reflect on what we teach.

Spark curiosity

Getting employees to learn something from a training program is much like teaching someone to meditate. After all, capturing and holding attention is one of the main challenges.

For example, one of my first steps for teaching meditation is getting participants to focus on their breathing--just as a trainer may try and have class participants focus on learning a specific concept. In both cases, you and the individuals you're working with will be surprised how quickly attention disappears. Often, it's only a matter of seconds.

So, here's a trick I use when teaching meditation (and in a moment, I'll describe how it applies to training presentations). As I begin, I always ask my audience to truly explore each breath and become fascinated by the details. I ask them to consider the air traveling into their chests, observe how their bodies move, and notice how their clothes feel against their bodies as they move. I ask them what the tiny impulse commanding them to breathe feels like. Together, these questions get my audience to think about breathing--perhaps the most normal and mundane activity of all--in a fresh way. The questions do something essential for meditation: spark curiosity.

The same underlying idea is extremely important in training. If you can inspire curiosity about what you're teaching, opening your learners' minds to new ideas and perspectives, they will find it much easier to focus on what you say.

Here's how to get started: Introduce any new idea with a slide that shows something abstract and interesting. For example, start your explanation of a concept in your company's new customer service model with an image of a child with a bucket and spade on the beach. Now, instead of snoozing through another letter in an acronym, everyone is thinking, "How in the world is she going to link this back to customer service?"

Now you've sparked curiosity.

Learners want to know the answer to this question, and they're willing to listen so they can find out. You aren't limited to doing this with images, either. You can begin different sections of your presentation with puzzles, videos, or even a question, so long as they spark curiosity and get learners to want to know what you're going to say next.

When possible, try to use this technique every five to 10 minutes. Each time you capture your group's attention, it's only a matter of time until you lose it again, so you'll want to continue sparking curiosity whenever you can. Another good practice is to alternate your approaches to building interest, which will break up your presentation's rhythm. …

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