Dr Amy Climer

Episode 27: How to Engage the Reluctant Participant

This week’s topic comes from a listener who was curious about how to engage reluctant team members and participants in trainings. Do you lead trainings? If so, listen and learn two strategies to help you get participants engaged, interested, and learning more during your trainings.

What You’ll Learn

  • Two ways to ensure participants stay engaged during your trainings
  • The 5 attitudes that participants have during trainings

Resources Mentioned in the Episode

The Weekly Challenge

This week, think about which of the 5 Ways of Being do you participants exhibit. Think about how you can apply the two strategies to help your team members and participants be more engaged. Share in the comment section.


Feel like reading instead of listening? You can read it below. Enjoy!

Amy Climer: Hello everyone. Welcome to The Deliberate Creative Podcast Episode #27. In today’s episode I’m talking about how to engage the reluctant participant in trainings you might be delivering. I’m going to explain two ways that you can get people more engaged and more involved. This question about how do you engage a reluctant participant actually comes from a listener. They were curious about how to get team members more engaged both within my team and within a training. So today we‘re just going to talk about the trainings and I’ll give you two different techniques that you can use. I also want to tell you that there is a free  giveaway related to technique #1 and you can download that at climerconsulting.com/027. It’s just a one page cheat sheet and I will explain more about that in a minute, but you can download that. Also when you download it you will get added to my newsletter. Actually, I just sent out an article this last month that I got a lot of positive feedback on about parenting of all things, which I’m not a parent, but shared one specific tool to help your kids be more creative. I’ll do an episode about that in the future, but for now feel free to download that giveaway, that free cheat sheet that I’ll talk about in a minute. You’ll get added to my newsletter, which I send out maybe every month or two. It’s not super frequent.

Two ways to engage your reluctant participant:

  1. Name it.
  2. Deliver an amazing training that is relevant for the audience.

#1 Name It

Let’s talk about #1. What do I mean by “name it?” One of the things that I do if I feel like there might be a few people in the audience who don’t want to be there, but they are there because they have to be there. You know they are required because of their job or for some reason they have to show up. I feel that they are probably going to feel a little checked out or just not interested, then I would introduce something called The Five Ways of Being. This is actually a model that I got from a friend of mine.  His name is Steve Crosby and we used  to work together at University of Wisconsin and now he’s out in Colorado. He introduced this to me probably 12 or 15 years ago. I have used it a number of times since with great success. So basically the idea here is that there are five ways of being, these are mindsets or moods that people have when they are in a training.  So the five are:

  1. The Vacationer
  2. The Cynic
  3. The Expert
  4. The Skeptic
  5. The Explorer


Let me explain each of those.

The Vacationer.

The Vacationer is the person who shows up and they are thinking “Oh sweet I’m getting paid to sit in this training. I’m going to sit back relax. I’m going to veg out. I wonder if I can get away with playing Candy Crush on my phone all day.” The Vacationer is the person who is not going to do anything extra, they are just going to sit in the back row, probably going to daydream all day or doodle, or be on their phone. They are looking at this as like “Whatever I’m getting paid anyway, I might as well enjoy it, but not enjoy in the sense of being engaged. I’m going to enjoy by checking out and being on vacation.” That’s The Vacationer. Obviously, not very helpful as a participant.

The Cynic.

Number 2 is The Cynic. The Cynic is the person who shows up with a mindset of “Oh my gosh! I can’t believe this person thinks she can help our team. I mean forget it our team is doomed and no amount of training is going to help with that.” The Cynic has decided before they show up that whatever the trainer does it’s going to be bad. It’s not going to be helpful. “I’ve been to other trainings that are not any good.  What makes this one be so special?” The Cynic is negative, but they are really cynical about the whole experience.  

The Expert.

The third person is The Expert. The Expert is the person who feels like “what can this person possibly  teach me? I’ve been working for this company for 20 years. I’ve been to a lot of trainings and I doubt this one is anything new. I know more than she does and I can’t wait to prove it to her.” So The Expert is really looking at themselves as the expert and they are ready to prove it. They are ready to share and point out how much they know and conversely how little you know as a trainer. So these first three, The Vacationer, The Cynic, and The Expert are not helpful. These are not the mindsets you hope to have in your trainings.

The Skeptic.

Number 4 is The Skeptic. It is a little bit like the Cynic. It is not sure about the training. The difference is that the skeptic is also somewhat open minded. They have their doubts, but they haven’t written the whole thing off yet.  I think this is a pretty appropriate mindset to show up if I’m working with a group and they haven’t met me before. I would expect them to be  somewhat skeptical because they don’t know if I’m going to be good. They don’t know if I know what I’m doing. I think within that first half hour or so, really in a first few minutes, they are probably forming their opinion. The skeptic is not necessarily a bad thing.

