Want to be a More Effective Trainer? Take Some Tips from the Neurobiologists


Last month I attended a seminar in Baltimore entitled Creating Connections: A Transformation Approach to Brain-Based Presenting. This three-day seminar was presented by Frank Kros from the Upside Down Organization and hosted by The Children’s Guild. What a wonderful spin on the current neuroscience research. I knew I was in the right place when I walked in the front door and was greeted by giant Monarch butterflies. The Children’s Guild is one of the spaces where they create brain-based enriching environments, full of color, textures, displays and 3-D art work, all shown to promote learning.CWilson_staff

Over three days, we learned about the brain and just why it is that so many presenters fail to engage the whole brain during training. When we lose our audience, it isn’t because they are a distracted audience; it is because our way of presenting just kicked their brains into idle. I learned a variety of short methods for engaging the hypothalamus during presentations, among them: answering the question ‘What’s in it for me?’; using movement to stimulate the cerebellum; and providing opportunities for prediction or guessing. Can you guess what part of the brain loves to guess?

Talking about the brain this way brought clarity to some of the things that drive presenters crazy. For example, the need to repeat information—sometimes you wonder if they’re listening at all when someone asks a question you answered three sentences before! But it turns out, the brain needs repetition, it needs to be engaged through multiple senses, and it needs to process. To create memories and have an impact, presenters need to work with the brain rather than assuming adults will ‘get it’ after a single exposure.

One of my favorite quotes from the seminar was, “When the bum is numb, so is the brain.” Those of you who know me or have seen me present know that I have difficulty standing still. This quote relates to the cerebellum, the part of the brain that focuses on movement, balance, and awareness of the body in space. Many presenters have their audiences sitting (A LOT) which tends to aggravate the cerebellum. For people like me who are kinesthetic learners, it can also create tension and anxiety. So, the need to use movement in presentations was a recommendation I was happy to hear validated. The truth is: movement boosts brainpower. What is the longest period of time the average adult can tolerate sitting before you lose them?

Honestly, this was one of the best seminars I have ever attended. Frank did an awesome job presenting potentially dry information in a dynamic way that kept my brain engaged. I enjoyed making connections between this material and what I’ve learned about the impact of trauma on the brain—connections that will translate into new techniques and tools for my future presentations. Of course, it was also fascinating to see the places where my own brain traveled, including what happened in my amygdala on Day 3, when I drew a card that meant I had to stand up and be the first presenter. Yep, you guessed it, after two days of gaining knowledge, skills and techniques, we had to offer our own presentations on the topic. As you may also guess, the amygdala is your ‘palace guard,’ often known as the fear center.

Oh, and by the way, it’s the frontal lobe that loves to predict or guess answers and the amount of time the average adult can sit before zoning out is 25 minutes.

~ Cindy Carraway-Wilson, Director of Training


Posted in trainings, uncategorized

2 reactions to “Want to be a More Effective Trainer? Take Some Tips from the Neurobiologists

  1. Great article, Cindy! Agencies that are challenged with helping employees master a high quantity of content over a relatively short period of time are at high risk for delivering a “numbing experience”, particularly for new orientees. We could all benefit from a more brain friendly approach. It would be interesting to learn what specific techniques other agencies are using to engage their learners’ five senses.

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