Importance of "Connect" in Behavioral Training

I am a soft skills trainer and my style of training is experiential. It is a process where participants learn by doing and experiencing. Unlike class room training where trainer becomes more of a speaker - in this style of training there is a constant exchange of ideas and experience. So apart from what an individual learns from his own experience he also learns and is touched deeply by experiences of others .. and thereby the participant carries an impact for a much longer time.

But for all this to happen effectively, participants should willingly opt for this different learning experience wherein their participation is vital, they should reflect on their experiences throughout the workshop, they should be able to evaluate the ongoing happenings and relate to their own past experience. And at the end of it, everybody must have bouquet of rich wisdom to carry back home.

But to make this happen effectively the trainer's role becomes very crucial and the most important asset is the trainer capability to connect with the audience in shortest possible time

it's just a matter of few seconds that makes us feel like talking to someone or we decide not to talk at all. But in this particular scenario you need to make the participant feel like opening up their mind in front of the trainer and also in front of the crowd around him - sometimes known and sometimes unknown. And both have their own challenges as we all can anticipate.

In first few minutes, trainer has to create an environment which makes most of them feel at ease. And then there is a continued effort required for keeping them feel secured and valued enough to make the show interesting, rich and engaging.

With my experience I think following things work the best to strike the cord with participants.

1 ) Physical Appearance - know your audience well, and dress accordingly.
I like to use "similar is familiar" theme and it works best most of the time. It's known that we gravitate towards people who dress like us. There are few questions making rounds in participant's mind which they themselves are unaware of

Audience will connect with the trainer if they identify themselves with the trainer.

Just to make it more justifiable - try and recollect most of the commercials which have created that deep impact on you, the actors are always dressed like the target audience, if the target audience is rural then women with sari and men with kurta - jacket are seen and a typical middle class will see their mom's attire in commercials like milk additives, edible oils etc

2 ) smile - the easiest way to put participants at ease is trainer's genuine smile
Nothing beats a warm, genuine and complete smile. Its free, generates great impression, shows confidence, happiness and acceptance. Your smile can create the positive environment around you and makes participants take more interest in you. When you flash a smile you convey that you trust them and they want to trust you in turn.

I have heard people say - "even a fake smile works" - but I surely beg to differ, as we intuitively understand the difference between a fake and real smile.

A true, real happy smile is a very strong and an uplifting display. We like to see such smiles and they're addicting to watch and mimic. "Fake" smiles however are much less efficient at such tasks, and at times they even leave a suspicious trail. A smile is very contagious and almost forces the person opposite you smile back and the whole process of this smile exchange I feel generates energy around you.

But how do you spot it? and get the right one? Simple-whenever we smile, there are 2 potential muscles we activate. The first one controls the corners of your mouth. Whenever this muscle only is activated, it’s not actually a genuine smile. We can call this the "social" smile. The second muscle, known to show sincerity, encircles our eye socket.

Now that you have set the stage favorable for you - it is time you create and sustain the energetic and engaging drama.

Now in the second stage the trainer needs to create rapport.

3 ) creating rapport - literally rapport means making others feel harmonious with you.
Many a times you meet someone and you hit off so well that you lose track of time, you thought you always knew this person and you are just taking things from last page to the next. You feel the bond and a deeper connection with the other person and there comes a point when you feel we met before and there is so much you need to update the other person. That's Rapport.

This is mostly done by reading their body language and allowing them to read your body language. You can easily identify emotions, comfort levels or discomfort level of the participants. Parallelly also use this most important tool to your advantage. Let your body language speak volumes of confidence, trust, respect and understanding.

If you are nervous, audience can read uptight pretty clearly, and they don't like it - it's not inspiring or trustworthy..a pointer not to miss. Words that you use, facial expressions that goes when you utter those words, the tone you use, what you do with your hands while talking and your posture

All of these speak more than your words. So be sure that you body language communicates right things and of course to your advantage.

When participant is sharing this experience it's the time you make most of this tool, you show your respect for the participant and his ideas through your non verbal clues.

You also automatically tend to mirror the person who speaks to you when you show respect, mirroring is reflecting the participant's actions and not imitating them, as it may end in offending him or her. Therefore I believe more in mirroring mood and energy. If you align yourself to the feeling that participant is going through with nonverbal signals you have won your brownie point as the bond is developed and that feeling of bonding goes a long way.

4 ) Appreciate - we all like to be recognized and appreciated, it's no secret and it's very natural.
As it makes us feel accepted encouraged, it lifts people, it's energizing and motivating. But there is a ploy- it has to be an act from heart. It's an art and one needs to master it. And then you keep earning dividends of happiness through this process.

But knowing its importance, I have seen that many of us find it very difficult to openly praise or express appreciation towards others they seem to feel awkward, contrived, mawkish and even hypocritical. The obvious answer is that we're not fluent in the language of positive emotions. Heartfelt appreciation is a muscle we've not spent much time building, or felt encouraged to build.

This art if used rightly earns you the right kind of positive response among participants and I have always felt amused with the results.

I am very much tempted to share my experience here..

I was approached by Director of a large NGO - for conducting a workshop for 10th std BMC students, it was sort of a workshop which would prepare them for facing the world outside, a confidence building exercise which these kids need the most before they enter into the real world. I had never dealt with kids of that age before and it was my first experience to work with an NGO.

I had my own reservations before starting but kids responded very well on the first day itself and my task was much easier after that.

I was informed about one of the student, who did not come on the first day "Mandar". The teachers and volunteers told me that he was a spoiled kid and it's useless giving him any kind of gyan, so it didn't make any difference if he did not attend the workshop.

But the next day, he attended the workshop, may be his friends have told him that it's fun and he wanted to know what is going on. Mandar behaved like a typical hackler..he was trying to disconnect others by asking questions, passing comments. He was not participating initially. But I started seeing his behavior changed post lunch session and he was completely different after that, even his teachers were surprised and his friends were happy to see him in good mood. He participated in every game and also gave his testimonial at end of the day. I was overwhelmed when he touched my feet and I just gently patted his back. I did not know more was in store.

It took very long time for me to wind up that day as we had feedback session to teachers posts that. I reached station and I saw Mandar waiting for me. I was quite surprised but I knew there is something he wanted to share - very personal, very genuine. I could see tears in his eyes; I waited till he gathered himself to speak.

Mandar was labeled as "badly behaved" child by everyone around him. And he very well knew he was ill disciplined and mischievous boy. Never ever anybody said anything good about him; he had only heard angry words from parents, siblings and teachers.

In my workshop I have one confidence building exercise where I make people look in the mirror and look straight into the eyes of your image and smile - as if there is a friend in the mirror. When he smiled looking at his image, I just felt he had a cute smile, and I said so..with right kind of assurance in my eyes. And that was the first time he heard someone appreciating him.

Mandar said I have just come here to say "thank you"

That episode has made a deep mark in my heart and I felt very powerful for the kind of profession I have and the impact I can create in one's life. We all can do that with this magical tool called appreciation..

Before closing I can only say that most important thing a trainer needs to remember is that your audience is human and they have emotional triggers, so your success will depend on how well you can ride on this wave called emotional wave.