I have always been told the key to being a professional and successful trainer is the ability to adapt and take control of the situation at hand.
Perhaps the Internet goes down, computers are not set up properly, a particular demonstration doesn’t go as planned or a certain participant dominates the conversation, trying to take the agenda off task. All of these events can test the true skills of any trainer. I have had my fair share of these problems.
Thanks to the training I received in the Certified Trainer Program, and hands-on experience, I have learned to always have a back-up plan and to stay cool in a crisis. I’ll share here some of the tips I follow to make the best of any training or presentation.
Tip 1: Rehearse.
My presentations are technology heavy: podcasting, software demos, streaming media, examples, etc. They usually take a lot of preparation.
The night before my presentation, I go through my presentation testing everything. I take some simple notes as I rehearse and use them when I present. If possible I get to the presentation room early and test some key things out before. I use my own laptop when possible, and carry my own “gig” bag with technology and cables.
Tip 2: Know your audience.
The more I know about the audience the better I can prepare for them. This has been especially true for pre-conference seminars.
Last year, a conference sent me the names and contact information for participants in my seminar a month out. I sent each of them an email, re-stated the abstract of the session they had signed up for and asked them if there was anything in particular they wanted to learn. I received many replies and several compliments for asking.
For this same seminar I used a personal response system to learn more about my audience since with 60 in the room, there was no time for introductions. I’ve found that in all of my trainings or presentations, here is a broad range of knowledge and skills present. I try to have something to satisfy both.
Tip 3: Have a backup plan.
Experience has shown me that something will probably go wrong. The key to success is to have a back-up plan.
On a recent training of Blackboard Vista Templates, I downloaded a template from my server and had planned to upload it to another schools server. This was a last minute change, so I didn’t have the time to test it out.
Ten minutes before the training was to start, I had 30 sections created on a server, but my customized template was not working on their server. The file system uploaded, but none of the css, graphics or content files. My plan went out the window.
After a few minutes of panic, I finally had to resort to Plan B. I didn’t have a Plan B, but I made one up on the spot.
So, for one hour I did a show-and-tell off of my server, taking the participants through a step-by-step analysis of how the template was built, etc. There were lots of questions, but I was really thrown off over my problem.
Just before the break I had an idea, perhaps an answer to my prayer for help. I tried it, and sure enough it worked. My template was back online. After the break we were able to do some hands-on training.
The key to all training is to remain cool. If something goes wrong, quickly try to fix it. If you can’t, move on. If it’s a critical piece of the training, take a break and involve other experts. I always have someone I can call on a moment’s notice to help me out.
If you’d like to respond to Kevin’s post or submit your own entry to post on the Blackboard Training Blog, please email Kristen Cooper.