Want Your Training to Survive? Give It CPR

One way I make sure a course has a solid pulse is to treat it with CPR—an evaluation of con¬tent, participation, and revisit.

I like to add one more thing to my checklist: A session should be not just pertinent and interesting, but complete. One way I make sure a course has a solid pulse is to treat it with CPR—an evaluation of content, participation, and revisit.


Are we giving people the “right stuff”? Can they see how this content will help them do their jobs faster, better, and easier? Do they see the benefits they gain and the losses they avoid?

If so, we’re on track. If not—why not? Do we have to change the content? Or can we offer compelling evidence that the session serves a valuable purpose with content left as it is? Make sure your session includes everything it needs, and as little as possible of what it doesn’t. Remember, every participant is tuned to WII-FM (What’s In It For Me)!


Let’s look at two key concepts here. The first is the 90/20/8 rule (90/20/4 for virtual training). Adults can listen with understanding for 90 minutes. They only listen with retention for 20 minutes. We need to involve them every eight minutes. That’s why commercial television breaks for a commercial approximately every eight minutes. Why 90/20/4 for virtual training? Because we have no eye contact with participants, it is much easier for them to be distracted—and to do other things at the workstation during the training. We need more involvement, more often, to keep them engaged.

We need to break our content into chunks that are 20 minutes or less in length, and involve people in those chunks at least once every eight minutes.

The second thing to remember is that old quote by a protégé of Confucius in approximately 500 B.C.: “What I hear I forget, what I see I remember, but what I do I understand.” The more your trainees wrap their hands and minds around the content, the more it becomes theirs. The more it’s theirs, the easier the transfer. And that’s what we want—to see the content (skills and knowledge) used on the job.


We know we need to revisit content six times to move it from short-term memory to long-term memory. Remember, revisit is when participants look at the content again, while review is when the instructor covers it again. So we need to revisit key content, not review it!

Despite what we know, we all have a tendency to think, “I heard it, I got it.” And maybe we do have it, but just for the short term, until something else displaces it. Key concepts need frequent revisiting, and in a variety of ways. Remember this: Just because I’ve said it doesn’t mean you’ve learned it.

Retention is best when participants themselves, not the instructor, look at the content a second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth time. When participants revisit the content, they often don’t even realize they are looking at content again. Revisits become energizing and engaging, and create memory anchors instead of being dreaded.

What are some ways to revisit content? I’ve had participants themselves create crossword puzzles, find-a-words, and Top 10 Lessons Learned lists. I’ve posted the charts we’ve used during the class and had participants do a “gallery walk” from chart to chart in groups of three as they discuss what meaning the charts hold for them, and how that transfers to the job.

These are just a few suggestions. I’m sure you have methods of your own. Send me yours via e-mail (bob@cttnewsletters.com) and I’ll include 20 of the best to everyone who contributes. Contributions need to be received by June 1.

Until next month—continue to add value and make a difference!

Bob Pike, CSP, CPLP FELLOW, CPAE-Speakers Hall of Fame, is known as the “trainer’s trainer.” He is the author of more than 30 books, including “Creative Training Techniques Handbook” and his newest book, “The Master Trainer’s Handbook.” You can follow him on Twitter and Facebook using bobpikectt.