How do I ensure that my participants are applying what they learned after they leave the room?

This is the question we get asked. All. The. Time. From consultants, facilitators, trainers and coaches. 

Tell me if this feels familiar:

You’re nearing the end of a great session; As a facilitator, you’re just “on”. You’ve delivered the content in a way that people get and are excited about. they have great intentions when they leave, and then it falls flat. 

How do you overcome that?

We’ve spent the last 14 years at Actionable tackling exactly that challenge.

I want to give you a few quick tips – 4 actually – things that you may want to keep in mind in regards to your own facilitation around how to help the people in front of you put ideas into practice. 

As facilitators, we spend a lot of time thinking about content and providing as much of it to our participants as possible.

What we know to be true through our data and external research is that there is no shortage of new information.

The challenge is that people by and large are not capable of taking this new information, distilling it to find relevance, figuring out what needs to change to accomplish that, and then sticking to it. 

Instead of providing them with more content, we need to take the content from their head and move it down to their heart.

They need to care enough about the end to want to make the change happen. This leads me to…

Tip #1 – Shift the focus from content to context.

There have been about a thousand programs run through the Actionable platform in the last year.

The programs that had the highest track record of realizing change were the ones that had less content but more time spent on content.

The ratio we have seen work really well is anywhere between a 3:1 or a 5:1 ratio between context and content.

What does that mean?

If you’re running a 90-minute session, the ideal scenario would be spending 15 or 20 minutes on new content and the balance of the session around discussion, relevance, and moving it from their head to the heart.

You can encourage this discussion by asking confronting and challenging questions such as; How is this essential for you to put this into practice? How is it urgent? What happens if I don’t do anything with this?

You’re likely already very good at striking the balance between content and context.

You will know this for yourself if that’s true because you’ve seen your participants experience what we here at Actionable call, the New Years Eve moment.

The moment they light up, have these powerful intentions and realize “yes, this matters to me!”.

They make bold, sweeping statements such as “I’m going to be a better leader” or “I’m going to be a better parent”.

The challenge is that’s not an actionable – no pun intended – commitment. Being a better leader or parent is the result of a number of shifts in behavior or habit, it’s the practice of the things you taught them.

You didn’t teach them to be a better leader, that’s the outcome. What is the specific next step they need to take to get them to that outcome? 

Tip #2 – Outline the “Laughably Small” First Step

BJ Fogg coined the term “laughably small”.

It’s what that first step for the participant should look like. It’s the tiny thing they can do to start moving them in the right direction toward that outcome.

When you’re in the room, help participants to put their desired habit change into the following statement structure:

When (situation) instead of (current behavior), I will (new, desired behavior), because (outcome). Using our leadership example this could look something like:

When I’m interacting with a colleague instead of leading with my opinion I will ask once qualifying question because I want to be a better leader.

The goal is to that their intention and translate it into something they can do on a daily basis and start getting repetition of this new behavior in. 

Tip #3 – Set up Social Support

It’s not enough to be specific about their change statement, participants also need social support.

Here’s the opportunity to encourage them to find an accountability partner, or, partner them up in the room with someone. Social support and accountability matters a great deal when attempting to change a behavior or form a new habit.

Tip #4 – Give them the opportunity for microreflection

Time and again we have seen the impact small moments of reflection can have during the habit change process.

Encourage daily check ins on how they are progressing with their habit and know that each time they do that they are engaging in this beautiful feedback loop that happens when they take the time to understand what they tried, what worked, what didn’t and how it can be improved the next day. 

Through our platform data, we have found on average between 10-29 days people are able to put new ideas into practice in a way that lasts.

For participants, it gives them great insight into themselves and their own process but for you as a facilitator, it gives you insight into what the next round of content should be. 

In Summary:

If you want to make your content sticky there are 4 key things you need to do:

#1 Spend less time on content, more time on context.

#2 Take their New Years’ moment – that good intention and help them translate it into a change statement that includes an action they can do on a daily basis. 

#3 Partner them up with a buddy to hold them socially accountable.

#4 Give them an opportunity to microreflect, to digest and absorb the information and feed the information back to you in a way that informs everyone as to what the appropriate next step should be.