If you’ve ever had to train people at work you will certainly learn, over time, the right way to do so. Winging it is not part of my vernacular when it comes to training others. Here are some tips that I have picked up during my career that have helped me immensely when training people at work.
Before the Training Session
1. Put together detailed documentation with screenshots.
Providing documentation at the start of the training session is very important. People learn more easily when they have hardcopy material to follow during the class. You should also provide a section called Notes at the bottom of each page so that the students can add additional information.
2. Reserve the room, as a separate meeting, ½ hour before the training session.
I’ve seen people try to set up the projector and hand out the training material with the students already in the class. If you reserve the room, for yourself, ½ hour before the class, this will give you plenty of time to hit the ground running when the students arrive.
3. Ask them what they expect.
Send an email to all participants a few days before the training class. Ask them what they expect to get out of the training session. This could help you prepare the curriculum and gear it more toward that particular group. It should also ensure that the participants aren’t expecting something you’re not prepared to deliver.
4. Test drive.
Find a co-worker and give them a test drive of the training session. It may be an abbreviated version but ask that person to take notes and ask questions as you are presenting. This should help you work out the kinks and will give you practice presenting the material.
During the Training Session
5. Lose the phones and PDAs.
Paying attention is all you can really expect from your students. The last thing you want someone to be doing while you are presenting is texting, answering a phone, or checking email. Bring a small cardboard box and ask each student to turn off and place their phone or PDA in the box while the class is in session. During breaks they can use them.
6. Give ‘em breaks.
Along the lines of paying attention, it is very difficult to expect your students to keep their attention span for more than one hour straight. I have a hard-and-fast rule to give the class a 15 minute break for each hour of class time. This break will certainly refresh the students and allow them to get coffee, use the bathroom, or check their phones and email.
7. Be comfy.
It is much easier to present your training material if you are wearing comfortable clothes. Wearing comfortable shoes will also help if you’re on your feet the whole day. Being comfy will help you relax and, as a result, will help your audience relax.
8. Stay hydrated.
Nothing will give you dry-mouth faster than having to speak a lot. You may find that five minutes into the training session your mouth is dry as the Sahara. Bring a full water bottle with you that is easy to dispense. You may also want to have a couple of pitchers of ice water in the back of the class with plastic cups for the students as well.
9. Make it interactive.
Always allow your audience to ask questions at any time during the training session. People want answers at the time that the material is being covered. Asking a class to wait until the end of a particular section to ask questions doesn’t really help. If you don’t allow a question to be cleared up as soon as it comes up, you could lose the class.
After the Training Session
Hand out a set of evaluation questions at the end of the training session. It doesn’t have to be a lengthy list but you want to hear how the training was received by the students. This should help you refine the material based on their input.
11. Provide an electronic copy of the material.
Even though you handed out hardcopy training material at the beginning of the class, always provide an electronic copy at the end. These days everyone wants to have an electronic file. Gather the email addresses of the participants and send it out via email after the class.
Training others is not an easy task. If you heed these simple steps, you just may make the experience more enjoyable for your class and for yourself.
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