Make Corporate Training More Fun Than Mardi Gras

Mardi Gras, the French term for Fat Tuesday, is tomorrow. This celebration is about excitement, feasting, music, floats, and parades. Celebrators wear gold, green—most notably in the beads strung around their necks.

Training managers can learn a lot from Mardi Gras—okay, maybe not a lot—but it should certainly be a source of inspiration. When a company schedules training for new employees, employees typically brace themselves for a day or of mind-numbing sessions . But this does not have to be the case.

Set March 4th as the day you commit to making training more fun than Mardi Gras. Here’s how:

1. Have Fun, then Train

New Orleans natives and tourists, alike, look forward to Mardi Gras because it is an opportunity for them to let go of the daily grind and just enjoy the festivities. Training managers can create a relaxed training atmosphere by allowing their employees to have fun before they start to discuss serious issues.

Part of the magic of Mardi Gras is its cultural heritage—participants see themselves as part of the New Orleans community and tradition. People support what they feel they are a part of.

With this in mind, let your employees have a little fun before you start training. It’s difficult for employees to get excited about training when they are still waiting to feel a connection to the cause. Bring employees together with an icebreaker game or snacks and soda!

2. Throw Them Some Beads! (not literally)

Mardi Gras celebrations are popular because participants become actively engaged in the parade. There are opportunities to dance on the floats and rejoice with neighbors. But most importantly, everyone gets BEADS—limitless colorful beads!

In truth, who really wants that many cheap plastic beads? Probably very few people over the age of 8. But it’s the incentive of receiving beads that creates the positive, festive atmosphere.

Training managers can apply this concept during training. Employees will be keener during training if you add an incentive. It doesn’t have to be a significant reward, as in the case of the beads; it’s just a little something to lighten the mood and show appreciation.

The employees should have something to look forward to. The incentives confirm that employees are appreciated. In 7 Ways to Make Your Mandatory Training More Exciting, Kristen Marshall suggests: "Based on your organization’s policies, maybe even make it a competition and give a prize to the top-scoring employee."

3. Know Your Audience

Mardi Gras is known for its celebration of diversity. Participants turn up in a variety of costumes to showcase their unique personalities.

As a training manager, you have to evaluate your audience before you develop a training course. The content should be role-specific and personalized to suit the different departments and corporate cultures. If the content is customized, the employees are more likely to remain engaged throughout the training session and this will have a positive impact on their general learning experience.

Come up with a course that will help you to deliver the training in a fun way. Use humor during the sessions and make the training sessions interactive by incorporating videos, characters, or games. However, it is important to make sure the interaction is complementary and connected to the content that you intend to deliver.

David Kelly warns on Mindflash’s blog about confusing interactive and engaging with funny—nobody likes having to awkwardly fake laugh at your staged jokes, so tread carefully!

Engagement, Community and Revelry

Mardi Gras celebrates engagement, community, and revelry. Of course, it takes these qualities to the extreme. If you find yourself mixing up group cocktails and throwing confetti during a training session, you’re probably heading in the wrong direction. But the importance of creating a positive atmosphere still stands.

When you make training more fun than Mardi Gras (okay, just as fun), employees will look forward to your next training announcement.

Jason Silberman is Marketing Director at WalkMe, an interactive online guidance system and engagement platform, which reduces training times and costs, while raising performance levels. He is the lead author and editor of Training Station, a blog devoted to news and ideas on training, learning and employee performance. He recently published a free eBook – "Express Train: How to Accelerate Employee Time to Competence" – with tips on overcoming some of the common challenges in employee training. Follow him at @tstationblog.