Linda F. Willing
P.O. Box 148
Grand Lake, CO
Training Tip Archives
In the Spotlight How often do you invite the media to observe or even participate in training sessions? Hands-on fire and rescue training is particularly conducive to stories about the fire department with a positive angle and lots of dramatic photos. Inviting the media to selected training sessions is a good way to increase visibility and goodwill among the general public, as well as creating critical relationships with members of the press.
False Advertising One mistake that many presenters make is not following their own outlines. If you provide an outline for your class (and you should for most presentations), make sure you cover the points listed. If you don't, you will alienate your audience even if the alternate material you present is valuable. The most common reasons for failing to follow an outline are poor time management and the desire to freelance. It is better to cut back the amount of material promised and cover it all well, rather than hurrying through half of it, or skipping it altogether. In addition, it is preferable to change the course outline rather than set up expectations that you will not meet.
Your Best Foot Forward How you do presentations is just as important as what you say. Kevin Daley, co-founder of Communispond, a company that teaches presentation skills, offers the following suggestions for making effective presentations:
The View From Here Many organizations conduct training in the same room, with the same seating configuration, regardless of the type of class. Don't be constrained by the typical classroom setting. Move tables and chairs into seminar-style seating for discussion focused classes, or get rid of them altogether if the class requires interaction and moving around. At the very least, watch where people usually sit (most people have a favorite spot) and make sure they sit in another place in some classes.
Email Effectiveness Most people need training on how to use email effectively. Some people may not be comfortable with computers generally and might need training on how to use basic features. People who grew up with computers may use email slang which is not understood by others. Develop clear guidelines for use of email, including protocols for messaging and what email is best used for. Also train personnel how to use the spell-check feature on email and encourage its use.
Get Outside! Leadership can be learned in many ways. Outdoor leadership schools use physical challenges such as ropes courses, high wire crossings, wall obstacles, and other outdoor activities to give participants hands-on experience in team building and leadership. Check with local colleges, camps, and nonprofit centers for availability of these resources. Outdoor education centers are usually anxious to work with fire departments and other public service agencies, and the cost for use of the facilities is often very reasonable.
The Power of Introductions When teaching an interactive class with a new group, always make time for brief introductions of everyone in the room at the beginning of the class. Taking ten minutes to do introductions will break the ice and make it easier for people to speak up later. Having people identify themselves by name increases the opportunity for meaningful networking during the class as well as later on, and also raises the level of accountability among the participants.
Choose Your Colors Small things do matter. If you want your notes on chart pads or white boards to be easily readable by all in the room, use only new-condition markers in black or blue. Other colors can be used for accent, but are not nearly as legible as black or blue and should not be used for primary text. Write in large block print using the wide side of the marker. If you are traveling and you want to be certain that the markers work properly, bring along one or two of your own. And please, be fearless about throwing away markers that are dried up or otherwise do not function well.
Timing is Everything One way to demonstrate respect for your students is to start and end classes on time. If there are real constraints that prevent a timely start (such as shift change or cover-in assignments), it is better to change the class time rather than make others wait. Likewise, an ending time is a commitment and acknowledgment that everyone's time is valuable. Upholding firm start and end times for classes is a way of creating clear expectations and showing respect for those who attend your classes.
Podium Protocol Just because a classroom or presentation space has a formal podium or lectern does not mean that you have to use it. Only the most formal speeches work best when delivered while standing in one place behind a podium. Most presentations will benefit from a less formal style. Also note that most lecterns are designed for the height of the average man; about 5' 10" to 6' tall. If you are much shorter or taller than this, standing behind a podium will make you look disproportionate. Check to see if the podium is adjustable in height; otherwise, feel free to step away from it when presenting.
Make it Fun There is nothing wrong with having fun while learning. Even subjects that are somewhat dry and serious (e.g. haz mat, EMS protocols) can benefit at times from a lighter approach. Instead of a routine drill or quiz, try a jeopardy game where teams compete against one another. Using tastefully humorous anecdotes or stories to illustrate points can be effective. Professionalism and humor are not mutually exclusive. Making training fun can increase involvement and attention for the subject.
Finish What You Start Starting too many training initiatives without following through on them will undermine the credibility of the specific training programs, and the training mission overall. Realistically assess resources and decide what types of training will take priority, then focus time and effort on completing those training programs before moving on to new topics. But watch out for always being in the mode of only doing training that must be done; training for annual certifications, for example. Make sure that new topics are introduced periodically.