Legal Project Management (LPM) and Legal Process Improvement (LPI). What are they? What is the…
Anchor days, where all team members must attend the office on a particular day, are a common feature of hybrid team working at law firms.
Getting all team members into the office at the same time can be quite a feat. How can teams make best use of their in-person time together?
It is often recommended that teams spend some time together in structured sessions.
The most common structured session is a training session lasting up to 90 minutes, although sometimes it may be a problem-solving session, requiring a longer workshop approach, perhaps lasting half a day.
In this article I will explain how to plan and deliver training for law firm teams.
In my next post I will show how to plan and deliver problem-solving workshops for law firm teams.
Training compared to problem solving
Training sessions and problem solving sessions are different.
Problem solving sessions on the other hand shift focus to team members sharing experience and ideas to help identify and solve problems the team is facing.
Regardless of the type of session being considered, planning them properly is essential if they are to be successful.
Law firm team training: essentials of session planning
- Understand how much time you have with the team on the day and make sure a goal can be completed. You must make sure that people have achieved something during the time they spend with you.
- List the topics you want to present to the team and activities you want the team to work though. Assign a time for each topic or activity, and don’t overrun the total allotted time you have with the team. (Tip: it is best not to share your precise time estimates, topic by topic or activity by activity. On the day, topics or activities may take a little longer or shorter than planned. By keeping precise timings to yourself, you leave yourself some leeway to progress topics / activities more quickly or slowly than planned if required).
- List the materials you will need and make sure they are available on the day, such as:
- Large display screen for any slides or other material you will be using (i.e big enough so anyone at the back of the room can read text and graphics comfortably)
- Whiteboard and / or flipcharts
- Pens and whiteboard markers
- Post it notes (lots of them – including different colours and different sizes)
- Name (Tent) cards – if everyone knows each other then name cards will not be needed. However, if you don’t know everyone and you are presenting or facilitating, then I’d suggest you use tabletop name cards (Tent cards). I find them a great help working with a group of people I have never met before, especially during the beginning of the session. Also, if you are hosting an event made up of people from different teams, name cards can help everyone get to know each other a little quicker.
- Check out the room you will use and make sure it is the proper size to hold all team members and can accommodate the seating arrangements you prefer to set up. I like to divide a room into two parts:
- at the front, chairs and desks in a semi circle facing the screen projector and trainer / facilitator.
- at the back I like to set-up tables cabaret style, for the smaller group work. I also place a flip chart close by each cabaret table and make sure each table has all the materials (pens and post-it notes etc) required before the session starts.
- Plan for breaks during the sessions and that refreshments will be available. If the session is planned to go through lunchtime, then you need to make sure lunch will be provided (and you must make sure dietary preference and allergies are catered for).
- Also contact attendees before the event and ask if anyone has any disability requirements and cater for those too.
Law firm team training: essentials of session delivery
Some things you must do to increase the likelihood that your training will succeed:
- Start by quickly explaining the goals of the training session, what you are expecting the trainees to learn and why it is important for them to learn the skills and knowledge you will impart. Everyone expects some ‘housekeeping’ rules at this point – such as putting mobile phones on to silent. I also like to remind trainees they will get the most out of training if they participate fully and that questions during any presentations are also welcome (see below).
- Ensure your training material is so well structured that substantive content flows naturally from topic to topic and that content seems obvious. Content only seems obvious because the next steps in learning progression have been well sign-posted and build up naturally from earlier steps. It seems obvious because of the work you have put in making it so.
- The most obvious point of all: you must know your topic and training material very well. It also helps if you are genuinely enthusiastic about your topic. Audiences respond positively to presenters who are knowledgeable, enthusiastic, and authentic.
- You must have a good level of presenting skills, which include:
- Facing the audience and making eye contact (scan the room)
- Speaking without the need to refer to notes (glancing at the projector screen sometimes is acceptable, especially when you want to emphasise or illustrate some points on the screen, but reading from notes or presentation screen is a session killer, as its impossible to appear knowledgeable, enthusiastic and authentic while reading from notes).
- Talking a little slower than you would while speaking informally with friends
- Pausing to emphasize some points (pausing when speaking in front of a group of people is harder to do than it appears).
- Even when in ‘presenting mode’ you should encourage questions from your trainees. I always do. Following on from the point made earlier, know your material so well that you can answer most questions put to you. There may be the occasional question where you can’t answer or where there is no definitive answer (i.e a matter of opinion). This is OK, as this provides an opportunity for you to draw in some of the other trainees who either know the answer or will express an opinion.
- I like to run short exercises and workshops in all my training sessions. This lets trainees get some immediate hands-on practice of the tools, ideas or techniques being explained to them. The more participatory the training is the more successful it is likely to be. This is because trainees will become more engaged so they are able to absorb, retain and recollect the points you will be making. Workshops run for longer than exercises and this is where I ask trainees to move to the cabaret tables to do small group work with fellow trainees.
- Throughout training its good practice to ask the trainees whether they find the pace of the training adequate and whether they are following along OK. You must then moderate your training delivery pace or style in light of any feedback received. I also watch for signs of tiredness from trainees and sometimes suggest a short impromptu break for 5 minutes to let people stretch their legs and re-focus.
- When the training session has finished ask for more considered feedback from trainees. When doing live face-to-face courses I give trainees feedback forms which they can complete anonymously. Honest and constructive feedback is gold-dust. I always read through all the feedback forms and then try to improve areas which are relatively weak in either content or delivery and seek to implement suggestions for improvement. I have been training for quite a long time now and my feedback scores average around 4.5 from 5 – but I still try to improve considering the latest feedback (for an early example of some feedback I have received see here and you might also want to have a look at my testimonials page).
In summary: plan, prepare and practice in advance
I hope the above will be of some use to you, especially if you have been tasked with making an anchor day interesting, informative and fun. The key to achieving this is that you must plan and prepare properly in advance.
Planning and preparation helps, but you still have to deliver on the day.
It constantly surprises me how relatively few people have been trained about how to make good presentations (I was so surprised, I now include essential presentation training in my legal project management course).
If you want to develop your presentation skills further I recommend finding your local Toastmasters club; there you will learn about, and practice, presentation skills in a supportive environment.
In my next post I will explain design and deliver problem solving sessions, which will include some best practice ideas concerning group facilitation.