What can you learn from the Muppets? Lots. For those of us in a certain age group, we can recall those fantastic Muppet Show episodes with Julie Andrews, Paul Simon, Diana Ross and a host of other celebrities. The Muppets would get these respected actors (and Mark Hamill), singers, performers, etc. to don a chicken costume or wrestle with a giant puppet all for the sake of a laugh.
In what ways do we become what we need to in order for the message we need to share to propagate? I think about the tons of training I’ve done through the years and the ways in which I have had to grow the delivery and the content structure to meet the audiences in need of the knowledge. Wow. So many “performances.”
Please know that I don’t use that word – performance – lightly or with frivolity. I mean, performance. The delivery of our information is as important as the information itself. If we are unaware of the learning styles, the history of training in the company or the expectation of knowledge applied in the company, then we’re likely to see training fail. That time will be little more than time off from the line for the average worker.
Ultimately, we know that this is not the desire of training. The goal is usually wanting to expand upon some knowledge already in use and add to its functionality, or use it to build a bridge to another knowledge base. So many times, I have watched the connection light bulbs go off. These men and women, who have honed a craft, see the value in the information presented and desire to add it to the repertoire of duties they have. It’s humbling.
And yet, I have also seen just the opposite. I don’t always hit it out of the park. I watch eyes that seem to say, “OK, how much longer do I have to sit here?” Ugh. That’s not such a great feeling. Our duty as trainers is to give connectivity and relevance which comes from knowing your audience and the material well. It then requires delivery in such a way as to hold attention, show appreciation and encourage participation.
Even in matters of compliance information, how much thought do we put into delivery? With the Affordable Care Act, there is much to share, for example. The material itself can be confusing or overwhelming, so consideration should be given as to how to deliver it. For me, as I've shared with many on this topic, I have begun an information session by asking how the audience would have handled health insurance reform. Obviously, you've got to keep a tight reign on conversation, but it has allowed the hearers to understand some parallels to the ACA. Building blocks.
Listen, constantly doing role play won’t work. Always doing a video isn’t going to do it. Arts and crafts at every training session is weird. Think about variety. Think about holding interest. Think about the goal of the information. Allow that to drive preparation for delivery. Study the material to know it inside and out, yes, but also figure out what the best delivery method would be.
Think about how weird it might have been to sit in the creative arts and development office for a major television network and offer the Muppets as an adult solution to a primetime slot. Crazy! And yet, it worked because the delivery of material (the performance) was mindful of its audience. We stepped outside of ourselves and entered this world. That's what training should afford - setting the stage for dynamic engagement where effectual change occurs.