How to train for—and deal with—short attention spans

The beginning of a new year is often when hotel managers, fresh off the holiday hamster wheel, take the time to hunker down and create exciting new programs to teach our teams. For most of us, at some point in the development process, we open our presentation software of choice and begin to assemble dozens of slides with articulate bullet points and a motivational quote thrown in for good measure. There is no question that hotel managers and trainers know their way around PowerPoint, but in this new world and in a new year, maybe it’s time to take a new approach.

As a proud member of the Short Attention Span club, I find it difficult to stay focused in meetings or training sessions that use lectures or slides, but when I was the trainer, I was doing just that. Most of the time, slides on a screen are benefitting the presenter far more than the participants.

Gone are the days when we can expect an audience to be captivated by two-dimensional, still slides. We live in a world where patience and focus have given way to skipping television commercials and trying to do 10 things at once. As trainers, we must adapt to our new audience and their new reality if we want to be effective. 

  • The first step toward more relevant, engaging training is to allow a clean break from presentations of the past. As the leader, you are the most important source of information during a training session. Only use slides to underscore the point you are making, and only distribute handouts containing critical information (policy changes, new menus, etc.). 
  • Cartoons and movie and television clips are particularly useful training tools, especially when they make people laugh. An online search of “movie clips of restaurant ordering” provided me with great material for a recent food-and-beverage training, while the results for key words “movie clip bad service” gave me multiple usable scenes. There is a school of thought that advises against training by showing what not to do; however, I have found that people remember what they find entertaining. 
  • Using real-world examples is a great way to get the attention of your audience. Humans love stories more than they love instructions. The best way to keep them from being distracted is to involve them by using role-playing and asking for feedback upon completion of the acted scene.

Finally, if you’re wondering whether this new way of training is effective, ask your participants. Notice how the increased interaction and laughter brighten their attitudes. Ask them what they learned, what they enjoyed the most and what they think will be most helpful to them in their jobs.

As we enter the long-awaited springtime, here’s hoping that for 2014, you will have discovered a more effective way of training that is more enjoyable for your teams, and for you!