You want your training program to be fun. You want participants to feel at home and comfortable. You want your training to be effective.

A common technique for addressing these requirements is to sprinkle some humor into the training and make it entertaining. It’s also a big source of stress among trainers, especially if they’re not natural born entertainers. There is good news: Trainees can socialise, feel at home and have effective training without a laugh a minute.

The underlying goal at the start of every training session should be to establish a comfortable environment in which participants will feel free to join in discussions, share their feelings and ask questions. Once that’s achieved, the room is on its way to becoming an effective learning environment.

But how do you do it? Yes, jokes and other “fun” will alleviate the natural feelings of discomfort when a group gathers for the first time. Games and story-telling are also effective tools. You can break the ice by telling a story, even a self-deprecating one, about yourself. The approach is up to you but choose a method with which you’re comfortable and one that fits the learning objectives.

Go ahead and introduce some levity at appropriate times if you think it will break the ice and get your group working and learning more effectively. Remember, though, that “fun” is the path, not the objective, of useful training.

That said, for some training topics, the “fun” needs to be very measured. Programs that aim to change interpersonal behavior – such as bullying, dealing with difficult people and mutual goal-setting, for example – need to stretch participants’ boundaries to succeed. If everyone is guffawing all the way through, they’re not being challenged enough to modify their habits and attitudes.

How are you using levity in your learning events? Do you think it makes a difference? Is it helping your learners develop their new skills and attitudes?

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