7 Tips to Be an Excellent Trainer
Do you remember the last time that you were a participant on a training course? How did you feel when the trainer opened their mouth to speak? Did time go into slow motion, did the chairs become harder as you struggled to absorb what they were saying? Or, were you instantly interested? Then amazed that it was already time for the coffee break.
What is it that makes the difference between trainers who are good, and those who are either just mediocre or poor? It’s easy to differentiate between the abilities of different trainers when you’re a participants on a training course, but how do you make sure that you are in the good to excellent category when you’re the trainer, being judged by the participants.
There are 7 key ingredients to being an excellent trainer…..
Number 1 and the most important ingredient that separates good trainers from others is ENTHUSIASM.
Being enthusiastic is the key element to being an effective trainer and to running successful training courses. All the other things that are going to be covered in this short blog are necessary, but without enthusiasm, you will never be viewed as a good trainer.
Think about the type of person you would prefer to spend the day with. Would it be an enthusiastic person, who has a zest for life, or would you choose to spend time with someone for whom life seems a bit of a struggle? Most of us would prefer the former.
Participants want to be led by someone who is full of life and passionate about their subject. Not someone who looks as if they would rather be somewhere else. You have to be enthusiastic, whether you feel like it or not.
Some days it can be difficult, but not impossible! To make sure you are coming across as enthusiastic (real or not!) you need to remember that enthusiasm comes from your tone of voice and your body language, not the words you actually say.
In face-to-face communication 55% of the message of what you are trying to convey is given by your body language; 38% of the message comes from the tone of voice that you use and only 7% of the message is conveyed by the actual words that you are saying.
To appear enthusiastic you need to use a positive, enthusiastic tone of voice, and a natural but energetic style of body language. There is no point in just saying that the subject fascinates you and that you are pleased to be working with the group. You have to demonstrate those facts. If there is any incongruence between the words you use and the tone of voice and the body language you are using when you say them, it is always the tone and body language which will be believed. Simply saying that you are enjoying yourself is not enough; you have to demonstrate the fact.
If you’re enthusiastic (real or manufactured) – hopefully real, you can get the group interested in the subject that you are talking about, and on your side.
Enthusiasm is contagious, and as a trainer, it’s your job to spread it around. When you don’t feel enthusiastic, which let’s face it, is quite possible, then you can’t afford to let it show. Very few people are filled with enthusiasm every single day they go to work.
There will be days when you are feeling tired, fed up or just wishing that you were sitting on a white beach, in the sun. Too bad, you will just have to fake it. You need to develop your acting skills, and make sure that they are good enough for the participants not to see through them and discover the miserable trainer lurking beneath your bright exterior.
The next important ingredient to being an excellent trainer, after being enthusiastic is making sure that you appear CONFIDENT.
If you are confident, the participants will be confident to learn. Participants want to feel that they are in a safe and relaxed environment. The first rule of appearing confident is you should never go for the sympathy vote from participants, no matter how unsure you are feeling.
Maybe you don’t feel very well, maybe you are using new material, and don’t feel comfortable with it. It doesn’t matter how you feel you can’t let it show. If you try to get a group on your side by telling them that you don’t feel very well, or that you have had to stand in for someone else at the last minute and because of that you aren’t very well prepared it won’t work.
Participants divide into two types of people, the sympathetic and the harsh. The sympathetic will respond to a call for sympathy by becoming anxious for you, willing you to succeed. The harsh will wonder what you are doing setting yourself up as a trainer if you aren’t properly prepared. Whichever group the participants fall into, they won’t be feeling comfortable and therefore their learning and your credibility will suffer.
To make sure that you’re coming across as confident, you need to be aware of the body language that you’re using and get rid of any that makes you look unsure of yourself.
The classic body language leakage areas for trainers are fiddling with marker pens, talking to the PowerPoint and not the group, standing on one leg, and shuffling papers. To appear confident (even when you don’t feel it) you have to minimise these habits and develop stronger, more powerful gestures.
If you are enthusiastic and confident (or at least appear to be) you will be able to keep the group on track much more easily. Any group of participants need to feel that the trainer is in control of both the group processes, and the material that is being taught, to be able to learn comfortably.
Tip number 4 is being in CONTROL. This has various different elements to it. You must make sure that everyone feels safe enough to contribute to the group; that everyone is clear about what they’re doing and why they are doing it during the training process; making sure that you stick to the programme timings, or negotiate any changes with the group; making sure that all the necessary training resources are available when needed, and most importantly, ensuring that the refreshments are suitable for all the participants and that they arrive on time.
If you get all this right, you are enthusiastic, confident and appear to be in control of what is happening, the participants will be able to learn in an environment which feels safe and comfortable, and they will be willing to come back for more and think you’re an excellent trainer.
We have covered that you need to be enthusiastic, confident, and in control. The next thing is to think about is to appear to be RELAXED. Yes I know, being an excellent trainer isn’t easy, that is why there are less excellent trainers than ones that are just ok or good enough. None of us want to be just good enough do we?
Who said this was easy? The last thing participant’s want is a nervous, edgy, trainer, or one who over compensates and appears to be arrogant and full of their own self-importance. Part of being confident is appearing to be relaxed. To be relaxed, you need to be confident with your materials and preparation. If you are working with new or less familiar material, that can be difficult, so you need to develop strategies to help yourself.
Each trainer has their own way of delivering material that works for them. Experiment with different ways to write your notes that will enable you to deliver a session without looking like you are reading from notes or worse still from a script.
Read through your materials the night before. Check your timings – add up how long each input / setting up the exercise / debrief will take for each section of the course and then add an extra 10 minutes to the timing. Better to finish a bit earlier than to over running and it can be surprising how long it can take a group of adults to get into small groups and back into their original seats for the debrief!
