- Know what you want to accomplish within the learners and measure it. Provide an exercise that simulates the behavior or action you are teaching in the second half of your training session. Now you have a way to estimate if the learners understand what you are teaching. If not, you have more time to get your point across as you discuss the results of the exercise. If the learners did get it, you can instill confidence by telling them they got it right! They will feel successful and be more likely to apply their new learning at work. Leader-trainers gain respect among participants just by saying, “Yes! You’ve got it!”
- Use PowerPoint slides as a learner-aid, not a trainer-aid. Learners need a few key graphics or words to help them focus. For words, use the 3×3 to 6×6 rule (no more than 3 to 6 words per line; no more than 3 to 6 lines). For graphics, use representations of your words, or use graphs, charts, and models to organize concepts. Don’t stand behind a podium or hold your notes in front of you when present. Nothing should come between you and your learners. Use body language to indicate that you are open to them.
- Tell them what they can do as a result of your training, not what you will do. Paint the picture of what the learner will accomplish during training and after it. Speak their praises, not your own. Use interactive, active words for which any observer could see the result. You cannot see if a person “understands,” “learns,” or “knows.” You can see if a person “applies,” “improves,” “uses,” “describes,” or “creates”.
- Plan an interaction every 10 minutes. The interaction can be an exercise, or question to the learners with a chance to respond to you, their fellow participants, or on paper. Communications help learners process the information. Try asking each person to tell their neighbor one significant thing they heard in the last 10 minutes.
- Put the learner to work, instead of you, during the training. Give learners opportunities to try out new information and make new connections with carefully designed exercises. Direct them as they practice new skills or ideas. Tell them when they are on the right path, and when they are off. Learners look for both your assurance that they are correct, as well as your supervision if they are off-target.
- Provide Purpose, Action, and Limit (PAL) for every activity. Tell the learners why they are doing the activity and what they will do. Often, this is a list of steps to complete the assigned activity. And, give them limits—such as a time limit, a limit on resources, or a limit on location, such as in the room or at their table. If your activity is multifaceted, consider trying it out first on a few friends to hone your directions, avoid misunderstandings, and save face-to-face time at the training event.
- Use the magic numbers—3 and 6—for group work. I find that teams of 3 or 6 people is optimal group size for any activity or exercise. Three people bring diverse thinking to a problem and help each other learn complex tasks or skills. Groups of six provide a critical mass to assure a high level of energy.
- Know your audience. Learn what they care about and what interests them. Are they energized by stories and examples? By doing it themselves with guidance? By cooperating or discussing with others? By having time to reflect? Learn how participants are responding.
- You are responsible for the energy in the room. You may have a tough group, but you should never have a quiet, nonresponsive, low-energy group. If the energy is low, you need to be more vigorous. If their energy is too high, you can take your energy level higher still in order to gain control; then bring the energy level back to a good level. Your passion for the subject can boost energy.
- If you are concerned about the learners’ success, they will value you. Your attitude matters. If you sincerely care about the learners and their success, learners respond more positively. People learn more from someone they respect and value. You need to be that someone, so members will learn and apply their learning.
10 Characteristics and Competencies of an Effective Trainer
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