6 Ways to Add Sizzle to Your Classroom

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Last week I wrote about the “6 Stupid Classroom Rules Learning Professionals Still Use”

Apparently I hit a nerve, but what’s important is we had some good debate.  What was really exciting about the conversation was the lack of defensiveness.  People weren’t taking the post personally, they were taking my words in the spirit in which they were intended. To shed a light on a few practices we use in the classroom, based mostly on tradition that hinder the learning process. People were asking for clarification and were generously sharing the great ideas and techniques they use in their sessions.  Remember, this is the year of Kaizen. Making small improvements toward larger goals and if you are using any of those “6 Rules” it’s time to readjust and do something differently.  Kaizen! 

What the post also told me was that I could easily write a “Stupid Classroom Rules: Part 2”.  But that’s for a post for another day, today let’s focus on the positive. Therefore, I present to you, the flip side of “6 Stupid Rules”: “6 Easy Ways to Add Sizzle to your Class”.

Ever see a movie trailer and the hype doesn’t match the movie?


Sure you have. That’s what happens when your customers sign up for a course that has great branding, a fabulous tag line and an energizing course description. They get a little excited. Then they arrive at your session and you present them with a ladder safety course featuring the “6 Stupid Rules”. YAWN. As we know, critical to learning design is reaching not only the mind, but the heart of your audience. Even if it is about Ladder Safety, because even compliance training deserves some sizzle. (Believe me when I say, if your compliance training is boring, you have only yourself to blame.)

Here are 6 Tips to bring some sizzle to your session. 


Allow for Questioning.  This is different than allowing people to ask questions. This is allowing the participants to question your topic, or question your stance on a particular topic. Gone are the days of “Sage on the Stage”.  I remember back in the day, being told via a train the trainer class to not ask the class, “Does this make sense?” or “Do you agree?”. I was told this opens the class up for a debate you don’t want to have, and most likely will not have time to participate in.  I think back on that now, and – WOW. Unless you are discussing company policy that is not open for discussion (and I would ask you, why in the world are you hosting a class on company policy?) – allow and embrace debate. Allow people to question the theory, question the research, or question you as a subject matter expert. If people aren’t wanting to debate, seed the discussion. Play your own “Devil’s Advocate”, you’ll be amazed at the discussion that is forthcoming and the learning that comes from it. Providing people with reasons to absorb content helps them to connect the dots.

Create Projects: All things being considered do we care if people “learn” or do we care if we see performance results. Do we care if people can recite the non-discrimination policy or do we care if people do not discriminate during the hiring process? Your participants feel the same way. Reinforce lessons by creating projects for teams to complete. Complete a case study, fix a broken item, create something – actually having people apply the skills they are studying will create a stronger sense of connection with the material, strengthening retention. People would much rather put their skills to practice than sitting nicely, watching your PPT deck progress while the life ebbs slowly from them.

Golden Ticket. Have your participants create their own job aid out of the information being given to them. I call this a “Golden Ticket” because I give them a HUGE yellow index card to write, draw, and create their job aid.  This creates buy-in for the participants.  Remember one of the “6 Stupid Rules” was forced note taking? This allows the participants to capture exactly what is important to them. It’s always interesting to see what people make note of – something little to you may have said could have a huge impact on the participant, and that connects them emotionally and intellectually to your session.

Take Pictures: At the end of each module (or lesson) have participants take a picture of the flip-chart, the PPT screen, or something (or people) in the room that will remind them later of the topic. Have them send the pictures to you to be uploaded to your group site (see the next section) as part of a class photo album, or just let the participants do whatever they wish with the photos afterward.  Even if they scroll through the photos later with the intent to delete, they are still reviewing information previously captured.  Perhaps they took a group photo and now they will talk about that photo to other colleagues in the workplace building interest in future sessions. You can take pictures during an activity and post those to be seen or email them to the group afterwards. It’s like looking at old vacation pictures, the long-term memories of your session will bubble up and will remind them they had fun and walked away with new information.

Build a Group – Build a group loaded with class information…with the class.  You can do this using a variety of very easy to use (and set-up) tools – Free tools such as Diigo, Tumblr, FaceBook, Blogger, PBWiki or Enterprise tools such as SharePoint, Jive, Yammer or SocialCast. This will give your people a place collaborate, research and review information after the session has concluded. Being able to communicate and collaborate before, during and after a session builds a successful learning environment. One people want to join. This is a great activity for the class, as with the Golden Ticket, they are recording information that is important to them. Have a designated person in each group be responsible for adding information. This is a great place for some of those pictures they are taking. Help your class be able to retrieve information when they NEED to have it.

Assess Yourself. Last but certainly not least, have the class assess you. No, not a level one Kirkpatrick survey. No, not a smile sheet. We are not asking about lunch, snacks, temperature of the room or the comfort of the chairs. We want to know if the participants felt you did a good job connecting the dots. OUCH. This is best used during a two day (or more) session.  At the end of day one have the class assess your skills as their facilitator. They will appreciate your desire to be sure you are connecting with them. There have been times I thought a class was going well, only to discover I was talking too fast. This teaches you a valuable lesson. Key here is addressing the results first thing the next morning. For this example, “According to your feedback yesterday, I seem to move too quickly at times, and I didn’t realize this until you pointed it out – so thank you.  Please be sure to alert me today if this happens again.  Someone send up a flare or something.”  Here is a sample of the Learning Rebels Day One Assessment: 

tada_BW And there you have it – “6 Stupid Rules” and “6 Ways to Sizzle”.

Time to add another level of Kaizen to our sessions.  Classrooms today are less about pipe-cleaners and candy (although I love both) and more about how to build an ongoing community of curious learners, keeping the brain engaged and helping people access knowledge when it’s important to do so.  Your course should not be an event but part of a broader performance support solution, by adding levels of collaboration inside and outside the classroom you will see a wider reach to the solutions you are helping to implement. To find out more, here are 10 more ways to take your corporate university out of snoozeville. 


Share with us! Tell what you are doing to create some sizzle for your class!

success story

Shannon Tipton

Shannon Tipton

As Owner of Learning Rebels, Shannon Tipton is a skilled learning strategist, content developer and International speaker. Shannon has over 20 years of leadership experience developing successful learning strategies and infrastructures for training departments within organizations in North America, Europe and Korea.

Shannon works with people and organizations to develop learning solutions that brings actual business results. Recognized as bringing real-world expertise into the learning field, Shannon integrates technologies and social learning tools to strengthen workplace alignment, enhance collaboration and increase learning connectivity.

As author of “Disruptive Learning” Shannon frequently speaking at conferences across North America and Europe and ranks as one of the top 100 L&D influencers on Twitter (@stipton).

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