Work out all these things and write the timings and anything in particular that you need to say to ensure the smooth running of the training and exercises in your notes.
So far we have covered being enthusiastic, displaying confidence, being in control, but also being relaxed. Number 5 is having a SENSE OF HUMOUR - yes really that too!
Using your sense of humour, and making things fun, helps participants to learn. It isn’t just about a little bit of fooling around (if you can pull it off) it does help to break up the learning, and can go down very well.
You need to make sure the humour is appropriate to the group. It’s also better to laugh at yourself than at anyone in the group. If you really think that you can’t fool around and crack jokes, don’t try. If it doesn’t come naturally, it’s not to be recommended.
However this tip also covers being able to develop a fun and positive attitude in the training room. Use slides in your PowerPoint that have something in them that might make participants laugh / something unexpected / use a funny quote or a cartoon to make a point
Making sure participants feel able to contribute and join in a full discussion. It is always useful to use your body language to help this. If you are delivering input then stand up. If you pose a question that you want the group to discuss then sit down. This gives them permission to discuss between each other and not via you the trainer.
Number 6 is obvious… a good trainer needs to KNOW THEIR SUBJECT, and know it well.
It is not advisable to stand up in front of a group if you don’t know much about the subject area that you’re supposed to be covering. If you have flown close to the wind on the odd occasion, maybe at a meeting or somewhere else, you’ll know that it doesn’t make you feel relaxed and confident. Not when you’re hoping that no one will see through your lack of knowledge and catch you out at any moment. When you’re delivering a subject you need to know more about it than you’re actually intending to deliver to the group of participants.
You never know when there might be a question from a participant that needs to be answered. Not being able to answer a participant’s question is a quick way of losing credibility. It’s ok to say that you don’t know occasionally, but not too often.
Although you need to know more about your subject than you’re going to deliver, you also need to know when to stop! There is nothing worse than an enthusiastic trainer who goes on and on. A good trainer makes sure that they’re delivering the information that’s appropriate to the group they are working with. That is both what they want and what they need to know. Save anything else for the next course or for that clever question from that one participant. Then you will be able to wow them by knowing the answer.
Good trainers also need to stick to the point! Don’t get carried away and start to deviate until even you don’t know where you started from and where you were intending to go. Be clear and succinct; occasionally tell short anecdotes to illustrate a point, and then move on to the next point. Imagine that everyone has to take notes from what you’re saying and think about how easy or difficult it would be to do that from your method of delivery.
Summarising what you have said at the end of each section is a good technique. It clarifies learning, and helps anyone who may have dozed off momentarily (or longer), to stay on track.
It is also necessary to be able to give real life stories about the subject in hand. Hopefully if you are running for example a management course you will have personal scenarios to fall back on. This always makes participants feel that you really know what you are talking about.
Before you deliver a course have a think about what experiences you can weave into it, if none came to mind when you put the course together.
Tip number 7 is GOOD COMMUNICATION SKILLS. You need to be able to get the subject across and to portray yourself well. Communicating divides into two broad areas, transmitting (talking) and receiving (listening). Obviously you have to be good at transmitting otherwise you’re not going to get the message across. But you also need to be good at receiving (listening) or you won’t understand what is happening for either the individual participants or the group you are working with.
The areas of communication, as a trainer that you need to be aware of are;
Having Clarity: Participants need to be able to understand what you’re saying, and be able to see the logic of where you’re starting from and where you are going with the subject.
Having the right Pitch: Participants need to be able to hear you. You don’t want to boom across the room, deafening people, but you have to make sure that you are loud enough for everyone to hear you comfortably. If participants can’t hear the trainer, then they switch off; write tomorrow’s to do list; test their artistic ability in doodling, or become disruptive.
Have a Varied Tone and Pace: You need to use different tones of voice to keep participants interested in what you are saying. Using a monotone will send people to sleep fairly rapidly. Varying the tone and pace of your delivery is a must. Remember that 38% of the message that you are conveying is understood via the tone of voice. So you have to work hard at it.
Using the Right Language: A good trainer needs to make sure that they use language that is appropriate to the group. Don’t be condescending or patronising. Check out what people know and don’t know. If you want or need to use jargon, first check out that everybody understands it. Never assume everyone understands it, because often people won’t ask, but will sit either confused or fed up, either way not learning and not rating you as an excellent trainer.
Then there is the need for excellent Listening and observing: You need to listen carefully to what participants are really saying or asking. There are two types of listening, ‘listening waiting to speak’, and ‘’active listening’. The first type is exactly what it says, waiting for the speaker to shut up so that you can say what you want to say. Consequently you’re not giving them your full attention. Active listening is actively listening to what the speaker is saying in order to ensure that you understand what they are really telling you or asking you. That is not just listening to the words that the participant is saying but listening for the tone of voice they’re using, checking out the context in which the words are being said and trying to second guess their emotions.
You should use active listening to ensure that you can accurately answer any question or queries. You also need to pick up on any fears and concerns that participants may have. It is much better to try and deal with these as they appear, rather than carrying on serenely only to find a group of unhappy participants, half way through the training course.
Whilst you are training, you are constantly trying to read what’s happening in the group. You should be watching out for clues in participants’ body language, and their communications with others, to try and ascertain how the participants are feeling. You want to know whether they are engaged in the learning process, or if they are bored, and getting fidgety. You can’t be a mind reader, but you can try your best to work out what is happening, and match your delivery style and content to needs of the participants.
Have a think about each one and decide how you would rate yourself and if you are training other trainers how you would deliver these messages.
- Have a look on our website www.mytrainingresources.co.uk for loads of resources to save you time and give you ideas and help you be rated as an excellent trainer.
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Enjoy your training.