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How to: run training sessions

Lisa Jeskins’s tips on how to prepare yourself to deliver great training come from Chapter 2: Teaching, training & communicating. Lisa runs Lisa Jeskins Training.

How to: run training sessions

As a new professional, preparing for your first induction or training session can be a daunting task. Preparation and planning are vital for making yourself as comfortable and confident as possible.

Preparing yourself

Observe: watch another colleague perform similar training. Observe what they do and how the users respond to them. How did they deal with any difficulties? Have they any advice for you? You can pick up tips this way and ‘steal’ ideas! Choose someone who enjoys training and who you think is good.

Prepare your presentation in advance. Make sure it isn’t too text heavy with confusing fonts or excessive use of colour. Always spell check and get someone else to proof read all your materials (PowerPoint, Prezi or handouts) as it is difficult to spot errors in your own work.

Check: ensure links work and double check again on the morning of the presentation. If you are scared that the technology will fail, prepare screenshots of any database demonstrations you are including. It is more effective to perform a live demonstration but, it can be reassuring to have back up. You can click anywhere on the slide to move on but if you click on the search button (etc.), you can make it appear as though you are searching live.

Print out your handouts in plenty of time. If you leave printing until the morning of the training, something will go wrong. If you have devised exercises for users to do, go through them step by step and then get someone else to go through them as if they were the trainee, to see if they work. This is vital when working with technology because as a ‘professional’ user, you can see things very differently to a first-time user, and often miss steps.

Rehearse: going over a presentation in your head isn’t enough; you’ll find that once you start speaking, it doesn’t quite come out the way you had imagined. So as silly as it might make you feel, you need to practice out loud. I practice in front of a mirror so I can see if I’m looking down at my notes all the time, or if I’m engaging with the audience. It’s also a good idea to practice in front of a colleague – they can give you feedback, and you get experience of presenting in front of someone. Go and see the room you are training in, and practice in it if you can.

Practice your demonstrations and make sure your examples work. As you begin training, I would advise against asking your audience for keywords as it can shake your confidence if you keep getting zero results. Typing in front of an audience is nerve-wracking, so don’t worry if you make typing errors.

Anticipate: have you thought about worst case scenarios? It can be useful to write a ‘what could go wrong check list?’ and come up with ideas about what you’ll do in that situation. Before you go into a training session, check that the internet/databases are working. Keep an eye out for any scheduled maintenance of databases/website you may be using.

Prepare for your audience

You can ensure you are prepared for your audience in a variety of ways.

What do you know about the students and what can you find out beforehand? This is particularly important as training is most effective when it is relevant and timely, so where you can, tailor any examples to them. If you are training college or university students, try to create your training around their assignment, or try to be subject specific. Tailor your slides to them, don’t leave last year’s date on the PowerPoint or click through five or six slides saying “Oh, these don’t apply to you.”

Is it possible to include a knowledge or expectation check? If you ask people what they know already or what they are expecting from the course, you can then adjust your training accordingly which can lead to higher levels of satisfaction.

Always do a ‘so what?’ check? What are the benefits of the training not the features? This will help people see the relevance of your training.

Make your presentation as audience friendly as possible. Ensure your PowerPoint (etc.) uses a variety of visual styles as this taps into your audience’s different learning styles. e.g.
• bullet points for mathematical intelligence
• images for visual or artistic intelligence
• playing sounds or music (if appropriate) can help those with musical intelligence.

Include the goals or outcomes of your training in your presentation. It helps to manage expectations. Check your training to ensure it matches the outcomes.

Include a variety of exercises that appeal to different learning styles and help make the session more interesting and interactive. Can you do any hands-on? Could you include group discussion?

Add reflection into your session. Getting people to reflect on what they have learnt is a useful tool to embed learning. It can even be added into your evaluation. Ask “What will you take away?”.

Evaluation is essential. Not only will it allow you to celebrate success if you have done well but it will allow you to improve for next time. Some organizations use a peer review system to improve training, where colleagues sit in on each other’s sessions and give feedback. If your institution doesn’t do this then there is no reason why you can’t set this up informally.

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