Implementation: What Makes The Work Worth It

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Everything that I have posted up to now comes down to this section here: Implementation. Actually getting out there to deliver the material in a way that makes the work behind it worth it. While this sounds like a simple deal, and is often taken for granted by a number of people, I want you to think about the last training session that you attended. Did you like the trainer? Did you like the training? Do you remember what the topic was about? Do you remember any specific thing from that training?

If you had a good trainer, you probably can say yes to every one of those questions. If you had someone that was just pulled in to do it because they happened to know something about the topic (SME), then you probably can't say yes to everything. So let's get down to what makes the trainer excel in the actual presentation.

Entertainment
Yes, believe it or not, as a trainer you are an entertainer. If you are going to be presenting anything, you need to keep people's attention. For some presenters (i.e., a CEO), this can be accomplished through the unspoken threat of unemployment. As a trainer, you don't have that ability. Instead, you need to captivate your learners by a mixture of humor, interesting material, and applicable media that can keep their interest. You also need to have an ability to judge the learner reaction, and adjust to keep their attention. Luckily, they are generally there for a reason and will give you more attention than they probably did their High School teachers.

Follow the Course Outline
Some instructors like to wing it when it comes to covering the material that is outlined. They think of themselves as catering to the learner's needs, and basically discount the work that course designers have put into the curriculum. I will tell you right now that if I had an instructor like this working for me, it wouldn't last long. The content is there for a reason, and the outline is there for a reason. You cover the material that is listed, and don't make it up as you go along.

Does that mean that you don't have any flexibility? Absolutely not! You can be flexible in how you address the material, and even in which sections you cover first (some textbooks will not cover what you want to cover). But don't dismiss your course material as a tool. It's there to help you stay on track, let you gauge how much time you have to cover the remainder of the material, and whether or not you are actually teaching the required skills. Without that gauge, you might as well waste everyone's time.

Topic Comfort
Every trainer that teaches a subject needs to be proficient in that subject to the extent that they can cover the skills required. This is not a suggestion, but a requirement. This is where having a Subject Matter Expert (SME) handy is almost required. Inevitably you will get a learner that wants something more than what you are teaching. You need to either address it while teaching (establishes credibility), or if you don't know the answer, offer to find the answer and get back to them. If you offer to get back to them, you need to get back to them with the answer, preferablly within 24 hours. Why? It establishes credibility with your learners, and establishes you as a well connected individual.

This doesn't mean that you have to know it all! That's almost impossible for anyone to know everything about any given subject. But it's a good sign of a scholar if they are able to identify sources to find the answer, rather than just spouting an answer that is shooting from the hip. Remember that your credibility as a trainer can be dramatically affected if you start making up answers without checking with the SME over your subject. If you don't have one, find one. Even if you have to contact the CEO first to go down the chain to the person that knows your topic, do it. Ultimately it's the best move that you could ever make.

Preparation
It seems almost redundant to mention this given all the previous posts that focus on preparing for a course, but your personal preparation is probably the best way to make sure the training session goes well. Leave all your emotional baggage behind, and focus on the present. While you are up there infront of the class, you belong to your learners. Having a bad day? Try to leave it behind. As always, this is much easier said than done, but if you need it take a couple of minutes before the training session to meditate and relax.

Also, spend some time in the classroom to be sure everything is working correctly. If you need speakers, make sure they are working. Have any video or slide show presentations? Make sure your projector/TV is working for you. Check the layout of the classroom to be sure all students can see you. If they are behind a column or barrier that may make it hard to see or hear you, block off those seats. Are all your tools functional? Make sure you go through each one before you start the class. A technical problem during a training session takes away from the flow, and makes it less enjoyable.

Have Fun!
Above all, make sure you are having fun while you are teaching! If you don't, your learners will catch it, and they won't have any fun either. If you make it a fun environment for yourself (and it's not sadistic humor, mind you!), then it should be a fun for the students as well. If you are getting done with a particularly long lecture or session, have everyone stand up and stretch. Perhaps you can have them do jumping jacks, act a little silly, or something like that. It's all about how comfortable everyone feels, and what would be fun for the entire class.

While this post isn't completely comprehensive, I hope it helps someone realize what can make a good trainer. Even SME's can make a good trainer if they are able to implement as many of these suggestions as possible. Of course, you need to make sure the course is effective, which comes to our last section in the ADDIE model: Evaluation. Catch you next time!