Wednesday, June 15, 2011

How Not to Facilitate a Training

This week I had the opportunity to participate in a government training. Initially I was in shock, then in utter horror when I realized that the training presenters were quite serious about their presentation styles.  I don't know if it's a government style of presenting or if it was a rare and unusual moment.  After the 30+ hour training of observing people nod off into deep sleeps during each session, I started to ask everyone for their opinion about the teaching style that has helped me to create this month's blog on things not to do when presenting.

I must admit that all of the presenters were intelligent people interested in sharing their knowledge. For us in the audience, it was a missed opportunity to have fun and to learn at the same time. Here is a list of items that should be avoided at any cost when presenting:

  • Dryness of materials presented. Very often as a trainer or facilitator you may not be able to select the materials or topics to be discussed, but it's better to try and make the most of it and make the topic real for the audience. It's extremely important to understand your audience and learn as much as you can about them prior to the training. Even conducting a mini survey asking basic questions may help you to prepare your presentation.
  • Fake humor. If you don't have a good sense of humor that can be incorporated into your presentation, then it's better to not fake it. The audience always knows the difference between what's fake and what's real.
  • Sharing stories. Before attending this government training, I have always encouraged trainers to share their life stories with their audiences as it can develop a bond between the speaker and the listeners.  However if no one in the room can understand or relate to any of your stories you may want to stop ASAP.
  • Ignoring your audience. Too often facilitators will power through their presentation without looking at one single person or face in the audience. When facilitating it's extremely important to be able to read the room for interest and alertness.  It's a clear signal when 1/3  of your audience is yawning, falling asleep or texting. Remember to talk with your audience and not at them. It has been proven to be one of the fastest way to lose your audience.
  • Presenting with your back. Everyone knows this, but, yet too many people keep their backs to the audience as they read every single line from the slides as if the audience is too stupid to be able to read the slides for themselves. This is one of the #1 reasons to kill a facilitator without guilt no matter how nice the back side may appear.
  • Overcrowded Slides. Slides with too much information on them can be annoying and difficult to read.  As the information increases on each slide, the font gets smaller and smaller, especially when charts are used. Each slide should have no more than 5 lines. The purpose of slides are guide to the facilitator. They are not to used to write out the entire discussion that will only be read or repeated, making it a recipe for a slow death.
  • No audience participation. Every good training session should include participants in every step of the way. It provides a reinforcement to lessons uncovered and lessons learned. It's also an opportunity for training participants to exchange information with each other.
  • Starting / Ending late. It's important to start the meeting each day on time and to finish on time.  Participants respect a trainer to start on time and will absolutely adore you if you finish 15 minutes early, cutting them a bit of slack.
  • Reading from a script. Often trainers who are called in as a last minute replacement will often read from a script without looking at their audience.  Older trainers will often wear reading glasses and keep taking them on and off in order to see the print and to see the audience. This can be quite annoying to training participants.  If you have vision problems, try making the font as large as possible on your script so that it's not laughable. Remember, you want to be taken as a serious presenter.
  • Fumbling with the equipment. It pays to check out your training room, equipment and all other logistics ahead of time.  Many presenters will waste valuable time trying to figure out how to make the slides move backwards and forwards. Often facilitators want to include a funny video or a video that may be only funny to them, but they can figure out how to have it as part of the powerpoint presentation and will have to leave the presentation to open a browser and search for the video to show. Again, wasting valuable time and appearing to be less than professional.
Just remember that the best part of facilitating a training is to have fun as the presenter and to make it an enjoyable experience for your audience.  Being prepared and aware of the needs of your audience leads to a very successful training.  There are many great training tools, just remember to use them appropriately.

Have you experienced a training that could have used a kick? Share that information with us at Promotions West.