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Our participants come into the classroom with their brains “full.” They are distracted. The training may be a job interruption; they often are not even sure what the class content may be. If we start to deliver content without breaking through learners’ mental, and possibly emotional, state, both their motivation to learn and their retention of what is learned will be sadly lacking. If they don’t retain it, how can they use it?
Openers are important because one of those aspects of memory is “primacy,” the tendency to remember the beginning of a list, presentation, sequence, or training experience. Thus, how we open sets the tone for the rest of the class and is vital in gaining attention, breaking preoccupation, and establishing a learning atmosphere.
Following are two openers/energizers you can easily use in your training classroom. These two activities were specifically chosen because they meet many of the seven objectives an opener is used for: icebreaker, networker, team builder, task tension, relationship tension, personal tension or focus activity.
Meets six of the seven objectives: icebreaker, team builder, task tension, relationship tension, personal tension, focus activity.
For classes of at least one hour
For use with any audience of any size
Time: 5-8 minutes
Equipment: 3x5 cards for all participants, Empty suitcase
Process: The trainer asks participants to brainstorm all the reasons why the class may not be a good or useful experience for them and to write each reason on a separate card. The trainer then opens the suitcase and asks participants to “unload the baggage” that might keep them from benefiting from the class.
Then participants can write ways to overcome their potential “baggage” and share their ideas in small groups, tossing the cards into the suitcase for dramatic effect.
Meets five of the seven objectives: icebreaker, team builder, task tension, relationship tension, focus activity
For classes of at least three hours in length
For use with any audience of any size—break into groups of five to seven
Time: 8-10 minutes
Equipment: variety of distinct and unusual props such as stuffed animals, articles of clothing, vegetables, mirrors, or toys—one prop per team
Process: Note: this activity works well when preceded by another quick icebreaker. Using creative props can help ease tension and stress in learning situations.
The trainer puts participants into teams and gives each team one of the props. Teams are then asked to name their props and come up with three ways that they tie in with the content of the session and share with everyone in the class.
From 50 Creative Training Openers and Energizers by Bob Pike and Lynn Solem. For more information about this book, click here.