I was in Las Vegas recently, and I went to see David Copperfield. Remember him? He’s the illusionist who made the Grand Canyon disappear.
His show is amazing and, no doubt, his illusions are top-notch. But what really struck me is how he continually engaged his audience throughout the show.
Almost every trick incorporated audience members. They were usually chosen at random: he’d throw out Frisbees or beach balls into the audience, and whoever caught one became a willing victim. Everyone felt they had a chance to be picked — not just the lucky few who’d paid top dollar to sit in the front row.
He even got the entire audience into the act. At the beginning of the show, audience members were encouraged to use their phones to send him an email with their hometown in the subject line. On stage, a huge world map lit up with the locations of those who responded — a nice touch.
But wait… there’s more.
In one complex illusion, he had to make several predictions about what was going to happen on stage, based on seemingly random events. At the climax of the trick (what magicians call the “reveal”), he sent the proof of his predictions to the audience back via their emails. It was very cool to see a picture of him holding up the proof — right on my phone.
What does this have to do with training? Everything. It’s no mystery that people learn more and retain more when they’re engaged. These days, instructors have to compete with texting, email, and social media on smartphones. Being intentional and creative in course design is essential to attracting — and keeping — learners’ attention.
Now, you don’t need to pull a rabbit out of a hat to engage your audience. Here are two key takeaways from David’s show you can apply to your next ILT:
1. Look for ways to get broad audience participation. In any audience, you’ll always have a few willing volunteers. That’s fine, but you don’t want them to dominate the conversation. Instead of asking for a volunteer to respond, select a respondent by asking a random question such as “Who traveled the farthest to be here today?” or “Who has a birthday this month?” Frisbees and beach balls work, too!
2. Use technology to your advantage. I sat in one training recently that used polling through phone texting as a way of engaging participants. The instructor asked a question, and participants texted back their response choices. We could quickly see the variety of opinions in the room, and the instructor used the responses to drive more-meaningful conversations.