The Explorer.

Number 5 is The Explorer. The Explorer feels like “Well I’m not sure what to expect today, but I’m  excited about what I might learn. I am ready to lean in. I’m ready to get going.” The Explorer is super excited. They are engaged from the beginning. They walked in and they want to sit in the front row. Not always, but the point is that The Explorer is excited and they are ready to explore whatever the topic is. I mean I love having a room full of Explorers. Which sometimes that actually happens, but not always.


What I do is explain this Five Ways of Being and I actually put up an image on the screen, which you’ll have that same image in the free giveaway if you download that. I explain these five and then I say, “if you are one of these first three: a Vacationer, a Cynic or an Expert you probably are not going to have a good day because you’ve already decided that this is not going to be good. I would encourage you to consider shifting to become a Skeptic or an Explorer.” Sometimes actually just saying that is enough to help people shift. Usually at this point they are kind of laughing at themselves, we’re kind of joking about the whole thing to some degree.

One thing I don’t do is I don’t usually ask people to say which one of the five they think they are, at least not publicly or in front of the whole group. Because I don’t want someone to necessarily share with the whole group that they are a Cynic, because sometimes what could happen is they feel like they need to remain that Cynic because they said they were already. I also don’t want people to put on a spot necessarily because I’m doing this very early on, so they don’t know me yet. I haven’t developed a sense of trust yet with them so I don’t want  to put them on the spot that will make them uncomfortable. Instead what I want to do is invite them to be able to adjust and become more of a Skeptic or an Explorer. If I want them to talk about it, at most what I would do is maybe ask them to turn to their neighbor and talk about which of these five things you think you might be and how you think you might be able to shift your mindset to be either a Skeptic or an Explorer.  I have done that and it has worked pretty well. I’ve done that a number of times with a lot of success. I want to share with you one example of when this worked really well.

About 10 years ago, I was facilitating a ropes course. So ropes courses, for those who don’t know, it’s like a team building program or experience where a team comes out and they’re given usually a number of physical obstacles that can either be low on the ground or they could be high up in the air where they have harnesses and ropes and helmets. The purpose is for them to learn how to work better together. I’ve worked on a lot of rope courses. So about 10 years ago in Wisconsin and I was the one facilitator for the day and the client was a PVC pipe factory. It was a factory that made those white PVC plumbing pipes that are in your house. The way the ropes course was set up is the participants parked in the parking lot and they walked down a grassy hill to get to the ropes course. So they show up. I was sitting at the ropes course waiting for them. I see them walking down the hill and what I see are people carrying those big lunch coolers that I always associate with construction workers. They have the sliding top and they’ve got their lunch in there. And it’s all men. So I see these men walking down and here I am, a female, I’m a 5’4’ inches, and I’m thinking “oh, my gosh, what are they going to think of me? Are they going to respect me? Are they going to listen to me? What kind of day is this?” So I’m experiencing the Imposter Syndrome, which I talked about last week in Episode 26.  I  start having a lot of doubts. Well, they show up and we were chatting for a minute. We’re getting things situated and I kind of sense some of them don’t want to be there. They were there because it was part of their job and it was required for them to show up. So after we did some introductions and I made some logistical comments, I then introduced this idea of the Five Ways of Being. I could see their faces light up with that “Aha! Oh yeah, She totally called me out”. It was amazing! We ended up having one of the best days I have ever had on the ropes course.  We had such good conversations about the culture within their teams and within their company. The guys were able to have conversations with each other to help each other understand how certain comments impacted the team or certain assumptions they made about each other. It was amazing. I had a blast and I was so impressed with the team for how engaged they were and how present they were. I think a lot of that had to do with talking right at the beginning about this Five Ways of Being, about the attitudes they showed up with, and really encouraging them to be a Skeptic or an Explorer. Highly recommend that tool. I would also say don’t overuse it. Don’t use it if people are already pretty engaged. I honestly probably use it a couple of times a year, but it can be quite powerful. Alright, so that’s #1, that’s Name It. That’s a long explanation for basically call people out. Just recognize and tell them that you understand that they are there because they have to be there.  Now let’s move on and make it an awesome day.

