Throughout my career I have always been a trainer. Regardless of my title, at some point in every job I’ve ever held, I have found myself in front of a group of people, with a PowerPoint presentation at my back, explaining how to do something new. And I love it.
If the salary of a trainer could equal my current compensation, I would seriously consider changing careers. I know that there are opportunities for people who train on the international circuit to make some pretty big bucks, but jumping on a plane to Dubai, living for a few days out of a hotel room, and then spending a day at home before heading off to some other exotic local isn’t a lifestyle I can handle.
That being said, I just started a new job, and I can bet that within a month I’ll be standing in the front of a conference room, with PowerPoint on a screen behind me, trying to enlighten my colleagues with new knowledge.
Here are Some the Things I’ve Learned Over the Years
The whiteboard and/or flip charts are your friends-
When planning the delivery of your presentation, look for an excuse to write stuff down with the class watching. It engages the attendees in a way that even a very slick, animated PowerPoint presentation can’t. Sometimes this means leaving the slides intentionally vague with the meat of the delivery being done live and without a net. I’ve always been of the mindset that the trainer should be the focus of attention. The less information on the slide, the better.
Your spelling gene will fail when writing in front of an audience-
Even if you were a spelling child prodigy, once you start writing with the markers, you will make spelling mistakes. Don’t worry about this. In fact, utilize it to your advantage. Before you start writing on the board, ask the students to help out and double check your work. If ever you are even a little bit unsure how to spell something, stop writing, look them directly in the eyes, and ask for help. It makes you approachable and kick starts their active participation in the class.
Don’t be afraid to ask the class for help-
If someone asks a question, or proposes a countering viewpoint that you just don’t understand, see if someone else in attendance can restate it (or perhaps even answer it themselves). Teaching is a collaborative experience. I know more about the subjects I’ve taught because I know them from more than just my perspective.
You will be wrong-
At some point, someone will ask you a perfectly clear question, and your answer will be completely wrong. I used to video tape my training sessions so I could dissect and improve my delivery. I was watching one of these recording, when to my horror, I discovered that I had misheard the question that I had been asked. The recording showed me going on to give an answer (in extreme detail) which had absolutely nothing to do with the question that was asked. There is a reason you see public speakers pause after answering a question and then query the audience to see if they answered the question completely.
Check out your venue ahead of time-
If you are going to be giving training in a space you are unfamiliar with, go a day early and check it out. Most hotels will let you in conference rooms if you explain you are going to be delivering a presentation the next day. If it is at a private company facility that you have never been to, then at least go there and figure out the parking and entry situation.
This is the cheapest and easiest way to start class on a good footing. It might cost you all of two bucks to buy a bag of hard candies that you can spread across the tables before the session starts. The attendees will think you are a god.
Training is an Art
The art of training is that it is both a performance and a test of wills. The trainer, through their performance, is trying to bend the will of the participants into understanding a new viewpoint. Through understanding comes acceptance. From acceptance comes knowledge.
Trying to force everyone in a room to like, believe, and understand me through an 8-hour training session is more draining than running a 5K. But just like completing a 5K, there is an emotional high at the end of an epic training session that is truly addictive.