Vote for WOW!

As we go to the polls, I am on a different sort of campaign. One where we bring the WOW back to learning.

Something happens around the age of 11 or 12 where we expect young people to go from learning in a colourful, vibrant environment full of different areas, textures and sounds to learning in a static BEIGE environment. This translates into adulthood where we expect participants to respond and engage on a training topic in a bland, boring, boardroom environment.

Here are five simple steps that make up The WOW House, a concept I have developed for the Train the Trainer sessions I run and that is underpinned by the principles of Brain Friendly Learning.

1. The 30/70 rule

As trainers, your aim should be to deliver content to participants for 30% of the time. For the other 70% it should be your learners undertaking the work. This doesn’t mean that you are not facilitating or coaching during this time, but when designing content for your session ask yourself “How can I get the participants to undertake the learning?” This could include i) asking them to research and present back on a topic ii) debating a contentious question iii) problem solving on live issues in pairs or small groups.

2. Context is crucial

To gain credibility as a trainer you need to demonstrate an appreciation of the context, challenges and environment your participants are operating in. You need to tailor your examples, stories and case studies to reflect the context your participants are operating in. Be clear what the practical application of the learning is and make explicit links back to their role so they see the connections that are relevant to them.

You’ll also need to balance this approach with a recognition of when to challenge and question assumptions that participants might present, about why a piece of learning isn’t relevant to them.

3. Putting learners first

It’s important not to make any assumptions about learners when they walk into the session. You might not know their operating environment or organisational context, their journey to the learning (both physically and mentally) or any other issues that may be impacting on their state of mind on that day. They will all come to the session with different aims and expectations, so take the time to appreciate their context and recognise that each learner is unique.

Yes, share your stories and experience but don’t let this dominate the session and get in the way of their learning and learning from each other. Remember our first rule of 30/70. Make it about them.

4. Layer your learning

It’s no longer acceptable to solely rely on Powerpoint to deliver your training session. Any WOW training session needs to be multi layered to ensure learners are engaged throughout the session. Think about using masking tape and laminates on the floor to introduce models or frameworks, use music, videos, TED talks, cartoons, graphics ( infographics ( or word clouds ( to display content and get them out of their seats! Movement in the form of energisers or group dividers is an important tool to maintain energy levels.

5. A happy state

One of the most important elements to get right is to create a space where delegates are comfortable. If learners do not feel at ease or are anxious in their environment, their ability to take in and retain information will be severely reduced. Think about how you can create a safe and comfortable learning environment: the layout, ground rules and having water, fruit or snacks can all contribute to creating that “happy state” where learners are content to share their experiences, engage with the content and the wider group and most importantly take in new ideas.

So will you join me in the campaign against BEIGE learning and vote for WOW? How do you make your training WOW?

If you’d like to find out more about the in-house Train the Trainer sessions I run please email me at

1 Comment
  • Sarah Gordon
    Posted at 21:00h, 07 June

    Hi Annie, This is awesome – thank you for sharing!