“Celebrate what you want to see more of.” Thomas J. Peters
“Begin with the end in mind.” Steven Covey
Training programs typically end with the participants quickly completing an evaluation sheet. The activity is fine but the timing is problematic.
Trainers spend the entire session attempting to create connections between the participants to build a learning community. When participants complete an evaluation at the very end of the program, it takes all of the energy out of the learning environment. Their focus immediately goes inward and they stop communicating with those around them.
There is a better alternative. Make evaluations the next-to-last activity in the session. Then use one or more of these four more engaging, physical and interactive activities to close the training session in a manner that will maintain learning excitement and energy.
The first two activities reinforce what the participants have learned. The last two activities reinforce the social connections that the participants have made with each other.
1. Report key learning.
Give participants a minute or so to write down the most significant learning they gained because of the program. (This may be either new learning or validated previous learning). Then have them stand up and take turns reporting their key learning. A Koosh toss works well for this. The participants sit after they state their key take away and throw the Koosh to someone who is still standing. If some participants identify the same key learning, this will simply reinforce its importance.
To set up this closing activity, create a learning contract with the participants at the very beginning of the session. It asks them to let you know whenever they have issues with the training content or process. It also encourages them to take charge of their own learning, so they will be able to report their key learning at the end of the session.
Their reports will provide an effective summary of the training content, emphasize and reinforce what the participants found most important, and give the trainer immediate feedback about the program’s effectiveness.
2. Go on a walkabout.
Ask the participants to jot down how they plan to use what they have learned. Then have them pair up with someone with whom they have not worked during the session and go for a short (4-minute) walk.
While they walk, they should take turns talking about their plans. This will increase the probability that they will implement them. When the pairs return from the walkabout, they can give each other a high ten.
This closing may be less satisfying for the trainer than the key learning reports, because the trainer will not hear what the participants are saying. However, the process of walking and talking will generate a high level of energy and enthusiasm among the participants. Choosing to walk with someone “new” to them will also create new social connections.
3. Write personal notes.
This activity works well with a multiple-day training program when the participants have a number of opportunities to work together in different situations. This activity must also be set up at the beginning of the session.
It begins as an art project. Give the participants colorful markers and something to draw on. It might be a light-colored cloth bag, a large paper bag, a flip chart page or a piece of paper. Ask them to draw pictures or write words that describe what is important in their lives. (One option is to have them trace a hand and write or draw something for each finger). If they have a motto or saying that speaks to them, they can also write that down.
The participants will use what they have drawn or written to introduce themselves to the rest of the group. Make sure that they put their name on their project, because other people will be writing on it later.
At the end of each day, have the participants trade their projects and then write something to the owner of the project. It helps to give them a sentence to finish, such as: “What I learned about you is….,” “I hope that we will both remember…., or ” “Thank you for….” Ask them to sign what they write.
There will be a lot of laughter when they pass the projects back and read what was written on their own.
This is a great closing activity that, used every day during a multi-day program, provides continuity and reinforces social connections.
4. Create a celebration circle.
This activity can be used to close any training program, but is particularly effective at the end of the last day of a multi-day program. Have the participants stand in a circle and then use one or more of the following variations:
Express gratitude. Let them take turns walking over to participants to thank them in specific terms for what they did to enrich their learning. This celebrates the supportive learning community.
Blow bubbles. Hand out small containers of bubbles with wands and have the participants blow bubbles while an upbeat song plays in the background (“Celebration” by Kool and the Gang is a great one). This celebrates the conclusion of a job well done.
Sing a song. Have the participants sing a song or anthem that is relevant to the training experience. This celebrates the shared bond between the participants.
Each of these four closing activities will generate energy, joy and connection. The training will end on a high note and the participants will leave happy and enthusiastic.
May your learning be sweet.