What facilitators can learn from Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show debut

Last night as I watched Jimmy Fallon make his debut as new host of The Tonight show, I was struck by the ease, comfort, and safety that Fallon exhibited as he welcomed a presumably new audience to his show.

It was akin to the skill a great facilitator utilizes when beginning a new learning experience with his or her participants.

Though these two roles are inherently different, and stylistic differences are what help make both jobs a real art form, there are fundamental choices Fallon made that educators, speakers, presenters, and facilitators can absolutely learn from:

Fallon helped create psychologically safety and established a dialogue with his audience in these 2 ways:

  • He made his thinking visible – Strong facilitators know how to engage adult learners by showing them the learning path and extravert-ing their thinking. Fallon told us the basic structure of his show, how long his monologue would be, and even where he’d stand when he delivered the opening set of jokes. Though it seemed like a small gesture, it worked to set a new routine and let the audience know what they could expect each night, and how they would get there.
  • Auto-biographical disclosure – This is perhaps the most impressive technique Fallon utilized, and the most direct application to what we do as facilitators. Fallon spent several minutes at the top of his show, introducing himself, his background, his band and his announcer to bring people into the experience, add authenticity and personalization, and put new viewers at ease. As Dr. Stephen Brookfield theorizes, the more an educator or facilitator can use appropriate autobiographical disclosure, the quicker you can bring adults into ‘the learning’. For example, in a class on adult learning a facilitator can use autobiographical disclosure to briefly talk about his or her experience as a learner and how its framed his or her approach. By telling the story of his own history of watching and admiring The Tonight Show, Fallon also exhibited experiential credibility, by letting the audience know that the experiences (and perhaps new-ness) he dealt with are similar if not the same.

Journalists, bloggers and critics are praising Fallon for these specific, ‘smart’ choices — but they don’t need to be reserved for talk show hosts. Think about the last time you felt “safe” in a new learning environment. Chances are your facilitator exhibited some, if not all of these same techniques.


Navigating the end of the learning “honeymoon”

‘Learning honeymoon’ may not be a real term (yet) but we know how it feels. We are ensconced in deep learning, pumped with new ideas and experiences that elevate us and make our hearts sing (too much?!).  But what happens after we return from a formal learning experience be it Grad School or a half-day workshop. Then what?

I’m knee-deep in this feeling after just finishing my Masters Degree.

I tucked the material contents of nearly two years of Grad School away in my apartment closet and closed the door. After the binders, books, pens, and pencils were put away I wondered… was it all just a crazy dream?

The physical proof of learning is there but how can we work to sustain, apply, and ignite the learning to help others? 

When people return to the office from a learning experience we hope they feel inspired, yes – but what if they feel overwhelmed, unsure of where to start to apply something, and keep it in memory? This burden can keep even the most motivated learner feeling shaky.

For help I turn to one of my favorite professors,Adult Learning educator Dr. Stephen Brookfield.

Dr. Brookfield introduced me to some of the many ways adults experience the end of the learning honeymoon — be it impostorship, lost innocence, and cultural suicide. These may seem like harsh terms but they can leave adults feeling inferior, separated from the pack and lonely.

Chances are you’ve experienced this when you try to explain newly learned jargon and vocabulary to your friends.

What’s key to sustaining learning long after the honeymoon has ended is keeping a sense of community and opportunity for communication. The binders are a nice-to-have but connection and conversation keep the learning and thinking audible, inclusive and personal in a way that fuels dialouges going forward. The real challenge is in translating what you’ve learned for new and different audiences so that the learning is sustained and keeps spreading beyond the singular experience. With a bit more understanding and support, the honeymoon doesn’t need to end.

Making the case for experiential learning

“Tell me and I will forget, show me and I may remember, involve me and I will understand.” –  Confucius

How many times have you uttered the phrase, “I just have to experience it for myself”? If you’re like me then books, articles, videos and lectures are helpful but I often cannot fully grasp a concept or develop deep knowledge until I’ve  reflected on specific experiences. This is especially true when it comes to soft-skills training:  including communication skills, presentation skills, conflict resolution and leadership training. I learn best by doing, and reflecting on how the experience felt. What worked? What didn’t work? What can I tweak and practice?

My name is Lindsey and I am an experiential learning junkie.

Experiential learning capitalizes on the participants’ experiences for acquisition of knowledge. It engages the learner at a more personal level, by allowing them to make meaning and learn directly from experience through reflection.

Experiential Learning theory tells us knowledge is constructed through transformative reflection on our own experience. Instead of hearing or reading about others’ experiences, we are making discoveries and are simultaneously reflecting on our own experience in the moment.

Enter Applied Improvisation.

Here, we also engage the learner at a much more personal level and require of them self-initiative and self-evaluation to drive their own learning. We also sprinkle in humor, visual cues, a touch of fun, and principles that can be applied across many of our most common business scenarios and environments.  Learners set goals, experiment, observe, review and action plan – learning new skills, new attitudes, and constructing meaning in a way that’s unique and also incorporates the cognitive, emotional and physical aspects of learning.

Improvisers know experiential learning is a proven method that allows us to interact, practice skills and reflect on what we’ve learned in the moment. Instead of reading a book or listening to a presentation, try using your training time to rehearse, practice, reflect and learn while being fully engaged. Your practice will pay off when you step on stage – whether it’s an important meeting, a sales pitch, or a job interview.