The Unintentional Trainers Guide to The Graveyard Slot

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sleepyEvery day I have an energy slump right after lunch.  And I know I’m not alone.  In fact most people experience some kind of energy dip in the afternoon (research has actually pinpointed the time to 2.16pm!) and it’s generally thought to be caused by a combination of what you ate for lunch and the tasks your undertaking not being as engaging as they could.

This mid afternoon dip, where you feel like you could close your eyes where you sit, or crawl into bed and sleep for a couple of hours is bad enough when you are working alone, but when you are facilitating a group of people and they are all feeling it, it can really have a negative impact on your session.

Seasoned trainers will know this time as “The Graveyard Slot”.  It is a notoriously difficult time to get people enegerised and re-engaged into the training, but it must be managed in order for your training to be as effective as it can be.

I used to work with a chap who kept a pencil case next to his trainers notes.  When he saw someone who looked as if they were getting sleeping he would launch it at them.  I kid you not.  I wouldn’t suggest that you take that approach., instead why not try some of the following more delegate friendly actions.

Pro-active solutions include:

  • Don’t schedule your training to take place in the afternoon.  Research shows that the brain is primed for learning in the morning and handles short bursts of information better than whole days.  So take advantage of this and run a shorter, more compact session in the morning.

If that’s not an option and you have to have a full-day’s worth of training, or training which takes place in the afternoon, then:

  • Manage what’s available for lunch.  You don’t have to go all Gillian McKeith (Scottish Nutritionist who famously presented a show called “You Are What You Eat”) here, but making sensible catering choices can help minimise the slump for the afternoon part of your session.  If you can, go for protein high, carb low foods (like salads).  Carbohydrates stimulates serotonin release which increases sleepiness so they are best avoided.  Same goes for foods high in sugar.  They may be tasty but the resulting sugar crash can zap the energy from your audience.
  • Consider how you structure your session – what content do you currently have schedule for the afternoon?  Is it  presentation style or theory work?  Ideally, around mid-afternoon you want people to be more active.  Perhaps a group exercise, or something which requires them to physically move around.  These types of activities will help keep the brain engaged until the slump has passed.

If you don’t provide lunch for your delegates (and lots of places don’t) and you can’t change the length of the session then you’ll need be prepared for the slump to happen and react to it.  You could try:

  • Encouraging delegates to leave the main facilitation room to complete small group exercises – a change of scene and moving about can help freshen things up.
  • Throw in a pop quiz or lively “energiser” to get people switched back on again – this type of activity changes the pace of the session and re-energises people.
  • Have some healthy snacks set out on the tables for people to pick at.  Things like fresh fruit, dried fruit and nuts are all great sources of long-lasting energy and should help combat the sleepiness.
  • And my favourite tip of all…. don’t wait to see those heads going down before you take action, just open the windows about 30mins after you’ve returned from lunch.  The fresh air will help invigorate people.

How do you manage your and others energy levels during training?  I’d love to hear your strategies, share them in the comments below.



Founder of Zostera Ltd and The Trainers CPD Club. I've worked in L&D for over 16 years across both the public and private sectors.

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