Discussion groups provide a unique opportunity for just in time training. Your learners are looking for answers to immediate questions they have, and you want to be sure they receive accurate direction. With anyone able to participate, how can you be sure your ideas are the ones they’ll listen to and use?
In formal classroom or web-based training, you get to control the content. You choose which techniques to highlight, what examples to share.
Discussion groups are different.
While this forum provides the opportunity to both coach and observe, you’re just one voice of many. Here are some tips to help your voice be heard above the others.
- Author questions. Too frequently we want to take the driver’s seat by authoring discussion questions focused on specific topics we feel the group needs to improve in. Avoid this! Make your questions related to top of mind issues your learner’s are grappling with. Instead of asking what sales tools they find most valuable and pushing the cool new software, pose a tricky sales situation you suspect they’re encountering and ask how to handle it. During the discussion you can work in how the new software would help, getting them excited about it while simultaneously providing useful techniques.
- Keep questions short and personable. Lengthy questions require too much time to read. They feel hard. To get your group engaged, be specific but genuine. Save the extra thoughts for the discussion as people respond. Don’t worry about perfect grammar. Write like you talk.
- Don’t give advice in your questions. Pose questions that ask for participants’ advice. If you appear to be the expert in your questioning, they may feel intimidated about sharing suggestions. You’ll lose your opportunity to learn what they’re thinking or provide coaching tips.
- Give advice in your answers. Often it’s easier to be the expert when you’re answering questions. Present ideas and provide brief examples of what you’ve seen work. When others agree with you, group members will want to try what you’ve suggested. Support strong recommendations from others participating in the conversation. If Sally makes an excellent suggestion on how to help managers conduct effective performance reviews, point out the techniques that make it compelling.
- Use stories in your answers to illustrate points. Anecdotes are fun to read and entice participants to engage with you. They personify you, portraying you as someone they’d like to chat with. Just as you tell stories during training, do it here for a similar effect. It opens up your opportunity for coaching through the conversation.
- Be selective in the discussions you follow. There isn’t time in the day to answer every question. Choose to follow those that most relate to the areas you’d like to see your learners develop. Comment where you recognize that guidance would be prudent to keep them on track in their learning.
Discussion groups provide your learners just in time training. You can create them in social media networks like LinkedIn and Facebook and keep them private. Or, put them on your company intranet site.
As you engage, you can guide participants’ development and ensure their learning continues long after the formal classroom training is over.