Linda F. Willing
P.O. Box 148
Grand Lake, CO
Developing New Teachers The best way to develop skills as a trainer is to get out there and teach others. Many people have abilities and experiences that would be valuable to share, but lack the confidence or organizational skills to be good teachers of others. Find ways to give everyone an opportunity to share knowledge, even if it is just a 10 minute demonstration of a tool or procedure within another class. Including everyone in your potential instructor pool will build confidence and increase buy-in for training generally.
New Clips You're not stuck using the same old clip art you've always used for slide presentations. With digital cameras and scanners, it is easy to customize the graphics you use in presentations. Try taking pictures of familiar places and people to enhance your text. But be cautious; advances in technology makes it easy to crowd a presentation with graphics and illustrations. Use only what will add to and not distract from the message you will personally deliver.
Tell the Story Many people making persuasive presentations try to dazzle their audiences with mountains of data or flashy PowerPoint shows. But numerous studies show that telling an effective story, even without any graphic support, is the most effective way of connecting with an audience. Stories must be concise and should clearly illustrate the underlying principles of the presentation in language that is easily understood by those listening.
Clarifying Expectations If there are specific requirements for the completion of a class you are teaching, it is a good idea to put those expectations in writing and discuss them early in the class process. Include due dates, reading assignments, and details about any work that will be presented or handed in. Make sure every student has a copy and ask that all students keep their copies with them throughout the class so you can continually refer to the listed expectations and answer any questions that may arise.
Giving Feedback In some classes, students will be expected to give feedback to their peers. Feedback in such circumstances is often not useful because it is either too critical or else watered down. To produce better in-class feedback, create some guidelines and expectations up front, such as:
Setting Goals All training should have clear goals attached to it. What is the problem or situation that needs to be addressed? How will the training specifically address the needs of the moment? Even training that seems repetitive should be presented in this context, such as continuing education sessions for recertifications. Even if you've attended a dozen classes on CPR or sexual harassment, you should still be learning at least one new thing at every class.
Defining Breaks It is a good idea at the beginning of any class to set expectations for what kinds of breaks will occur. You might choose to have frequent official breaks, say every hour, or you may conduct longer sessions and give people permission to get up and leave the room as needed. Whatever you choose to do, consider the following:
Contact Information Any handout material provided for a presentation should include some contact information, if only the name of the person doing the presentation and the name of the organization. This applies even to classes that are given within one's own organization. For presentations given to any other group, complete contact information, including phone number and email address, should be provided. Handout material is often passed on to those who did not attend the class, and those people should know who to contact with any questions they may have.
Late Arrivals What should an instructor do when people routinely show up late to a scheduled class? Having people come in past the designated time of the class is disruptive and unfair to those who do arrive on time. Consider the following:
Customize Your Presentation Never go before a group with only a generic presentation and no knowledge of the specific needs of the group you are addressing. Relying only on a stock slide presentation without any ability to respond to local concerns will undermine your credibility from the start. Take the time to ask a few questions of your host. Who will be attending? What are their backgrounds? What are they looking for from the presentation? Even this level of customization will make a big difference in how your program will be received.
Round Table Discussions When setting up seating for large gatherings, consider a round table configuration as opposed to the standard auditorium set-up. Using tables that accommodate 8-10 people each is a good way to create an environment where group discussions can occur even among larger groups. It is very difficult to sustain a full class discussion in groups of more than 30 or 40 people, but when smaller groups are created by table seating, discussions can take place within this format and then be summarized by the facilitator for the entire group.
Sound Check When speaking to a group in an unfamiliar room, always do a sound check early on. Don't just do it from one place in the room; you will probably be moving around, and need to be heard no matter where you are standing. Specifically ask those in the back row if they can hear you. Make eye contact with them and ask for a definite answer. And remember this rule of thumb: If you can't clearly see the people in the back row, then they probably can't hear you. In that case, use a microphone.