Managing delegate expectations

I’ve missed posting a Q&A post for a couple of weeks, so let’s get them back into gear.

How do you go about managing expectations in a learning context? Is it important to do so? What does it do?

On Friday, I delivered Assertiveness training. The first exercise I asked the group to do was tell me why they were there, wrote it up, and posted the flipchart onto the wall. This is like Training 101 type stuff, but here’s why it’s important to do so.

In most instances you won’t have met your delegates in any meaningful capacity before the event, so it’s important to understand why they are there. Are they mandated to be there? Has it been suggested by their manager? They thought the subject looked interesting? They want to learn something new? They have some downtime and need to do something productive? You get the answers to all these from the initial question. As a L&Der, this gives you a quick and initial insight into the groups needs and individual requirements.

At a secondary level, this also helps the L&Der to make a quick assessment about the attitude of the respective delegates. What terminology did they use to describe their reason for being there? What was their energy level like? How descriptive were they? How particular were they about their objective? This is important for any L&Der to take a measure of at the beginning of a session, as at the end you want to be able to identify in yourself that you have noticed an improvement in your delegates.

You are also able to quite quickly assess if you will be covering the content in your session. Hugely important for managing the delegate expectations. If they are attending a session on ‘Management Essentials’, they may be expecting to learn about employment law as part of the session, but you may have no intention of covering this at all.

By writing it up, you immediately capture the attention of the group and allow them to see how collaborative the session is likely to be. This is vital. In any training environment, the group need to build rapport and establish a ‘power’ relationship with the L&Der quickly. By inviting the group to submit their thoughts, you have created an informal 2-way discussion at the very outset, and from that point on, given permission to the group to be vocal.

By posting the flipchart to the wall, this quite simply creates a visual way to check in with the group and yourself as the session goes along. Are you keeping to their expectations? Have you addressed particular points? Did everyone contribute? Are you encouraging them to check back in?

It’s a common methodology used by L&Ders and one that will be used by countless others. Today’s question then is:

How do you capture the delegates expectations? And if you’re a delegate, when have you seen this done well?

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Published by

Sukh Pabial

I'm an occupational psychologist by profession and am passionate about all things learning and development, creating holistic learning solutions and using positive psychology in the workforce.

One thought on “Managing delegate expectations”

  1. I agree with all the above, it is really important to know what they want from the session. To me though, what’s more important is not only their expectations (they do mention biscuits/lunch/finishes on time etc etc) but also what they want to get out of it. I’ve worked with pre-course questionnaires in the past that get their and their managers aims for them but for me (but always struggle with response rates), the big question to either open or close on is for them to reflect (yuck, hate that word – too trainer-ry), on what they will actually do back in the workplace – linked to why they’re there in the first place. Ask them for one thing and also follow up on their answers a week, two weeks, a month later. Did you do it? If so, woo hoo! If not, why not? Was it too hard/something else happened or restricted you?
    With writing their expectations up, I think its vitally important to come back to them throughout the day and check you’re covering it – be explicit in this and if you’re not – say you’re not and why. It makes everyone feel their expectations were of value.
    I also like the Prisoner, Holiday Maker, Active Participant exercise – seen it? You put these up at the beginning of the session, and ask them to talk to the person next to them and identify which one they are. They don’t need to tell you (you can obviously tell) but they tell their partner which one they are and then you ask them to identify what (if they’re not already) it will take to get them to active participant. Its a bit of fun, and as you’re not asking them to share with anyone beyond their partner, its safe too. This works really well in time management or assertiveness workshops as they’re all mostly (or is it just my workshops?!) sent by their manager for some misdemeanour…. great ice breaker too and they know you know that some courses are just a tick-in-the-box exercise (unfortunately!)

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