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Preparing Trainers For When Things Go Wrong

June 12, 2018

 

*Have you prepared for a training down to a T only for things to go less than smoothly? From an unexpected lack of audience participation to technology failures, the more sessions a trainer has led, the more likely they’ve experienced a gambit of mishaps. If you are a trainer or if your role requires you to act as one, then chances are that at some point events out of your control caused your session to go awry. Unfortunately, these ‘mishaps’ will not disappear. Trainers can only be more prepared before and during sessions to ensure that participants still receive a valuable experience.

 

Here are a few tips to help get comfortable with uncomfortable situations that may arise:

 

Before Training

 

The key is in preparing for your session which mitigates unpleasant circumstances that could occur throughout the event. Remembering the basics is important, however the crucial aspect to facilitating with ease is knowing your audience and being prepared for unique circumstances.

 

1. Research

 

Before you step foot in the space where the training occurs, the facilitator should know how to set up the context of the session based on the needs and goals of the participants. The less you know about the organization or situation, the more information to research prior to the event. What topics should you avoid? What is the participants’ attitude toward a facilitator leading a session? What are triggers for the learners? Is there a lack of buy-in for the content being focused on? Are there underlying issues or challenges for why the facilitator is present? Do your homework and ensure a wide view of responses from participants, leaders, and anyone else who can be transparent with you. This allows you to be well-equipped for the attitudes, questions, lack of or overly engaged participants you may encounter.

 

2. Practice  

 

Knowing your content is a foundational necessity but even if you created the training and know it backwards and forwards, practice OUTLOUD. Whether it be in the shower or walking the dog, vocalizing your presentation notes, bullets, or slides allows you to find where you trip up, ramble, or focus too long. In addition, practice your presentation without looking at notes. Recognizing transitions in content can be the most difficult part of your training, so practice those without a prompt.

 

3. Equipment and Supplies

 

This is where things can really go haywire. Using other facilities’ AV equipment, laptops, difference in systems or chords, or small nuances that make entire electronic devices not function are bound to happen at some point. To mitigate these unfortunate circumstances, print out your presentation notes in bullet format or if you are using PowerPoint, choose “Notes Pages” in the Print Layout option. You can use these as a reference to keep you on track if you are left to present without your visual aids or create a handout if the participants need to visualize a complex idea. Always bring or confirm a backup laptop or projection device if using visual aids and consider saving your slides to the desktop of the computer in use. If possible, check AV equipment prior to the session to ensure it works properly.

 

During Training

 

When unexpected situations occur during the event, trainers must act as improv artists and respond on the fly. When people arrive to the event, circulate the room and introduce yourself and get to know at least a few people. Meeting participants helps make you feel like you have some friendly faces in the room. Go to the individual for eye contact or invite them to share when you need participation.

 

1. Engagement

 

You know the signs that indicate when participants are engaged. Are they taking notes? Keeping eye contact? Responding to questions? Asking questions? Contributing ideas? Utilizing adult learning principles correctly is vital to the success of a training event and ensuring that participants remain engaged.

 

However, there is a popular misconception of adult learning principles to address: active learning. Many trainers believe that learners must physically move around the room to stay engaged. Studies show that cognitive activity is the secret to participant engagement. If the physical activity aligns with the objective then that’s ok but simply moving for the sake of moving is not going to capture the attention of your participants. Consider taking a break if the group is visibly antsy or losing focus.

 

2. Questioning Techniques

 

Properly setting up questions for your audience allows them to answer the way you intend and keeps the group on track. A well-developed and well-presented question consists of 3 elements:

  • Begin with an image building phrase like “Imagine a time when…” or “Consider this...” For example, "Think about a time when you worked for a great leader."
     

  • Extend the image you just painted, to their answer. Don’t ask a question here, simply use more context to allow the participant to further paint the picture in their mind. For example, "Consider how he or she conducted meetings,        communicated to his or her direct reports, and secured access to resources."
     

  • Ask the direct question. Get straight to the point and ask one question. For example, "What behaviors did your leader engage in to make them a “great” leader?"

3. Responding Questions

 

When it comes time for participants to share ideas, thoughts, report out, or ask questions, the responses are not always perfectly articulated. As the trainer, it is your duty to ensure that you help keep the group on the same page of understanding and contributing to the objectives which can be accomplished by asking responding questions. Use responding questions to keep the participants on track, give you more information, clarify what they’ve said, get others’ feedback, and involvement.

 

Having a toolbox of these questions empowers the learners to help guide each other to new knowledge and arrive at conclusions on their own which helps the learning become sticky. For example, when the group has stalled the facilitator could ask a prompting question to help keep them moving without giving the answer. Also, if a potential solution has been overlooked you could ask the group a leading question like “what else are we missing?” to encourage them to consider additional answers.

 

Do you have unique tricks or tips you’ve learned from being a trainer? Let us know what they are!

 

*This article was originally published by Training Industry, Inc. You can  read the original article by clicking here: Training Industry, Inc. 

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