Recently I was asked to design and deliver a 50 minute ‘micro’ session on ‘Building Professional Networks’, as part of a half-day learning and development event for a team of around 30 sales professionals. The beauty of this event was that participants could select three sessions from four available on a rotation basis…this meant that if any topics really didn’t interest them, then a participant could simply exclude that particular session from their personalized programme. Every micro-teach was delivered 3 times. There were large group plenary sessions topping and tailing the event, as well as the inevitable ‘comfort breaks’ to be fitted around taught sessions. All in all it made for a very energized and condensed learning experience, with little time for people to ‘switch off’ or drift into emails or answerphone messages!
Back to the micro-teach. The request was for a 50 minute session that would be delivered 3 times over the morning. For someone who is more used to designing and delivering training in half-day chunks, the first question that came to my mind was ‘could 50 minutes be enough to achieve anything’? Of course, with three other sessions starting and finishing at the same time as mine, it was vital that the material was tight, timed and targeted. I’ll explain a little more about what I mean:
Tight – in the sense that I needed to introduce the session and its aims, deliver the content, involve the participants in activities and send them away after 50 minutes feeling that they had learned something new and had spent their time wisely. There was no time to let discussions ramble on, or activities to take longer than I had planned. The important messages within the content I was delivering had to land well – there were no second chances to revisit anything that wasn’t clear.
Timed – With other facilitated sessions going on before, during and after my session, and a hard stop at lunchtime, there was no way I could afford to run over my timings. I really had to think about the material I wanted to deliver and to make sure it fitted within the micro-teach. I find generally that I tend to be over-ambitious in terms of what I try to squeeze into courses – I think most trainers have a fear of running out of material! But in this instance I couldn’t afford to be over-ambitious, for fear of rushing through the session, skimping on activities or simply running out of time at the end of 50 minutes and delivering only part of my session.
Targeted – There was so much that I could have included in the session, it was vital that I returned to the core aims to ensure that I could achieve them within 50 minutes using the various content and activities that I was considering. In 50 minutes I focused on what I felt were ‘must-haves’…there really wasn’t time for ‘nice-to-haves’. The client group were busy professionals with very little spare time; out of courtesy and respect to each of them I wanted to ensure that the time they spent in my session would be beneficial and readily implementable.
In the event the efforts I had made in the planning and design stages really paid off. For once, there was no hint of me over-running! My sessions finished at worst, a minute before or after the 50 minutes were up. Being really clear on what they needed to learn in that 50 minutes made a huge difference to the design and content, every minute counted, and I was delighted at the response to the material and the feedback afterwards. The 50 minute sessions flew past – Each part of the session had timings attached to it, and I kept very mindful of these as discussion took place and questions were asked. When the time came to move on, I simply did that, apologizing once or twice to anyone who was wanting to have their say, but simply explaining that we had a lot to cover in a short space of time. People loved the evident structure and control within the session. And as a trainer new to micro-teaching, I loved it too!