Ten tips for better training
1. Engineers aren’t administratorsDevelop the training program to the level of the intended audience. Manuals, handouts and examinations should all reflect the intended outcome of the program. Target the training to the appropriate audience. For example, developing an asbestos awareness course for a group of engineers would be a different process than developing one for office personnel.
2. Cut and pasteDuring the development phase, leave room for customization. Rarely do we develop a training program that we would present only once and to one audience. Develop the program so that it can be easily customized. Use an electronic format whenever possible and store the programs in an orderly fashion that allows components to be accessed when needed.
3. Don’t be lateEnsure that all power supplies, projectors, coffee, and other required materials will be there on time. Organize yourself, set out the course materials, and greet the students upon arrival. The time spent will show your audience that their time is as important as yours.
4. Give ’em a breakThe adage, “The brain can learn only what the backside can take” is true. People stop the learning process when they become uncomfortable. Provide at least five- to ten-minute breaks for every hour to hour and a half of training. Longer breaks aren’t uncommon, especially when the audience has to check in with the office.
5. Practice, practice, practicePractice the presentation repeatedly to get the feel of the information, the sequencing, and timing. Try to keep the flow of the presentation even, leave out the “um’s” and “ah’s”, and try to keep objects, like a podium, from coming between you and the audience.
6. Stick to your planDon’t deviate from the lesson plan. Stick to the goals and evaluate the program as it was written. When an instructor deviates from the written program, the evaluation phase will be ineffective.
7. Build credibilityAn instructor’s credibility with the students is essential. And saying, “I don’t know,” when you’re asked a question that you don’t have an answer to is not a sin. Most people find it very respectable. Don’t forget to get their name and phone number so you can get back to them with the correct answer. Also, not everyone learns at the same pace or retains the same information. Be considerate of people’s limitations and you will begin to provide an effective learning environment.
8. Ask questionsDuring the presentation, ask students if they have any questions. If no one provides feedback, then ask questions regarding the important points of the material presented. This allows you to determine if you’ve lost the students anywhere. The second advantage is that it involves the students in the learning process.
9. Don’t fear feedbackStudent questionnaires are the best way to obtain feedback. Based on feedback, take the time to work on areas that need improvement. Program development, presentation skills, test development, and program administration are all skills that every trainer can improve on. Find a good train-the-trainer program and allow yourself the time to develop. Trainers are like fine wines, the older they get, the better they are.
10. Develop a thick skinTraining is not for the faint of heart. Remember that no matter how hard you might try you’ll never be able to please all of your students. Understanding this from the start will prevent a lot of heartache.
I once overheard an instructor describe his job as being one-third entertainer, one-third technical expert, and one-third swallowing his pride. It is a tough field because there are so many facets to being a good educator. Hopefully, these tips will help take the edge off.