Friday, February 29, 2008

Are You A Trainer?

Even if you're not specifically called a trainer, chances are you probably have to teach people how to do things, orient them to stuff, show them how your products work in detail, or otherwise stand up in front of small- to mid-size groups and do some 'splaining. If this is you, please make sure that you regularly take time to refresh your approach, even if your subject matter is timeless and unchanging (sex educators, anyone?).

I'm not talking about simply making sure your facts and figures are updated. I'm advocating that you go back to the very beginning of whatever process you use to figure out what you're going to talk about and do it all over again.

Start with your learning needs assessment -- what do people need to know now? Has it changed since you first set up your objectives and goals for the orientation? Or worse yet, did you never pause to think what people would actually be able to do after they go through whatever learning experience you're going to subject them to? Whatever, go back to the basics and make sure you're teaching what people need to know.

On to your materials. Yes, PowerPoint, handouts, demos, role playing, and the inevitable certificates of completion are dandy. But are they really helping people get what they need out of what you're showing them? Scrap it all, and try building them from scratch. See how much better they are when they're made by someone with more skills, a deeper understanding of the material, a better feel for the audience and its questions? That new-and-improved someone is You -- now with several more years experience in your industry!

Freshen your patter. We all know that stories, jokes, and anecdotes can make presentations more lively -- but are you like your dad, exclaiming, "Why not the wurst!" every time you go to the German restaurant? Cast your mind over your experiences since the last time you really thought about what to say, and find some new things to say: new examples and metaphors for what you're doing, different client stories, novel scenarios for folks to work through, etc.

How do you know it's time to do this? Ask yourself these questions: Do you find yourself bored while you are doing your training? Are you routinely skipping over big chunks of the prepared material? Do you spend a lot of time following up on questions asked during class that aren't covered by your standard schtick? Are your participants glaring at you in resentment?

These are signs, my friends. Heed them wisely.

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