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Training to Become a Better Trainer

July 25, 2010
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I never wanted to become a great trainer and builder of staff at my own company. I also never wanted to feel like I was a hostage to my existing employees. And that was reason enough to swallow hard and do what I needed to do and that is learn how to master training.  

It was a painful learning curve. I first started by training in the basement of my shop on our own equipment. No course curriculum and no idea what I was going to say or do until the class started. What a mess!  

But little by little, I kept notes about what went right, what went wrong and what I’d do better next time. I’m happy to say that was almost 25 years ago, and the “kids” I trained - now in their mid 40s - are a Service Manager, Install Manager, Warehouse Manager, Lead Sales Person and top Field Supervisors today.  

The first turning point came when I learned to video tape myself and my classes. I looked at the tape after class and it was scary. I would do things like turn my back to the class and write on the whiteboard for 15 minutes. It’s surprising they didn’t throw something at me but the good news is I signed their checks so they refrained from hurling stuff at me. I would speak in a monotone that would actually make me fall asleep. And I did the usual stuttering and other cardinal sins like being frozen like a deer in headlights or I’d hang onto the podium like it was a ship’s wheel in a raging storm.  

Yikes…it was bad! Here’s the good news…even though I was bad when I first started I still produced good employees. And now you also know you can be as bad as me and still get good results. Here’s the even better news…you can learn the simple techniques I teach clients one-to-one to build their staff the right way and you, too, can have a great staff.  

Here are just 10 of the many techniques that will make you a better trainer:

1. Have your opening remarks or story ready to begin every training session because your opening remarks and statements are what unlocks their interest to learn.  

2. Be very positive and enthusiastic in your attitude and never be sarcastic. Yes, there are no dumb questions. Breathe and answer them with a smile.  

3. Feel that you’ve earned the right to be at the front of the class. Practice by visualizing yourself in the Training Center feeling confident and getting very positive feedback from the trainees.  

4. Follow the Pre-Class checklist and make sure all working demonstrations are set to go and work reliably.  

5. Select the three to four main points you want to make in each class and have very strong benefits [“WIIFM”] for their knowing the material.        

6. Give out only the training materials that they’ll need as they need it so they stay in synch with you.  
    Ex: If you give them a 10-page photocopy of a troubleshooting guide before you’re ready to use it, they’ll be flipping through it while your talking.
      
7. Close every training session with a summary of what was covered in each training session and whenever possible get them to sign off on the training done.        

8. Minimize relying on just talking alone. Augment your speaking with an overhead projection, DVD player, digital photos, books and most importantly hands-on work in the training center.              
    Note: Don’t have a dedicated training center? Use your building or your home.
 
9. Know the media resources by heart and keep their use to short intervals. It’s recommended that they be used for no more than 5 to 10 minutes at a time without your interacting with the trainees.       

10. Move around as you speak. This is where video feedback is very helpful. You want a natural balance between being stiff like a statue and moving so much your like a ping pong ball.

Resources and Recommendations

1.  Dan Holohan’s book “How to Teach Technicians without Putting Them to Sleep.” It is highly recommended that you read this and use it as you assemble each Teacher’s Training Book.

2.  Dale Carnegie’s “High Impact Presentation” two-day workshop. It is highly recommended that you attend this workshop to get training and video tape feedback of yourself to start becoming a better presenter.

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