You can have the greatest legal training materials in the world, but none of it matters if employees aren't paying attention.
To set your legal training up to be a huge success, you put yourself in the shoes of your audience!
I mean seriously, have you ever found yourself sitting in a super hot conference room?
Were you paying attention? (no)
It's impossible to focus on the message when you're uncomfortable or distracted.
Yet we often don't even consider these "small things" when we set up legal training.
Bottom line: the more of these you can get right, the better your legal training will be.
1. Thin walls destroy concentration
You obviously can't do much about the structural integrity of your workplace, but please, all least find a conference room that isn't located next to an assembly line (or the angry yelling guy's office).
I can't tell you how many times I've been in a meeting when everyone's eyes shift over to the wall shared with an engineering lab.
It's completely distracting and easily preventable, especially because training is usually booked far in advance.
Get the nice room. It's worth it.
Comment: How do you prevent distractions?
2. Employees need comfortable seats!
Remember back to high school?
When you sat in those horrible plastic (or wooden) seats?
Was that a good learning environment? (no)
Employees need to be comfortable to effectively learn. If they're worried about back support and a sore behind, they certainly won't be focusing on the details of how a patent gets filed.
Here's some anecdotal evidence of the power of a good seat.
I'll take you back to January 15, 2012
Lambeau Field, Green Bay, WI
Packers v. Giants
Somehow I got tickets from a family friend (for free!), and made my way up to Green Bay from my home in Milwaukee.
About halfway through the first quarter (when the Packers were still in the game), my focus was constantly diverted from the action on the field to the soreness in my lower back.
(If you've ever been to Lambeau, it's an amazing place. But the metal bench-style seats leave much to be desired.)
Seriously, I was focused on uncomfortable seats during an NFL playoff game.
Can you imagine if this was a training presentation?
Note: in hindsight it was probably good not to focus on the game because the Packers were horrible.
Comment: Do you agree that seating is important?
3. Room lighting - USE IT!
When you go to sleep at night, is your room dark or are all the lights on?
Yes, this is a stupid question.
But it is telling that a lot of corporate presentations are given with the lights severely dimmed (even off!).
When the lights are dimmed or off, people have a natural tendency to fall asleep.
(I've personally done this before during a presentation shown in one of my classes in college!)
Even when (if?) people stay awake, tired employees won't be digesting your information efficiently.
But Joel, how will people be able to see my PowerPoint?
This issue can be addressed in a few ways:
- Only dim the lights directly above the screen
- If you don't have lighting control for the room, use printouts or only turn the lights off for a short period of time (e.g., to show a chart, etc.)
The real key is to avoid any direct sunlight on the screen. Those awful office lights usually won't drown out your projector.
Comment: What sort of lighting do you find to be effective?
4. Climate control - not too hot, not too cold
This one is tricky.
But you have to get it right.
There's been a lot of recent discussion about climate control in the office - e.g., "Chilly at Work? Office Formula Was Devised for Men - NY Times"
Companies will need to reevaluate office thermostat settings going forward.
But corporate counsel need to know 2 things today:
- The room can't be boiling hot
- The room can't be freezing cold
Look, I understand, these things are all relative, but if you get in the room and can't stand it, then adjust the temperature (or call maintenance to do it for you).
Even easier, just ask employees at the outset if it's too hot or cold in the room!
I already addressed this earlier in the post, but when it's hot in a conference room, I am done.
Seriously, my attention is completely lost once I start sweating.
Bad climate control is a legal training killer that's easily preventable.
Take the steps to prevent it.
Comment: What temperature do you find to work well?
5. Room configuration is key
The way you set up the room is critical to the ultimate success of your legal training.
That said, there is no "one-size-fits-all" answer for the best configuration. It's entirely dependent on your situation.
For example, I am a fan of sitting around a circular (or rectangular) table so everyone can face each other. This setup is useful for promoting conversation and equality among participants, but it is not as effective if you're going to be showing a PowerPoint on a screen. Someone will always have a bad seat.
Another way to setup the room to take advantage of what the circle has to offer is the "U-shaped" formation. Unfortunately, the U also makes it difficult to show a PowerPoint presentation as the employees on the side can barely see the screen.
On the other side is the "lecture-style" setup where the trainer stands in front of a row of desks - you may remember this from your college/law school days. While this is great for presentations, it stifles engagement between employees.
Regardless of what you choose, it's important to first consider the main purpose of your training.
Is it engagement?
Is it showing interactive video?
These questions will help determine how to most effectively set up the room for success.
Comment: What formations have you found to be successful?
6. Location, location, location
Planning the location of your training can be difficult.
You're constrained by limited resources - time, availability, travel...
Regardless, you must find a way to make legal training easy for employees. Scheduling legal training at a different facility or building can make it extremely difficult for busy employees to attend.
If this isn't possible, consider holding a webinar.
Be careful. If your employees do not have access to the webinar interface or video, you may quickly lose their attention with "over-the-phone" training.
Bottom line: don't give employees another reason to try to get out of legal training with a poorly planned location.
Comment: How do you resolve this issue with a highly distributed group (what about international employees)?
7. Arrive early for training setup
This one is crucial.
You need to make sure your legal training is ready to go the second employees walk in the door and the clock hits go-time.
There are few things more frustrating to employees than appearing like you don't care about their time.
By failing to set up training before time, you're indicating just that.
I usually book the conference room 15 minutes in advance of training so I can accommodate other meetings.
Also, I like to make a simple pre-training checklist which looks like this:
- Dial-in to teleconference
- Print Handouts
- Distribute Handouts
- Phone on silent (or, ideally, not in the room)
Then, I arrive 15 minutes beforehand to start checking off the items.