So many train-the-trainer programs these days are so content-heavy that they skip right over the art of training. If you’re coaching new trainers, I suggest getting back to basics before diving into other content. Here are some quick hits to launch a successful train-the-trainer program.
Back to Basics #1: Um, get rid of the “Um.”
Problem: Learners pick up on distractions very quickly and hearing a trainer say “um” repeatedly is one of the worst distractions. Not only does it prevent learners from focusing on the content, it makes the trainer seem nervous and unknowledgeable about the content. The trainer loses credibility immediately.
Solution: Get them to take an actual silent pause, rather than fill their pauses with words like “um.” Practice presenting with the trainer. When they present, use a buzzer or play some annoying sound every time they use a filler word. Then, let them do the same to you; no one’s perfect. This activity is not meant to make them feel bad. It seems silly but it works. Keep practicing until they minimize their use of filler words…or until you both minimize your use of the filler words.
Back to Basics #2: Fear the ones who fear uncertainty.
Problem: Inexperienced trainers often fear uncertainty and react to it. When a class doesn’t go exactly the way they planned, they begin to panic, freeze or make things up. New trainers have a misconception that they should know everything in their roles and the words “I don’t know” get lost in their vocabulary. This leads to ineffective classroom management and dissatisfied learners.
Solution: Force unexpected events when practicing a presentation with a new trainer. Make sure their technology has a glitch or ask a surprising question. Coach them through how to make adjustments to their class. Teach them that saying “I don’t know” and having follow-up or parking lot items is okay.
Back to Basics #3: Question their questioning technique.
Problem: New trainers often ask “Do you have any questions?” or “Are there any questions I can answer for you?” This is an easy mistake to make and most presenters make it whether they’re actual trainers or not. It seems subtle but both questions lead to a yes or no answer. Often times, learners answer yes or no in their heads and don’t speak up because they’re not really prompted to. Additionally, new trainers make the mistake of not allowing more time for the audience to ask a question. This results in a lack of learning and growth for the audience.
Solution: Train your trainers to ask open-ended questions. When prompting the audience for questions, ask, “What questions may I answer for you?” or “What questions do you have about this topic?” Then, guide trainers to wait an appropriate amount of time before moving on or ending the potential dialogue. There’s no hard and fast rule but experienced trainers usually wait between five and ten seconds.
Back to Basics #4: Revoke Power Point powers until they learn the power of Power Point.
Problem: Trainers love their Power Points but poorly-constructed Power Points are a rookie mistake. New trainers usually stuff their Power Point slides with too much text and/or animation. This is very distracting for an audience and takes away focus from the primary presentation content.
Solution: Try lowering new trainers’ word or character limits per slide but do it slowly in stages. If someone is squeezing 1,000 characters onto a slide and you, all of a sudden, limit them to 25 characters, you’re setting them up for failure. Comprehensively succinct is the phrase I like to use but in order to reach this level, it takes time and practice. Ask them to take a percentage of text off each time they present until they reach a level that allows their slides to be visually appealing, yet get the point across. Animation is a little easier to just stop using or limit depending on the content and audience.
Back to Basics #5: Stare them down until they stop staring at the screen.
Problem: Here’s a pet peeve of almost any audience: a trainer who stares at the screen rather than the audience. Even worse is the trainer who stares and reads off the screen. Again, credibility is lost. If you need to stare at the screen, you’re not confident enough to be presenting. If you’re reading off the screen, you don’t know your content well enough to be teaching it.
Solution: Ask trainers to teach content one-on-one to several people until they feel very comfortable with the content. Then, ask them to practice teaching the content several times in a classroom style presentation. When learners gain confidence in their content, they’ll become better and more effective trainers. Confidence allows them to face an audience of learners without shying away to the screen or hiding behind a script on a piece of paper.
Before engaging in full train-the-trainer programs, remember to get back to basics with new trainers. Don’t take for granted the nuances that can make a big difference in a presentation.