One of the courses I had the pleasure of developing for my previous employer was a Train the Trainer course and recently, I have been asked to run a couple of workshops on the subject. So I have been thinking about the subject and really, running an effective training course all boils down to doing a few basic things really well.
However, I bet you have had the experience of attending training sessions where these simple principles were not applied. In my experience, good trainers tend to do these things by intuition, but here is a quick run-down of the key principles that make a training course enjoyable and therefore something that all trainers should do.
Less About You and More About Them
The first thing is to completely resist the temptation to lecture. It’s the old way, of course, and it’s what you may be familiar with, but for most people, you are just boring their socks off when you do this. Instead of telling people what they need to know, you need to facilitate a learning experience. Give them something to do that should result in them experiencing something new or something familiar in a new way. Then get them to reflect on the experience and discuss what they have learned. In the discussion, you pitch your learning points in too. That’s a simple but extremely powerful way to learn.
This again is a very powerful learning tool and the main technique used by no less a teacher than Jesus himself. He told parables (learning stories) and that’s the kind of story you need to tell. This technique is so powerful because human beings love stories and we tend to remember them very easily. So when you tell a story that has the learning points embedded, you are immediately giving your audience a way of remembering the learning itself. Find good stories, if they are funny, that’s an added bonus, and embed the learning points in there – deceptively powerful.
Use Visual Aids
If you must use Powerpoint, don’t create bullet-pointed lists – they are the worst possible slides you can create and it amazes me to see training companies still using them even today. Don’t do it. You can create graphically interesting slides with good diagrams that contain retrieval cues (for you) so you know what to talk about. Let the slide be the backdrop for the discussion. As the trainer, you need to add value and this is a powerful way of achieving that objective.
If you use a white-board or flip-chart, make sure you use all of the coloured pens. Do not stick with monochrome. Invent your own rules e.g. put the headings in one colour, subheads in another, diagrams in multiple colours and so on. Colour is an extra dimension and its use impacts the brain. You don’t need to explain your colour-scheme; just use it. You will create far more interesting and compelling diagrams when you do.
Find stuff to hand out. Get people to handle it and pass it round. This can be anything from books you have recommended to various models and examples of stuff they need to get familiar with. This impacts them kinesthetically, it gets them moving around a bit and helps to keep them engaged and alert.
Variety is the Spice of Life
Keep changing your approach. Don’t use any one method or technique to the exclusion of all others. If you use Powerpoint, occasionally turn it off and do something else. If you don’t use Powerpoint, consider using it occasionally. Mix up your sessions with white-boarding, exercises, activities, lectures (yes even they can be useful occasionally), discussions. Engage people using as many of their senses as you can and as many of their intelligences (See Multiple Intelligence, Gardner) as you can.