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What Skills Does A Good Trainer Need?
Thu 28th October 2010
One important thing to realise is that different people are coming from different levels of experience and learn in different ways. Some people learn best through practical example and being allowed to do something on screen as they go. In short, they need to see it happening and try it out before it will sink in. Other people will happily pick up on a theory learned from a book and be able to merge it into their practical working lives. As a trainer it is your responsibility to deliver a training course that enables all people to learn effectively, whatever the course material you teach.
In my experience the best trainers are those that can draw on personal experience. If for example you are teaching a person about databases and they have never used one, they may find it more difficult to grasp the concepts. Gaining an understanding of why something is best done a particular way is tricky since they would not understand the practical application. Use your experience and think about examples which clearly and simply demonstrate the theory in a realistic setting. If you worked in a support desk environment, use examples from your time there to illustrate the theory behind a database that might hold client information.
Consider the way you teach. Do not be afraid to practice by recording yourself or testing out a course on a friend. Knowing your material inside and out will leave you less nervous and unlikely to rush through the course. A trainer must appear confident for those learning to have faith in the course material. An apparently inexperienced or weak trainer will quickly lose the attention of the pupils.
Just as practice makes perfect, do not underestimate the value of feedback from students, even if it is negative. All feedback is useful as it will give ideas on how to improve your course and delivery to reach the maximum number of pupils. Just because one person did not like something about a course delivery, while everyone else did, does not mean their opinion is less valid. Part of being a trainer is learning to listen to your pupils, both during the course and afterwards.
Even if you have practiced your material to perfection, do not get cocky! The absolute key skill a decent trainer requires is good communication. As well as delivering the set course, a trainer must be able to take questions and converse on an ad-hoc basis. It is worth remembering that communication is about more than speech. Body language makes up a lot of communication on a subconscious level. If a trainer stands at the front, folds his arms and looks down at his notes then he does not possess good communication skills as this comes across as defensive and unfriendly. A good communicator will use the space available to them to motivate the pupils to pay attention, perhaps moving around a little, using simple visual aids and keeping an open and friendly stance. Most of all, he or she should always appear approachable and engaging to the audience.
Just as a trainer can set the mood for a course, he or she must also take responsibility for the environment in which they teach. If a trainer is lucky, then they will have a dedicated training centre provided for them, which is a safe and healthy environment to work in. It may be that a meeting room must suffice. If this is the case then a trainer should learn to recognise the elements that make a safe working environment. People should not be so crammed in that it makes the environment cramped and difficult to concentrate in. Chairs should never be placed in front of the exits. The room temperature should be comfortable. If you are using a laptop or other IT equipment, ensure that wires are not trailing on the floor ready to trip up your pupils as they come in. Always allow for regular breaks.
The best trainers are those that have an endless supply of patience. It may be that a pupil is simply not getting a particular concept, even if others are. A trainer should always take care never to embarrass a pupil, but recognise that the point must be made in a different way. If someone does not understand something then as a trainer it is your failing, not theirs. It may be frustrating to have to make one point in more than one way, but patience is the only ways to ensure that everyone is getting the most out of your course and will have no cause for complaint when the course is finished.
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