Themes: Why Your Trainings SHOULD Feel Like a Circus

They sound a little…abstract, don’t they?

Themes…for training workshops? What exactly would that even look like? And what makes themes so fun and memorable?

Let’s start by figuring out how what a theme looks like outside a training context. Like in this clip from a popular TV show.

And as you watch, consider what makes it so hard for the guys in this video to find the right theme.

So what made it so hard for Jim and Dwight to find the right theme?

a scene from the office

  • They don't know their audience.
  • Too many ideas.
  • No ideas she would actually enjoy.
  • No relationship.
  • No pre-planning.
  • They neglected the fact that the party is for her…not for them.

Put simply, they didn't know Kelley. They didn't know their audience. They didn't know what made her tick, what she loved, what would be most meaningful to her.

kelley's birthday on the office

Once they understood their audience, once they understood Kelley, what she wanted, what she needed, then their process of coming up with a great theme that was going to mean the most to her…was a lot more successful.

Let’s watch another clip where someone has a much better grasp on what their audience needs. As you watch, consider what is the main character giving to the various people in this clip? What needs is this main character in this clip meeting for the various people around him?

What was the main character giving to all the various people in that clip?

a gif of hugh jackman

Adventure. Vision, energy, excitement. Freedom to express themselves. Connection, trust, confidence, excitement, joy.

Hugh Jackman was giving people a few things. He's giving the folks around him entertainment. He's giving the people in his circus community acceptance. He's giving Zac Efron wisdom that he's handed down to him as part of finally getting him ready to take over the circus. He's giving Zac Efron an opportunity. He's giving his Zac Efron (and his family) support. He's going to focus on his family.

As you think about a trainer's job, among these five things below, which one do you think is most important for a trainer to give to their learners?

  • Entertainment
  • Community
  • Wisdom
  • Opportunity
  • Support

As trainers, we might not realize it, but I think sometimes if we're honest with ourselves, we might feel a lot more like a ringmaster than we care to admit, right?a man wearing a circus ring leader outfit

Today I think you're going to realize that if we see ourselves as a ringmaster in a circus, managing and balancing all the various acts in our circus, and sometimes that's what our trainings feel like…we're going to be able to meet the needs of our learners.

A theme is really a powerful way to express that inner ringmaster.

So what exactly is a ringmaster’s job? Here's what Wikipedia had to say.

“A ringmaster introduces the various acts in a circus show and guides the audience through the experience, directing their attention to the various areas of the circus arena and helping to link the acts together.” —Wikipedia

How does this definition of a ringmaster, their job, their roles, their duties…remind you of what a trainer's job is?

As trainers, we certainly need to be “ringmasters” managing those things that a ringmaster does in a circus. But I want us to realize that a theme is one of the most powerful ways that you can link all the different activities of your training together.

In this related blog post, I’ll give you lots of examples of how to do that.

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