Ever been to a training session and been bored, frustrated or wondered what the point was?

Smart trainers use sharp tools to get the job done. They use lively, effective and enjoyable methods that get learners thinking and trying ideas out.

They engage their learners. Most often, it's the engagement that's missing.

Switched-on subject specialists always ask, "How can I really engage my learners from the outset?"

So if you're a subject matter expert who trains others, you need to know what flicks the learning switch on.

Training is not about giving people information. It's about what they do with that information.

Ok, let's say you're training staff in fire safety as part of the new Worksafe requirements. What memorable methods could you use?

Should I show them my PowerPoint slides?

Not to start with. Why not? Because it's a major switch-off having people sit and listen too long. They're passive, and may even become brain dead.

Neil Fleming's VARK model (Visual, Auditory, Read-write and Kinesthetic methods) gives us a valuable key.

Here's what it could look like in our fire-safety scenario.

As a catalyst, present graphic images to illustrate the hazards (visual). Ask questions like, 'What should they have done?', 'What could we do instead?' (auditory). Don't give them handouts. Encourage them to take their own notes (read-write). Create a challenging simulation so they can act out what to do (kinesthetic).

Summarise the key procedures with PowerPoint, but avoid too many slides with words.

One size doesn't fit all learners. Like the adage, 'Variety is the spice of life', it absolutely applies to learning too. Mix it up with questions, discussions, activities, games and a stimulating environment.

The more ways you teach, the more people you reach

Even so, don't get too carried away with providing different ways of learning. Variety, yes, but the idea that you have to cater for every learning style in every learning task is a myth. Variety and linking ideas together will work much better.

You may already be using a range of strategies. But as life-long learners, smart trainers keep asking, 'How can I make better use of those ideas?'.

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