Running a successful training session - does seating actually matter?

by John Hilton09 Nov 2015
The golden rule of any presentation is to know your audience. But what if the people you are training include a plethora of learning types and ages?

One professional who is all too familiar with this predicament is Helena Sherman, workplace trainer at Suncorp Group. In her experience, seating arrangements are one way to effectively address this issue. 

Generational differences

Sherman specialises in training call centre staff in the financial services industry, and is currently teaching everyone from teenagers/young adults to older generations. The former are often quick at understanding the information they need to complete tasks, while the latter may not pick up the computer skills as efficiently.

To address this, Sherman turns this apparent negative into a positive.

“The younger generations can help the older generations who do not grasp the tasks so easily which gives them confidence with their peers,” Sherman said.

“This must also be turned around the other way to give the older learners the chance to help the younger people.”

She added that the older generations are good at bringing their life experience and style into the room.

“This gives all the people the feeling that they are contributing and pulling the team through as one,” she said.

Sherman noted that it’s also important how practitioners choose to seat the group as it may cause them difficulties in the classroom.

“Do not put two generation y’s together – a very upbeat pair you will have,” Sherman said.

Learning styles

Different learning styles are frequently evident in the people who show up, said Sherman. These include:
  • Reflectors – good listeners, thorough researchers, careful about new ideas
  • Activists – enthusiastic, open-minded, seek the spotlight
  • Theorists – logical thinkers who prefer certainty, perfectionists
  • Pragmatists – act quickly, enjoy experimenting with new ideas
“You can almost pick these people as they come into the room and position themselves,” Sherman said.

“Activists will sit at the front, while a reflector will avoid the spotlight.”

Sherman added that it’s sensible to make seating placement moves quite regularly to ensure a good mix of talent is spread throughout the room.

“Equal participation is vital to get the good outcomes and this must be identified early so everyone is involved,” she said.

“It is also vital for a trainer to know whether people have grasped the information.”

Sensory styles

Another important factor to accommodate is the three central sensory styles, said Sherman.

These include:
  • Auditory – learn by hearing
  • Visual – learn by seeing
  • Kinaesthetic – learn by movement and touching
“It is important to have a mixture of activities to ensure that all these are covered,” she said.

This involves telling them the task (auditory), using whiteboards (visual) and finally actually performing the task (kinaesthetic).