You’re passionate about your subject.  You know how important this training is and want it to be a success.  You’ve worked really hard to make your training session interesting, interactive and stimulating.    You start the training session with the intention of inspiring participants with your compelling training materials and exercises but just can’t seem to get them motivated.

The secret to getting people interested in the subject matter is all about warm up.   Warm up helps to create a positive group atmosphere, encourage people to relax, break down social/hierarchical barriers, energize and motivate, gets people to “think outside the box” and helps people to get to know one another and form as a group.

The warm up to the personal is crucial because useful learning only takes place when we are affected at an individual level.  If we are not affected personally as an individual we care less about the outcome and the training exercise will appear inconsequential or meaningless.  This in turn affects our ability to be engaged at a group level.  Warming up to social roles however, is important in order to work on collective issues.   Warm up is crucial to the group process and the warm up you choose will be critical to whether or not participants feel a sense of personal involvement as individuals and as a group.

The degree of warm up is central to the success of the training process as the optimum goal is to enable participants to experience the feeling that they are acting and thinking out of free choice rather than having another’s ideology forced upon them.  In other words, warm up is important in establishing and maintaining expressions of spontaneity.

There is a sociodramatic theory that the level of warm up is related to the degree that participants bring their personal selves into a role and become immersed in the role.  The more they enter into this, the more they warm up to their own spontaneity, which results in the emergence of the central issues in the role/exercise.  How successfully participants incorporate the process and learning outcomes is greatly affected by the link between personal self and the sociodramatic role.

Warm up plays a crucial part in relation to spontaneity and creativity, and a really effective warm up that enables participants to feel excited and motivated about the subject matter begins long before they enter the training room.  Think about the purpose of the training – how have people heard of it?  Have they been told to come on it by their manager, or have they seen one of your exciting leaflets/website pages telling them how fantastic your training is?

Creating an impactful warm up from the earliest opportunity is vital to engage learners, and it is important to consider the importance of sound, vision and kinesthetics in triggering the intensity of warm up.  This process is also used in NLP, where the application of levels of sound, visual images and feelings results in “state”.  To begin a really good warm up process you need to think about the training room, how it is set out, how welcoming it is (and you are!), what facilities are available etc.  For example, is there convenient parking, how near are the toilets, is the room too hot/too cold, is there coffee on arrival?  If you can provide a pleasant atmosphere you are halfway to engaging your learners.

The warm up exercise should be chosen with care.  You need to get people to identify personally with the subject matter so that they can see the relevance of what they are being asked to consider.

For example, one of the many warm ups we use in our safeguarding training is this one:

In pairs ask participants to say what their favourite film is and why.  (This can be alternated with favourite food, holiday, colour etc).

We use this warm up to get learners to identify how it feels to be asked “personal” questions about themselves and their preferences.  We can then relate this to how a child, young person, vulnerable adult or family may feel being questioned about the more personal aspects of their lives, which is a common occurrence in the safeguarding process.  We can broaden this exercise to ask people how they felt about being asked about their favourite film.  For example, did they tell the truth?  Did anyone refuse to answer?  The discussion can be rolled out to talk about whether families, children etc, have the option of refusing to answer questions or giving false information.  And so on.

Some of the most simple warm ups can draw out the most valuable information from your learners, and make them sit up and take interest in your training.  So choose carefully, and remember – make it personal!

Some Warm Ups you can try:

  1. In pairs ask participants to ask their partner what safeguarding/teamwork/communication/NLP/ etc means to them.
  2. In pairs ask participants to identify one learning outcome they would like to fulfill by the end of the day’s training.
  3. Tell participants there is an imaginary line on the floor.  The extreme left of the line represents 1 and the extreme right 10.  5 is somewhere in the middle.  Ask the participants to place themselves on the line in relation to how much they know/how confident they feel about safeguarding/other.  Discuss how it feels to be at 1, 5, 10 etc.
  4. Ask the participants to place themselves in a line in relation to how long they have been in their post/how many years/months experience they have.  Feed back how great it is to have X years experience/how it might feel to be new etc.
  5. In pairs ask participants to discuss –  What do they think motivates: a member of a government cabinet/ Madonna/ Bob Dylan/ great classical composers (maestros Bach, Handel, Mozart, Wagner, Chopin etc/ great, truly remarkable figures from history, the simple clockmaker John Harrison, Galileo, Newton, Lord Nelson, Florence Nightingale, Gandhi, Mandela, or any other historical figures you are familiar with?
  6. Hand round a bowl of assorted stones/crystals.  Ask participants to pick a stone/crystal that represents someone they have worked with.  Ask them to tell the group why they picked that particular stone.
  7. Hang a “washing line” across the room.  Give flag shaped coloured paper to each participant and ask them to write the name of a child/vulnerable adult/motivational person/etc they have worked with whom they would like to make the focus of the day’s training.


The Athena Programme is a team of experienced professionals specialising in safeguarding with care and creativity.  Our goal is to help people protect children, young people and vulnerable adults and make organisations, staff and working environments safer by providing training and consultancy that is dynamic, inclusive and relevant.

Call us now on 01200 428769.