10 Tips for First Time Trainers

The talent development industry used to call me an “accidental trainer” – I just happened upon the field on accident. Sometimes, I agree, and other times, I feel as though the universe was just pointing me in the right direction so that I could utilize gifts I didn’t know I had. I love facilitating groups and presenting trainings, but talking in front of groups is the number one fear for people for a reason. It’s not easy. Here are my 10 tips for first time trainers looking to add to their toolbox:

Be Prepared. Designing a training is a whole other blog post, but the morale of the story is to be prepared. Know where you’re going, what your objectives are, and how much time you’ll need to get through your outline. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT read a script. Talk to your participants and feed off of them, but be prepared on how you’re going to accomplish your objectives.

Know Your Room. One of the worst experiences I’ve had as a training participant is when I was at a national conference and the presenter started talking poorly about Detroit, the people there, and made up statistics about education in the area. While, I couldn’t expect her to realize that I was from Detroit, I could expect her to know her room well enough to know that she could be alienating people who are looking to learn from her. Know your room. Know the spectrum of education, experience, and attitudes of those sitting with you. You don’t have to take a survey, but do an icebreaker, ask people to raise their hand, or just be mindful of nonverbal queues.

Talk S L O W L Y. I can guarantee that if you are a relatively new trainer, you’re talking WAY. TOO. FAST. This is one of the hardest skills to develop, because when you’re talking at an appropriate pace as a trainer you feel like a complete idiot. Keep in mind that people have to hear you, comprehend your words, process them, and put them into context – if you’re already two slides down the road you’ve lost them.

Be Confident. Confident, not cocky. It’s important that you balance the line between relatable and confident well as a trainer. People in your room will already be apprehensive about spending time “in training” so part of your role is to bond with them and build trust. Be confident in your skills, your expertise, and the time you’ve spent preparing. You will not know everything, and that’s okay. Be confident enough to say “You know, I’m not sure. What does the rest of the room think?”

Be Flexible. People like to talk. People like to stare off into space while you talk. People like to share their stories that may or may not relate to your content. You have to be flexible in your methods of getting the content to your participants. Know your information well enough that you can prepare for what you will take some additional time to grasp and have some comprehension activities prepared for when you blow through your content in 15 minutes.

Remember, No One Knows but You. You prepared, you have an outline, you know your stuff, but somehow you still managed to skip an entire chunk of content. It’s OKAY, no one knows but you. Circle back around and make sure you cover what is needed. Messed up a word? No one knows (or cares). This goes back to confidence. Be confident in your facilitation skills and willing to laugh at yourself when necessary, because it will be necessary.

Make Content Connections. If you’re lucky, you’ve got 20ish minutes where people are actually listening to you. The key to make connections between your content. We’re talking about X because it relates to Y, which we talked about earlier. X and Y are important because :: insert how the content relates to their real world here ::

Confirm Understanding. Just because you know what you’re talking about doesn’t mean that the people in the room are following you. Check in – ask if what you’re saying makes sense. Ask if they see examples of this in their work, or my favorite when presenting information “why do you think that is?”. It keeps people engaged as you go through information by confirming that we’re all on the same page.

Don’t be Lazy. Ugh. This one is just straight forward. Don’t sit on your ass slumped in a chair the whole time you’re facilitating a training. Get up, move around, use your hands and your arms (not too much), walk around when participants are working in groups. Be a trainer is WORK, DO. YOUR. WORK.

Be Yourself. Last, but certainly not least, be yourself. There’s no fake-it-til-you-make-it mentality. People know when you’re BS’ing them, so don’t. It’s okay to laugh, be quirky, and talk about your experience. You are a human, you will be respected much more when you act like one.