What Does a Trainer Need to Know or Do?

What Does a Trainer Need to Know or Do?

What does it take to be a good trainer? What is the rubric of things to know and be able to do?

Great question.

We routinely develop train-the-trainers programs to prepare individuals to facilitate on a variety of topics, and while every program and every individual's needs are a little different, here is an overview of items to consider.

Understanding of content presented. It's hard to present material you don't understand. Beyond the specific content of your presentation, you should be able to answer basic questions that are likely to come up and find resources to answer more complicated questions.

Ability to construct and present personal stories to illustrate concepts and promote understanding. Humans understand the world through stories, making these examples a great way to enhance understanding of a concept. Example stories should be considered and practiced in advance to ensure that they are tightly focused on the points that are most relevant and brief enough that they don't take the course off track.

Ability to facilitate discussion. Good training isn't just lecture. As you verbally present content, do you invite course participants to engage with the topic and discuss related issues? Do you give participants the opportunity to answer one another's questions before giving a pronouncement yourself?

Ability to relate participants' comments to the topic or subject at hand. This is a key piece of facilitating discussion. Can you keep it on topic by relating stray comments back to your main focus?

Ability to transition between topics. Having a sense of how the different pieces of content are connected – and expressing verbally those connections – is quite important in keeping everyone in the course on the same page.

Ability to deliver instructions well, to lead activities, and to debrief them. Activities are among the most learning-intensive things that happen in a course. Do you plan instructions so participants understand just what they're doing and therefore don't experience undue stress? (Unless stress is a part of the activity, this is generally preferable.) Have you gone over what will happen in the activity and considered what may need additional explanation? Have you considered what debriefing questions will best get participants considering and discussing what they learned from the activity?

Ability to use visuals effectively. This includes being able to operate all presentation devices, actually using the designated visuals (some trainers avoid this), using slides without reading them, and helping participants understand the visuals where necessary (for example, using gestures to explain what data is most important in a complicated graph).

Preparation for the unexpected. Have you thought through how you would handle various situations that could come up? For example, what would you do if your equipment stops working in the middle of the course? If a course participant gets up and starts arguing vigorously with you? If your primary presentation strategies don't seem to be working?