Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Ten things f2f trainers often forget

Having visited the learning designer yesterday, I decided to look at the realm of the classroom based trainer today. I was a classroom based trainer myself for 17 years, and I have sat through innumerable f2f sessions delivered facilitated by other trainers. In no particular order:

  1. People have had to leave their day jobs to attend. Make sure it's worth their while.
  2. Shock. Horror. A delegate might not want to be there. One of the worst things as a trainer is having to deal with people who have been 'sent' to your workshop. Good grief, we're dealing with adults, here. When I have been faced with such a person, I have had a private chat with them, offering them the option to taste-and-see until the first break, after which they were free to leave. In one case, I actually asked the delegate to leave. Let's face it, if they're determined not to, they're not going to learn anything, and they will simply sabotage everyone else's learning experience. I would far rather explain myself to one manager than waste x number of person days!
  3. Shock. Horror. A delegate might only have come for a day away from the office. At the opposite end of the spectrum are those who sign up for absolutely every workshop/course/whatever, because it gets them out of the office. These enthusiasts can be a help sometimes, but they can also be a hindrance if they set out to demonstrate to everyone else present exactly why they don't need to be there in the first place.
  4. Some people may only need part of the workshop. Why not offer them the opportunity to do something else until you're ready to cover the bits they need? Similarly, some parts of the material may not be of interest/use to anyone at all. Why not establish this from the outset and spend more time on relevant material? If you're proactive, you can use pre-workshop online tasks, wikis or discussion forums to establish this.
  5. The collective knowledge of the delegates is in all likelihood greater than your own. Don't miss opportunities to give them their due. When you're covering material that some people in the group already know, you could enlist their aid as small group discussion facilitators, or in helping others complete a task.
  6. Your workshop is not the be all and end all of the learning experience. Give the learners resources they can take away with them: a quick reference card, URLs of helpful resources, the names of articles and books that might be of interest. Teach them to use online help facilities and forums. They might also like to stay in touch with each other after the session to provide mutual support. You could get them to exchange email addresses, or set up a closed discussion forum?
  7. You're allowed to say "I don't know". If you don't know the answer to a question, say so. I have lost count of the number of times a trainer has 'blagged it' and talked complete piffle. This doesn't help the learners or you. Increasingly, there is almost certainly a device in the room with Internet browsing capability. Use it then and there to find the answer. This not only relieves the learners of the perceived burden of remembering everything, it encourages them to use existing resources.
  8. You don't have to have a PowerPoint presentation... and if you do, bullet points are not compulsory. If you absolutely have to have a PowerPoint and it absolutely has to include bullet points, do NOT read them to your learners. Either they can read it for themselves - in which case, reading it to them is an insult to their intelligence - or they can't read at all - in which case you shouldn't be using text at all. You are a living, breathing human being, not some voice over for a slideshow!
  9. Even adults like to play. Serious does not necessarily mean humourless. There is no need to have everyone sitting in their desks facing forward for the entire workshop. This is not a Victorian school room. Get them out of their desks and moving around. Give them post it notes, coloured pens, string, ice-cream sticks... whatever. Give them the chance to be creative, to experiment, to explore, to laugh. In one workshop I ran about mindmapping, I had people lying flat on their bellies (in their suits) creating A0 mindmaps of their lives with coloured felt tip pens (but you have to gauge your audience).
  10. Low tech is okay. Not everything has to be accomplished by means of 2.0 technologies. Heck, I used to explain absolute references in spreadsheets by doing a little dance! The low tech items I mentioned above generate movement and get the blood pumping oxygen to the brain far better than spending the entire day on their butts, eyes forward.
Any other suggestions?

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