We have all been to training programs, conferences, or seminars only to look back a week or two later and struggle to remember what we learned. Studies have shown that only about 40% of the content from a training program can be immediately applied. After six months, only a quarter of that content is applied, and after one year, less than 15% can be applied.

I spoke at a breakout session last week at Richmond, Virginia’s Leadercast simulcast location. In this session, we discussed how to get the most out of the speaker content and for any training program we attend in the future.

Leadercast Richmond

Plan ahead

Something made you take action to attend a training program. Why?

  • What do you expect to be able to do after attending?
  • Bring questions you expect to be answered as a result of attending the training.

Many trainers will ask at the beginning of the training, “what do you want to get out of today’s training?” This is when most participants first think of their answer this question. You are well ahead of everyone else if you think about it beforehand.

These questions are important if you are making a case for your employer to pay for the training and even more important if you are paying. Remember that cost is not just financial, it is also an investment in your time when you could be doing something else.

  • How is the cost of the training justified? You should receive more value from the training than the cost in money and your time.
  • Ask the trainer beforehand if the training will answer your questions.

Be an active participant

This is not the time to sit back and take a “vacation” from work. This is work.

  • Ask clarifying questions, contribute to group discussions, and identify how you will apply what you are learning.
  • Take notes as if you are taking notes for someone else. Weeks or months later you will need these notes to refresh your memory.

In the Leadercast breakout session, one woman said that she writes questions in her notes that she expects to be answered later. Maybe those questions will be answered later in the training or maybe not. If not, she can go back to the trainer to ask, ask other participants what they think, or research on her own. I thought this was a great tip.

Teach what you learn

Once you return from the training, review your notes and teach someone what you learned.

  • At your next team meeting, give an overview of the training content with some key takeaways.
  • Training someone else about something you learned solidifies your learning. The best way to learn is to teach because you increase ownership and take responsibility to make sure someone else learns.
  • Create a training report for your team. Don’t think of this as extra work but an exercise to increase your retention of what you learned.

Did you ever create a “cheat sheet” in school and then find that you didn’t need it? The cheat sheet you created was one more tool to help you learn. That is what this is all about.

In every training session (good and bad), there are always nuggets of information to learn. Be purposeful to get the most out of what you learn.

How do you get the most from training? 
Have you ever taught someone else something you have learned?

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