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101 Tips for Trainers or How To Survive Life "At the Front of the Room"

101 Tips for Trainers or How To Survive Life "At the Front of the Room"

Rather than offering a training design, I'd like instead to share a lot of quick ideas with you that I have learned and found invaluable in almost 30 years as a trainer. Instead of adding more words than you would ever want to read about each idea, let me just offer them in "kernel" fashion, in the hope that some of them will pop into your brain when you need them the most… in front of an audience!

To read the full article

Sat, 07/27/2002
Here are 7 "words of wisdom" used primarily by me as guides and reminders: The trainer who views the participants as partners with equal responsibility for the outcome of the workshop is a comfortable and successful trainer. The participants are the greatest resource and assistance for a "trainer in trouble." A principal and ongoing responsibility of a trainer is to REMOVE INHIBITORS to learning. A trainer who isn't a "little bit nervous" is a trainer in danger. Knowing when to move from the "expert" role into either the "facilitator" or "seeker" role guarantees a successful workshop EVERY TIME. The responsibility of the trainer is to the groups and not to any individual in it. There is one training technique more appropriate than any other for accomplishing a specific learning objective.

Wed, 07/31/2002

Group exercises in which groups report their individual deliberations to the main group are an effective way to share information. It can be even more effective if you carefully select how the reporting takes place. All that is required is that the trainer "scout" the groups as they are working, identifying how well groups groups are performing the exercise. Then, consciously get groups to report out in the following sequence, based on your scouting:

  1. The first group to report out should be your "model." It should be the group which appeared to be most conscientiously following the instructions and making the most progress in the direction you wanted the exercise to go, as well as working for results in the way you wanted them to occur. The tone and format of the report given by this first group will be followed by others as they give their reports, making it much more likely that the exercise will go the way you planned.
  2. Follow this report with another group that appeared to be on track and then with others who made intermediate progress. If you have a group that was "lost" during the exercise, place them toward the end, so they will have time for their spokesperson to "repair" their report while other groups are reporting out.
  3. The last group to report out should be the group that had the most fun. This will end the exercise on a high note and let you easily move the group on to the next area of discussion.

Sat, 07/27/2002

Tip 1: Know your audience.

Build credibility with your audience; make your training engaging and relevant, by spending some time beforehand - or very early in the training itself - learning about participants. For example, knowing the demographics of the group can affect your choice of format, the tone of your presentation, even your attitude toward participants. (Will you be training all or mostly women? All men? Will participants be Gen X'ers, older adults, baby boomers?) Knowledge of participants' levels of experience with the subject matter will help you choose appropriate, useful content.

Learn something about the work participants will be doing, how they will apply what they learn, the organizational settings in which they will operate, the challenges or issues they may encounter - and address these matters as specifically as possible throughout the training. In addition to learning more, participants will feel respected and affirmed by your efforts and will not soon forget the experience.

Whenever possible, invest time in brief conversations with participants before the training. If you cannot talk with all, talk with some. If you cannot make time for conversations, send or email brief questionnaires. If this isn't possible, create an opportunity very early in the training for participants to indicate their roles, their level of experience, the interests or concerns that brought them to your training, and what they hope to learn. It is particularly useful to chart issues/challenges/expectations and refer to this list whenever possible, using it to shape discussions and focus content.

Tip 2: Move from the conceptual to the concrete.

Apply what is being learned to situations that are actually occurring in participants' work. Ask participants to explore concrete ways in which they might use a concept or skill. For example, explore how a hospital volunteer might use listening skills. What might be the benefits to patients? What challenges have participants encountered in visiting patients? Consider role playing scenarios offered by participants, with the goal of applying what has been learned to the situation.

Tip 3: Stay on schedule.

This sounds obvious. Of course all trainers work toward this goal. But are we not sometimes too willing to set aside the agenda for a discussion that seems particularly lively, relieved that the group finally seems engaged, reassured of our skills, or uncertain how to redirect the group? Those great discussions which extend five, ten, fifteen, twenty minutes into the next module - either cutting deep into the content of that module or leaving the entire day's agenda fractured - may or may not contribute to the achievement of the group's learning objectives. Of course, there will be times when a diversion is necessary, even critical. Knowing the difference - and knowing ourselves - is the key.

Tip 4: Trainers are vulnerable human beings.

When we stand up in front of a room full of strangers - even friendly, like-minded strangers - we risk being seen. We risk making mistakes. We risk revealing our poor spelling on a chart, forgetting to close a zipper, showing impatience or judgments, tripping over our words, tripping over the easel or a microphone cord, and as many other mishaps as fill trainers' nightmares. For many of us, perhaps especially for beginning trainers, our self-esteem can be profoundly challenged by our work. Regardless of our years in the field, most of us know the anxiety that lasts a few minutes - or much longer. We know the feeling of not quite being in control of our voices, of talking too fast, or -perhaps worst of all - freezing for a moment in front of the room. Perhaps we have also seen our arrogance, enjoyed the privileges and the safety of being in control?

Some random thoughts about what we might make of these experiences:
· Recognize that training and facilitation reveal us to ourselves and can be a tool for significant self-exploration.
· Connect through our vulnerability, through our shared humanness, to those we are training. Be more patient with the ones who talk too much, more forgiving of all the devil's advocates…then redirect.
· Be equally forgiving of our own mistakes and kind to our developing egos.
· Practice humility; we are all learners.

Tip 5: Remember the value of the gift you're offering.

As a trainer you are offering a valuable gift to participants: an opportunity to reflect on their work, to learn new concepts and skills, to connect with peers, and to create positive change in their volunteering or in their leadership of volunteers. When we truly value a workshop's process and content and believe that it will benefit participants' personally and professionally, we are more likely to communicate that value to participants with confidence, enthusiasm, and authenticity. Each group we train is composed of unique individuals, many of whom are doing work that is quite meaningful to them and important to their community. So be ready to state why you're pleased to be with each group (if you [are] pleased…and you can always find a reason), that you recognize the impact of their work, and that you are eager to facilitate their learning experience. You will be generating confidence and energy for yourself, while creating an atmosphere of respect, positive regard and high motivation for participants. It is in this atmosphere that learning happens at its best.