Effectively Using Music in Training Sessions
Music can assist in setting the tone for a training session and, if used correctly, can actually contribute to the theme. For example, in a class on Time Management, I recorded an hour of oldies songs that had the title or theme of time (e.g. Time Won’t Let Me by the Outsiders, Time Has Come Today by the Chambers Brothers, and Time in a Bottle by Jim Croce). I play the songs as learners arrive and during breaks, then, in my opening remarks comment about how time influences every aspect of our lives including our music.
Effectively Using Music in Training Sessions by The Creative Trainer – Robert W. Lucas, Awarding Winning Brain-Based Adult Training Author
In another session on motivation, I run in from the back of the room with the theme of the movie Rocky blaring away. Once in front of the class, I cut the music, and in animated fashion welcome everyone with a loud GOOD MORNING! ARE YOU READY TO LEARN SOME TECHNIQUES TO IMPROVE YOUR WORKLIFE?
I then get everyone to stand up and then lead them through a fast-paced stretching or other fun activity. That leads to small group brainstorming activity into what gets people pumped up in today’s workplace. We review their ideas and move into the program content.
As a trainer or educator, you can add music to the background to break the awkward silence that sometimes exists as participants enter the room or return from breaks. You can also use such music to signal the end of one event and the beginning of another or as a transition from one activity to another. This works because the abrupt silence that occurs when the music is turned off attracts attention. Non-verbally, you are signaling that something is about to happen or that it is time to begin.
Effectively Using Music in Training Sessions by The Creative Trainer
For background music, you are probably better off using nature sounds or instrumental selections instead of vocals. Also, select generic music that does not have words (e.g. instrumental, new age, or classical) so that participants do not subconsciously focus on the songs and sing along in their head or out loud.
To benefit most when using music in your sessions, some research suggests that you choose selections that have approximately 40 to 60 beats per minute if you want to slow the pace of training activities for individual work, visualization activities, or relaxation. This is because that pattern of sound will mimic the average person’s heart rate and will be in sync with their natural rhythm. If you want to stimulate creative thinking and assist in problem-solving, increase the tempo to 60 to 70 beats per minute. Finally, if you want to really energize participants and get them moving (e.g. during fast-paced activities, while exercising, or when moving them from one place to another) use music that has 70 to 140 beats per minute.
Read More This Topic!
There are a number of popular books on the subject of using music in learning events that you might find useful. Two titles that I recommend are Top Tunes for Teachers by Eric Jensen and Training with a Beat by Lenn Millbower
Like any other learning aid, if you play musical selections during individual and group activities in your training programs, make sure that the volume level is loud enough to be heard but low enough that it does not distract or interrupt concentration or conversation. Keep in mind that while some learners will enjoy the music and find it helpful, others might find it distracting and irritating. Do an in-class survey periodically to see how learners are doing during activities.
Ask them, what can you do to help them be more effective. Someone will likely tell you to turn the music off. If this occurs, you may survey all learners to see if that is the consensus and act accordingly. If you do leave it on, suggest that researchers have found that many people benefit from such stimulation. The bottom line is that you have to decide on a case-by-case basis if the music is really needed and helpful.
Like any other material, technique, or strategy that you use when training adults, only use those which contribute to achieving your learning objectives. Do not use music simply because you like it.