Getting Media Trainees to Show Up
Anyone who has tried to organize a media training event knows it can be as challenging as pitching a bake sale on a Breaking News day.
Assuming you can secure the budget and find a media trainer you like, there’s still the matter of coordinating the schedules of the people who will undergo the training. It’s a process more than one PR practitioner has accurately likened to herding cats.
But even after the expense is approved, the trainer is lined up, and–miracle of miracles–all participants have agreed on a date, there’s still one final challenge which often proves to be the most daunting of all: simply getting the trainees to show up.
Not Just Another Slide Show
Far too many media training candidates underestimate the financial cost and exhaustive prep work that go into a quality training session. Erroneously believing the experience will be “just another slide show,” these would-be participants place a low priority on undergoing the training to which they have committed. The result: Training sessions begin 45 minutes late because people are straggling in. Or even worse, sessions meant (and priced) for large groups end up with a small handful of intimidated attendees.
It’s frustrating for media trainers, who end up wasting time preparing for people who don’t show up. But more important, it amounts to a shameful waste of energy for the PR practitioners who organized the session. They know the value of media training. And when it’s disregarded, they know it will be that much harder to get it in the budget next year.
There’s an irony to the phenomenon. No matter how reluctant they may be going in, most people who actually sit through media training leave the session with a tremendous sense of satisfaction. Good media trainers are quite accustomed to hearing, “I really didn’t want to do this, but now I’m so glad I did.” The key, therefore, is figuring out effective ways to get trainees into the conference room in the first place. What follows are a few suggestions.
Train Upper Level Management First
If you have several days of training to accomplish, put the heavy hitters through first. Senior executives who undergo the training and see its value are likely to encourage or require those under them to attend.
Individualize the Message
Make sure each participant understands he/she was singled out for media training because of a proven record -or great potential- as a media communicator. Emphasize the importance of this role and the training itself.
Tell Them What to Expect
Produce a training agenda, or ask your media trainer to do so. Make sure participants understand that the experience will be interesting and highly interactive. Dispel concerns that the training will amount to a day of lecturing. Describe the exercises, on-camera drills, and other features that make media training unique. Quality media training can even be fun; make sure they know this. And finally, explain that the training isn’t cheap, and that any commitments of participation must be honored.
Bring in the Boss
Even if your CEO isn’t available to attend the training, get him/her to make a brief introduction on training day. Publicize this in advance. No-shows may reconsider if they realize the boss will notice their absence.
Pad the Guest List
If you fear poor attendance, emphasize to each candidate that he/she shouldn’t commit to the training without 100 percent certainty of availability. Then, overbook your training with the expectation that some people still won’t show.
Training Day Participation
When training day arrives, thank everyone profusely for attending. Then, encourage them to put away laptops and smartphones. The more they participate, the more they’ll understand and appreciate the experience you worked so hard to give them.