Three Ways to Build Rapport with Adult Learners

Three Ways to Build Rapport with Adult Learners

Bonding with adult learners in the classroom or attendees in a presentation is crucial to the success of any trainer or presenter. There are many techniques that you might use to accomplish this in your own sessions. Obviously you have to be perceived as having something worthwhile to say before people will want to listen to you. After that, you have to quickly gain and maintain learner attention. The following are three ways to build rapport with adult learners. They are simple and have time-tested by experienced professional trainers, educators, facilitators, and presenters for years.

Display a Sense of Humor.

Relax and encourage learners to do the same since this causes the brain to be less stressed and more receptive to environmental stimuli. Keep in mind that some humor does not successfully transcend cultural boundaries and should be avoided. For example, humor related to politics, cultural or racial topics, gender, sports, and religion. If a learner has no experience or background in the topic areas, the humor will not be understood and your attempt will be seen as a waste of time. It might even be taken the wrong way.

A rule of thumb is that if anything you plan to use might offend someone in the room — do not use it. Using self-effacing (aimed at you) humor is a safer approach. However, be cautious not to focus on an issue or characteristic that others share or relate to since that could draw undesired attention to them (e.g. weight, size of a body part, or poor eyesight or hearing).

Demonstrate an Approachable Personality.

Greet learners at the door, introduce yourself, shake hands, and smile as they enter the room. During the session, make regular eye contact with all learners at regular intervals, engage them in questioning or conversation, and smile at them periodically.

Share Stories with Learners.

Participants gain valuable insights from stories about you and your experiences related to the session topic, especially if learners are novices and you have a lot of experience. In addition to helping learners see that you have “been there, done that,” it also shows that you are willing to open up and share personal experiences. This will often encourage them to do likewise. Tell learners about things that you have done that worked and did not work well related to your topic. This allows them to have exposure to real-world events and gain valuable insights on how to handle their own similar situations in the future. It also portrays you from a more human perspective since they will understand that even experts do not always succeed.

For additional ideas on how to more effectively engaging adult learners and gain buy-in for the information you are sharing, check out Energize Your Training: Creative Techniques to Engage Learners.

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