Once you have received executive buy-in and budget for a training program it is essential that the program leaves a favorable impression on all the participants. That desired favorable impression is not driven only by the lessons learned, it is equally critical that the program leaves a positive impact in an area that is at times difficult to quantify, the growth of the participant’s networks.
Given that participants will be sacrificing work hours to participate, it will be crucial that they end the program believing this was a commitment worth making.
In many of our roles it is easy to fall into a silo and by adding a networking component to your training offerings, you give people a chance to grow bonds that can help make their day to day easier - and more fun.
We are all more willing to help out those that we have made a personal connection with, and a virtual or on-site training is a great way to cultivate those opportunities for cross departmental connections.
One of the best byproducts of a successful program will be that the networking component will allow for relationships to grow from topics that are not at all related to the training topic. Over lunch or a glass of wine, the participants will be encouraged to create bonds that can last long after the training has completed. Additionally, if some of that networking can come early in the program, it can also enhance the impact of the lessons in the final portion of the training as participants will be more engaged with their fellow colleagues.
Professionals go into a training demanding that there be a measurable impact. Networking can be the extra boost that elevates your program above the typical training experience.
So, how do you get that accomplished?
Here are three tips to provide a path for success:
1) Think outside the box
A happy hour or breakfast networking component is great…but standard. When you put some thought into an avenue that may surprise and entertain you can get some real bang for your buck. It could be an escape room, a bowling outing, a cooking class, or a city scavenger hunt; the event matters less than the uniqueness of the offering.
2) Prep For Success
Send out a quirky and quick survey to learn things about your participants. Learning what sorts of sports/hobbies/food/wine/etc bring fun into their life outside of work can be the critical intel needed to structure a well-received networking event.
3) Utilize your breaks in the action
Don’t forget that networking is not only confined to pre-scheduled events at the beginning or the end of the day. Everyone needs a couple of 5-15 minute breaks during the action and you can use these to your benefit. Maybe you extend a coffee/snack/bathroom break into a quick challenge to break the group into 4 teams to strategize to build the most impressive paper airplane. At the end of the break, the teams are caffeinated and ready to compete to see who can sail their creation the farthest.
At the end of the day, anywhere you can infuse extra creativity and fun into your program will be well received by participants inundated with tired, repetitive training programs. Expectations can be low heading into the event because everyone has participated in at least one less than impressive program in their career at some point.
Use this to your advantage by achieving impactful engagement through your networking component and win over your participants. This will the foundation for lasting lessons and professional connections.