#2 Deliver an Amazing Training That is Relevant for the Audience. [12:38]

Number 2 is you have to design and deliver an amazing training that is relevant for the audience. I think the reason people show up as a Vacationer, Cynic or an Expert is because in part they have been in trainings in the past that were just really bad. They are expecting this one will be bad too. If they have been in trainings where they sit in rows and somebody stands up front and lectures to them or reads out of a manual or just really bad, boring trainings. Don’t be that person. Design an amazing training. Make the training relevant. Don’t throw in dorky, stupid ice breakers if the audience doesn’t want that kind of thing. Now, if you are working with university college students who are all resident assistants in the dorms, they love ice breaker. So yeah, throw those in.  But if I threw in ice breakers they were just super corny with that PVC factory group, oh, forget it. I would have had a horrible day. You really want to think about what is relevant with the audience you are working with. I teach a workshop called Make it Experiential and its specifically designed to teach other trainers how to make their workshops more experiential, more engaging, and how to deliver amazing trainings. I’ve delivered this workshop to staff where an organization brought a number of their staff together who all do workshops. I delivered this at conferences such as the The Association for Talent Development. I actually thinking of making this an online course for 2016. So if you are interested in learning more about how to deliver an amazing training and how to design a training that is relevant and gets people excited about what you are teaching, shoot me an email, let me know. Let’s talk about how I may be able to help you. I might be able to come up and work with a group of your staff. I might be able to do some coaching one on one with you.  Also, let me know if you maybe interested in an online course. It’s something right now that is still up in my head, but let me know if you might be interested. I’m thinking of doing it for next year. So I mentioned that there is a free download for this podcast. You can go to climerconsulting.com/027. You will get a one page sheet that has a nice image of the Five Ways of Being and has them all written out. Vacationer, Cynic, Expert, Skeptic, and Explorer. You can download that. It’s absolutely free. You will get added to my newsletter, but if that isn’t a good fit for you, you can just unsubscribe, no big deal.

Upcoming Survey [15:30]

The other thing I want tell you about, especially those who are reading the newsletter, is next week hopefully, I will be sending another email to you all about my dissertation. I am seeking your help. From my dissertation I am sending out a survey and I need ideally about 600 people to complete the survey. Actually, if everyone on the newsletter completed it, I’ll be golden. There is way more than 600 of you on the newsletter, but I know that’s not gonna happen so when you get the survey I’m wondering: 1. if you would complete it. That would just make my day. 2. I’m wondering if you are willing to share it with anyone else you think will be willing to complete it. The criteria is you have to be an adult and you have to be on a team.  Any sort of team. It could be a work team, a committee, a volunteered team, even a sports team. Any team that you’re on as long as you’re an a team then you qualify for the survey. It probably takes 15 minutes, at most, for you to complete it. Anyway, you can complete it and if you are willing to share it with anyone else you can share it on Facebook, you can share that with your staff, family, friends, anywhere you think people would be willing to take 15 minutes to complete it would be very helpful. I will share in the future episodes results and more about that. I will definitely share the results with you all once the research is finished. I’m pretty excited about the research. I can’t say a whole lot. I want to keep it a little vague on purpose. I don’t want to sway you as you are completing the survey. You’ll be getting that email from me next week probably. I thank you so much in advance if you are willing to complete that.

The Weekly Challenge

Your challenge for the week.  Every week I give a weekly challenge based on what we talked about. So your challenge for the week is to think about things that you do whether you are an internal trainer, maybe you’re a team leader and occasionally you are doing trainings with the team, whether you are a trainer that goes and works with other organizations. Want you to think about those trainings and think about how can you engage the reluctant participants. Would this technique work for you, the Five Ways of Being?  Would sharing this work for you, or maybe you have another way to name it. Think about some updates or revisions you can do to your trainings to make them even more amazing that will also help engage your participants.  This week is all about thinking. If you have a training coming up, do some work, act on it. See if you can make some changes.

I hope this was helpful. I hope that this helps you be a better team leader, a better team member, and a better trainer. Have a wonderful week. See you next time. Bye.

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Rave Reviews

  • Amy Inspires Creativity Growth in Everyone
    January 5, 2022 by cjpowers7 from United States

    Amy Climer’s show helps all of us grow our creative muscles. She is authentic and cares about her listeners. Amy empowers us with tools that work in the office, training sessions, and our communities. The best part is her ability to make what feels out of reach, something that can be accomplished with simple steps forward.

  • A great way to get inspired!!
    March 8, 2021 by binglish from United States

    Love listening to Amy’s podcast! Her guests are awesome and conversations are full of inspiring information.

  • A must for people who want to think better
    May 26, 2019 by Dhensch from United States

    Amy Climer hit a home run with this podcast and continues to get hits with every episode. I was hooked with the first one and binge-listened to the four solo episodes about the Creative Problem Solving process. Her knowledge of the subject of creativity and innovation is incredibly deep. And, she makes it easy for others to learn and apply. I have listened to other "expert" podcasts and Amy's is different in that she holds nothing back. Episode after episode offer practical insights, tips and tools. She has a generosity of spirit that is contagious.

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