What Makes Great Trainers Great?

13/02/2023 What Makes Great Trainers Great?

Daniela Liberman

What Makes Great Trainers Great?

As the subject matter expert in your company on a specialized topic, you may be called upon to share your knowledge with others in formal training. Does the thought excite you, make you break out in a sweat, or both?
Here’s the good news: the skills you need to successfully train others can be learned.

Before we get started, stop!
Take a minute to think about the best lecture or training session you ever attended.
What made it so great? What are the takeaways you still remember?
Why would you want to listen to that speaker again?

How about a lecture or training session that you felt was a total waste of your time.
What made you feel that way? Too long? No added value? Poor presenter?
What could have made it better?

Now, what can you learn from both experiences? 
What good things can you replicate and what mistakes should you avoid?

Keep calm and keep on reading
Perhaps you’re asking yourself, “Would I be a good trainer?”
Well, let’s find out. Most trainers aren’t born but made.
Good trainers have some common characteristics.
Are you: 

If you answered “yes” to these statements, you’ve already got a firm foundation and that is great! But where do you start?

Start with “WHY” and “WHAT”
In our experience, many trainings don’t work because there isn’t a good fit between the trainer and the content or the content and the target audience. It may sound like a no-brainer, but you will need to ask yourself two crucial questions: First, who is your audience? Second, what is the goal of the training?

  1. Know your audience — “show me you know me”
    Chances are that they are just as busy as you are, and this training, whether they chose to be there or were sent by their managers, means time away from other things they need to be doing.

Don’t assume that just because people are in the training —
a) They know why it’s important
b) They are motivated to learn it 

Sending out a pre-course questionnaire, particularly if it’s anonymous, will be helpful in answering why they are there, as well as what level of knowledge they have, their needs, concerns, and pain points, and what they need to get out of it. 

During training, take the time to check in with their level of interest and motivation. It’s important to solicit feedback and be open to understanding, evaluating, and validating it. 

If and when necessary, make some tweaks and communicate it to the course participants. This will help them to feel that their voice is heard, and their opinions have been taken into consideration.

The more you know about your participants, the more you’ll be able to tailor the content to their specific needs and make it more relevant to them. Their time is valuable, so you need to be respectful and provide them with valuable information in a digestible format. 

Make it clear why they need to pay attention to you. What value does your training offer them? Will it expand their skill set, help move them up a pay grade, or earn a needed certification?  Make sure they understand right at the start how the training will help them, save them time, and make their jobs easier. 

  1. What do they need to know — what are the learning objectives?
    Trainers often convey more information than is necessary. Make sure you understand what level of proficiency they will need. You can’t possibly teach them everything you know — you need to teach them what they need to know. 

When you understand the desired outcome of the training and how it will be measured, you’ll be able to prioritize the training content — what to put in or leave out. Clearly defining and communicating the learning objective is critical to the success of your training.

Training is learner-centric. As a trainer, you’re not just delivering content or transferring knowledge to people. You are creating an impact in their lives — this is something they will remember, use, and benefit from. 

Now, let’s look at “HOW”
To be a great trainer, you’ll need to strengthen your communication skills and show qualities like patience, humility, and confidence. And the foundation is first to genuinely CARE about your trainees and want them to succeed. 

Probably the most vital communication skill is clarity – the ability to explain a complex topic clearly and concisely. To be able to break the subject matter down and present it in a logical flow and “bite size” data chunks that makes it easy to understand and remember. 

You also must be well-prepared and ready to answer all kinds of questions, as well as manage interruptions. Some people will deliberately put you on the spot. There will be those who always arrive late. Those who ask too many questions and those who ask none at all.  You’ll need to recognize and manage them all – the tardy, the fidgety, the joker, and the avid learner. You’ll need to be able to read the room (are people engaged, twitchy, or bored?)  as part of your toolbox. A good sense of humor will also help.

Spice up your training 
Whether you build it from scratch or adjust an existing course, one of your biggest challenges will be making it interesting and memorable. To be really successful, learning should be fun — taking highly technical information and delivering it in an engaging and enjoyable way. The best way to do so is by spicing up your training.

Here are a few suggestions to get you started: Add stories and examples from your own experience (I am sure you have a lot!); engage them with questions, polls, and voting; give them tasks and run simulations; use analogies and metaphors; show pictures and demos; and more!

Remember to make it your own. Create training you will enjoy delivering and be proud that your name is on it.

Supercharge your delivery
Just because a topic is highly technical or “dry”, it doesn’t have to be boring to learn. If you apply the above tips, it shouldn’t be boring at all! 

But another important factor to consider is… well, you.

As the trainer, you are the leading actor on the learning stage. You need to get your audience’s attention and keep it.

When I train trainers, I ask them to deliver a piece of information in the most monotonous way possible (for some it’s really hard, for others it’s their usual manner of speaking!) Then, I ask them to deliver it again with more enthusiasm and passion, and then again but in the most exaggerated way they can. Besides being a fun exercise it helps trainers explore a range of delivery. Many are surprised to learn that what they perceive as over the top and exaggerated, is actually a style that is very welcome and even expected by their trainees. 

You will soon learn, if you don’t already know this: more than WHAT you say, it’s HOW you say it that makes all the difference in a great trainer!

An important reminder: training others is both a privilege and a responsibility
It’s a privilege because you get the opportunity to shape their knowledge and hopefully leave a meaningful footprint in their life.  It’s a responsibility because people are giving you their time and trust and they expect to learn something valuable in return. As trainers, we owe them our best effort to create an unforgettable and enjoyable learning experience.

Daniela Liberman
Senior Consultant and Trainer

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