My workplace is mainly the classroom where I conduct most of the workshops on the topics of leadership and emotional intelligence. One of the challenges these days is to keep participants from dividing their attention between their mobile phones and what is going on in the room.
Even though I know from experience, that people become distracted when they have their mobiles on, I would probably be more insistent on explaining that learning and retention significantly drops if they leave the room to take calls or to sms surreptitiously.
This would probably be Strategy number 1. Never get tired of communicating the basics, in this case, how to maximize attention and focus. Based on studies by Johnson & Johnson, most adults retain more information when they interact and talk to each other during the learning process.
That is why Strategy number 2 for me is to mix different methodologies which require participants to take an active role in the learning process. For example, if there is theory to be shared by the facilitator, this piece should be limited to 15–20 minutes of presentation followed by a discussion/group activity or experience in which people have to reflect and talk about what is being taught.
Strategy number 3 is the combination of different media to access the different learning modalities that people have. Using video clips, slides with images and cartoons, workbooks/journals for people to write, story telling, experiential activities for the kinesthetic learner, the use of music, reading books/case studies, assessments, etc., all geared to cover the senses - is of utmost importance.
Other effective strategies: Involving participants to read aloud from a slide or a book, create an acronym for people to remember a particular model or concept and ask them to repeat it, are all useful ways to help them encode the information.
Asking participants to build a summary page on what has been learnt after a session and getting them to present from their own perspective is also effective.
Assigning a topic to be researched and create a presentation on a new topic is also a very effective way to learn and retain.
After a workshop, writing assignments to summarize key learning or insights may also assist in the process of retrieval. I have also found that one of the most effective strategies is to ask Managers to create a session for their team members back in the workplace, with what they have learnt in the face to face interaction.
Managers as teachers requires generating learning from within, retrieval, and focusing on one key insight, that can make the difference in the way they relate to or work with their staff.