Making learners feel comfortable and welcome from the moment of contact is critical to setting a productive learning environment. No trainer would disagree with this, right? Then WHY are so many of us unprepared when learners are entering our classroom - be it physical or virtual?
When learners arrive to the learning environment where a trainer is still prepping the room and handling logistics, it's like inviting guests to a dinner party and answering the door while you're vacuuming the rug or touching up the paint on the wall. That's rude, right? Well so is not paying attention to the learners from the moment they walk in. Here are some guidelines to follow to help learners feel comfortable and welcome in both a virtual and physical classroom environment.
Before the session:
1. Send the learners a reminder of the session. This should include a WIIFM or benefit statement of the training along with a snapshot of the content that will be covered. Take this moment to introduce yourself as well…tell a bit about who you are and how you come to be facilitating the session. Also cover logistics like date, time, and location of the training, a map if needed and any security measures that need to be followed. Letting learners know if food is provided throughout the day is also helpful as well as a list of luncheon places nearby and directions.
2. Pack up your things the night before. Ensure you have all electronic equipment with you and that it’s working. If it’s a VILT class, visit your platform and load the PowerPoint. Go through the features one more time if needed. Also, if there is a handout or job aids for the learner, make sure they are also available on the site or through a link.
Day of session – before learners arrive:
1. Arrive 60 – 90 minutes prior to start time. This applies to VILT also. Sometimes it’s not as easy to enter the platform as you thought – the technical gods don’t always work in our favor.
2. Check to see the room set up is as you planned and that all AV support is there. For VILT, ensure the PowerPoint is still there and that you have a welcome slide up or introductory loop operating.
3. For a physical classroom, place welcome signs up first, then set up the tables for the participants. Place workbooks neatly at each table, along with name tents, markers, pens, stickie notes and table top toys (squishy balls, puzzles, etc.) to help keep those kinesthetic folks busy!
4. After the tables are set in the physical classroom, work on your visual support and place the first slide up to welcome folks as they come in.
5. Make sure all of your notes are in order and you know what the first few words out of your mouth will be when you start!
As learners arrive:
1. Step AWAY from the front of the room and greet each of the participants as they enter the room. Unless they have arrived uber early, you should welcome them by introducing yourself and finding out a bit about them and why they are taking this class. This is particularly important in a VILT environment where people tend to slink in and then get offended if you didn’t notice.
2. Inform participants of where the restrooms are and point them in the direction of snacks or beverages that you may have provided or where they can obtain them. In a VILT room, remind participants of the start time and encourage them to take a minute or two to get their physical environment set up for no interruptions and to get a beverage before the session starts.
3. Invite participants to chat with one another. Introduce them to each other as they arrive. In a VILT session, encourage folks to use the chat feature.
4. If you do need to break away before class starts in a physical classroom, make sure you announce it so participants don’t think you just left and tell them you will be back in a few moments. In a VILT, do the same and make sure you change the status of your name, if possible on the platform to “away.”
Remember, you only get one time to make a good first impression. Being totally ready to plug into your learners once they arrive earns you tons of points by making them feel comfortable with you and the learning environment.
Also, know that most people want to help, so if you arrive and “Murphy” does too, ask for some volunteers to help you out!
Now unplug that vacuum and get ready to welcome those learners!
Maria Chilcote & Melissa Smith
The Training Clinic