Improve your technical training (1)
1. Divide and conquer
Don’t always train your team or department as a whole. Think about dividing them into different groups for different topics. Try mixed ability sessions (large and small) and single ability sessions, depending on the subject matter. Sometimes you will want to cascade down wisdom or experience from the partners to the junior staff and sometimes you simply need to bring everyone up to date on black-letter law. People can be reluctant to speak up in larger groups and sessions can be hijacked by certain fee earners: dividing groups up can minimise these problems.
2. Alternative formats
When we have to prepare a training session, too many of us reach for MS PowerPoint or Word and produce either a presentation or handout, without thinking about the alternatives. There are many potential formats for a training session – for example, case studies, question and answer sessions, workshops, webinars with facilitated discussions afterwards, Gurteen knowledge cafés. Even audience participation in a mini-play or demonstration (this worked well for me once in an introductory training session on fatal accidents, with various fee earners pretending to be widows and children). Consider which format will suit your subject matter best. Initially this may appear to create extra work, but it can make the session more memorable and more interesting to prepare and present.
3. Start the session with a bang
Everyone knows how difficult it is for fee earners to switch off from their work and concentrate in a lunchtime session. Why not start the session with a case study or a question and answer session. You can always repeat the questions or a similar case study at the end to see what people have learnt.
4. Avoid silences and use stooges
Why not pre-warn some attendees about the questions you will be asking the group to get the discussion started, or ask a few colleagues to think of one interesting question or discussion point each.
5. Offer rewards
Incentivise your attendees for participation. Gold chocolate coins for contributors in a session on quantum? Jelly beans for the first correct answer in a quiz?