Top 3 Reasons Why Interactive Exercises Flop

The top 3 reasons why experiential exercises flop

Have you ever wondered why some of the interactive exercises in your workshops or talks just flop?  This month’s Workshop & Webinar Wisdom will give you the most likely culprit:

1. Not providing time for individual thinking. People process information differently.  Some people need a bit more time to process what you are asking before sharing/diving into a paired share to discuss.  Before throwing out a question to your audience or putting people into pairs or groups to interact, give them 30 seconds to a minute to think about the answer individually. I recently worked with a client and had her include a minute  for individual thinking before a few of her exercises and she said people were more engaged and went deeper into the exercise than they had in the past.

2. Not demonstrating an example of what you are looking for first. When you are going into an exercise that may require a bit more explanation or could be more challenging for your attendees to do, demonstrate the actual exercise with a volunteer first.  For example, when I teach Coaching Skills for Managers, before I pair them up to learn the skill of curiosity I actually demo the exercise with a volunteer for a few minutes.  Once they see it done, they are better prepared to go into the exercise and more importantly, they will get a lot more value out of it.

3. Not role playing your exercises in advance.  You might feel you have the most brilliant exercise but so often it’s not until you step through it in advance as if you were the attendee that you realize it may not completely make sense (or the order of events needs to shift). For example I worked with a client who was given a case study by her client that she wanted to role play at the end of her workshop to pull together all the skills she was teaching. I had her role play it out with me in advance.  I took on one role and she the other and after role playing it out we realized the audience wouldn’t have enough expertise to move through it powerfully. They would be floundering too much.  So I suggested she do a demo with a volunteer in front of the room and engage the audience at intervals to help move through the exercise and get the learning.  If she had delivered the case study to her audience without playing it out in advance, it could have turned into a disaster.

You may be thinking, “What if you I want my attendees to get the learning by throwing them into an exercise without a lot of prep?”  (Then, in the debrief, they get more of the learning).  That is perfectly fine to do.  You just need to make a  conscious choice you are intentionally doing that.

So, the next time you create an experiential exercise, ask yourself:

  1. Am I giving enough time for people to think of the answers in advance?
  2. Am I giving enough examples so they know what to do?
  3. Does the sequence I am taking them through logically make sense?
You are experts in your business domain but it takes a completely different skill to translate that domain content into an experience where your attendees get the learning in their bones.