Jonathan Saipe

20 Essential Training Tips for The Perfect Trainer

17 November 2008, Jonathan Saipe

Is being the perfect trainer really possible? Whilst mastery of the training course subject matter is a given, what about communication, engagement, entertainment and listening skills?

Read our top 20 recommendations for reaching the ultimate heights of training perfection:

1. Establish your delegates’ needs
At the start of every course encourage your delegates to individually introduce themselves, highlight their roles within their organisation and most importantly impart their knowledge of the subject matter. You will then be able to pitch the training course at the right level and make it relevant to all delegates’ needs.

2. Ensure you highlight the course goals and objectives
Spend 10 minutes at the start of every training course to highlight the main aims of the course or workshop. This will set expectations and will give the training course instant structure.

3. Interpret non-verbal communication
If you can perfect the art of reading non-verbal cues from your delegates, you will go a long way in training. Trainers who have a “sense and respond” approach tend to better understand the needs of their training course audiences.

If your delegates look confused, tired or bored, do something about it! Take a break, engage the delegates more or initiate some sort of dialogue – anything to rectify the problem as soon as possible.

4. Ensure your presentation material hits the mark
Creating training material is often an arduous task. Firstly it requires a good attention to detail, but it shouldn’t be so detailed that it forces your audience to read your content without listening to you. Secondly, you need to order the course contents so as not to introduce complex subjects too early on. And finally don’t introduce new topics right at the end of the day.

5. Keep the energy up
There’s no doubt that training is tiring both physically and mentally. This applies to the trainer and the delegates. If there’s a hint of tiredness from your audience recommend a quick break. Sugar and caffeine can go a long way to help although they aren’t always the answer as their effects are often short term.
Engagement, interactive dialogue and fun are usually good tools to reignite lost energy.

6. Don’t be afraid to repeat
If you want to emphasize a point throughout a course don’t be afraid to repeat yourself on more than one occasion. And there’s no harm announcing this fact to yet further highlight a point. Delegates won’t be expected to retain every nugget of information, so the repeated point may hit its mark if it didn’t the first time round.

7. Mix your training styles and content
Presentating your audience with 200 slides of boring bulleted material will do little to inspire them. Similarly talking at them for hours on end will yield little enthusiasm.

Vary your training material with examples, case studies, imagery and research. And intersperse your presentation with exercises, dialogue and question and answer sessions.

8. Sum up after each section
If your course is divided into sections (which it should be) make sure you summarise each section as you complete it. Prompt your delegates for questions at this point as well.

9. Give exercises
Engage your audience with interesting exercises that stimulate and teach material covered in the relevant course section. Exercises can be carried out in groups or individually, on paper, computer or as an open question and answer session.

Make it fun when applicable and avoid putting delegates on the spot.

10. Provide good leave-behind material
Make sure your printed leave-behind material is legible and easy to digest. It could be a slightly more fleshed-out version of the course or possibly further reading or research material.

11. Don’t talk AT your delegates
Consider your training course to be a two-way dialogue where your delegates are constantly giving feedback and hopefully asking questions. Talking at your delegates for the entire training course will be exhausting for all parties and will not yield good results.

12. Use humour when necessary
Whilst I’m not an advocate of a fully fledged comedy routine, there is absolutely no harm in having light-hearted moments to dispel any tensions. Just don’t belittle the content or reason for being at the training course in the first place.

13. Ensure the environment is conducive to good learning
There’s nothing worse than a stuffy overcrowded room with little light or oxygen. Where possible use a space that is stimulating and has good light and ambience. A good venue will contribute to better learning and will make the whole experience more enjoyable for your delegates.

14. Arrive at the training venue in good time
Don’t arrive at the training course 5 minutes before it is due to start. There’s nothing worse that presenting to an audience flustered. Arrive in good time, set up and acclimatise to the environment.

15. Pace yourself
Controlling the pace of each training course is highly important. Burning through slides at a light speed only to finish 4 hours early will not impress your delegates. Equally, you cannot reach the end of the day with over half your content still to go.

If you aren’t 100% familiar with the course content, work out approximately how many slides to get through per hour so that you can at least keep track of your approximate progress. Be prepared to subtly vary the pace of the course to balance the content over the allocated time.

16. Keep the agenda flexible and be prepared for change
With inquisitive delegates you may find that the training course starts to err in unexpected ways. If you find the course is digressing you may want to suggest to your delegates that the agenda is modified slightly to meet their needs.

Don’t be afraid to suggest this to your audience. It’s more important to meet their exact needs than to follow your course structure precisely.

17. Don’t sit down throughout the course
Sitting down throughout an entire course can send the wrong signals to your audience. Whilst it isn’t always possible to stand in front of your delegates, doing so will convey confidence, leadership and dynamism.

18. Admit when you don’t know an answer
You will always find one or two delegates who ask questions for which you don’t have the right answer. Don’t try to worm your way out of difficult questions. You will probably regret doing this when you get caught out.
Admit when you aren’t sure. Trainers are fallible after all.

19. Treat your delegates!
Giving your delegates treats goues a long way. Great food and snacks has always worked wonders for me. But equally a treat can be in the form of a really useful leave-behind or nugget of exclusive information.

20. Remember everyone’s name
Referring to your delegates by their first names will create a better bond between the trainer and the group. If your delegates aren’t wearing name badges, make a quick sketch of the room layout and write down names next to where each delegate is sitting. That way you can refer to your sketch at any point throughout the session.