How many times have you gone to a buffet telling yourself you are not going to overindulge only to waddle out stuffed and feeling uncomfortable. With a buffet you can put a reasonable amount of food on your plate and go back as many times as you want, if you are still hungry. Unfortunately, what many people do is load up their plate the first time with so much food they can hardly make it back to the table without food falling off. When they do get to the table the food items are all in one large mass so you do not get to taste the nuances of each of the items. You then struggle to get through all the food because mom taught you to eat everything on your plate so if you took it you need to eat it. You might even go back for more, even though you are already full, just to make sure you get your monies worth.
When you go to a higher end restaurant they encourage you to take your time and enjoy each of the elements of the meal. They pace the delivery of each of the courses to allow you to enjoy and digest them while looking forward what is coming next. They control the portions so you walk away feeling satisfied, not stuffed and overwhelmed. After the meal you can describe to your friends what you had during each of the courses and what was memorable for you about each of the items. You can also describe how each item complemented the others.
You may be wondering what does any of this have to do with training? Is Willis going to go off on a tangent bragging about his sons and their restaurants? This actually has everything to do with training and as much as I love talking about my sons and their businesses that is not what this post is about.
As a trainer it is too easy to be the guy or gal running the buffet and try to cram everything you know into a presentation. You want to overload people’s plates and have them be stuffed with information at the end of the presentation. What you need to do be the equivalent of the high end restaurant; focus on portion control, timing, quality ingredients and excellent service resulting in an experience they will savour. Rather than try to cram everything you know on the topic into the allotted time, you need to be selective. Deliver the material in manageable portions and in a manner that the participants in your training can enjoy, retain, recall and use the information you shared.
Start with working to determine what that particular audience needs and wants out of the presentation and how you can best meet their needs. Once you put together the information you feel would fit into the time allotted the tendency too often is to think of other material you can add and then find ways to cram that material in to an already full presentation. In reality what you should do is step back and ask yourself, “What do I need to cut out of this presentation?” Your natural tendency may be to tell yourself, “I can’t cut out anything. Everything in here is need to know material. I will just have to make sure I get through it all.”
The problem with this train of thought is that you will tend to rush through material, cut discussions and questions short, or revert to strictly a lecture format so you do not have to take up time with small group work and discussions.
This is all well intentioned. You want the audience to get as much material and information as possible during your time together. You may think it is better to have them walk away stuffed full of the information instead of walking away wanting more. If you try to over feed them they may waddle away with that feeling of being uncomfortable and overwhelmed and unable to retain what you feed them. You would be better to feed them in a manner that allows them to savour and digest the information you fed them.
Having them walking away wanting more is a good thing. You can provide them with recommended reading lists, links to articles and websites, and additional resources they can access to feed that hunger. You can also offer multiple programs, which take a deeper dive into specific areas of interest for people who want more on a topic.
Once you have built the final presentation identify what you can still cut from it if discussions and activities end up taking longer than you planned, as they often do. You can also have material you can add in if things so significantly faster than you planned and you find yourself with insufficient material for the time block.
I have learned over the years to avoid buffets most of the time as my good intentions of portion control usually go out the window during the first pass down the buffet. After 28 years of delivering training I still struggle at times in exercising portion control when building presentations, but I am working on it.
Learn the art of restraint and portion control. Practicing portion control will allow a better experience for both you and the audience.
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