This Is What Professionals do.
What can happen if you don’t prepare everything? You get a few surprises… At 20 years of age I volunteer to speak on behalf of the choir I am playing piano for. Performing at a small church about two hours from our base, I’m looking forward to sharing some positive and motivating words. I stand up in front of everyone, with my favorite book quotes from David Schwarz (The Magic of Thinking Big) and Anthony Robbins (Unlimited Power) bubbling in my head.
I talk for 7 or 8 minutes, then go totally blank. I don’t know what I’m saying, I don’t know why I’m saying it. I thought I wanted to do a great job, but was totally ‘winging it’ with no notes, no preparation, just a motivation to share.
Somehow I get back on track, and finish the talk and later on people come up and thank me. But I realize – I didn’t really know why I wanted to speak. I just thought it was a good idea and a chance to be the center of attention. I needed to take the time to work our why I was so keen to be on stage.
I’m sitting in a room in Chicago and we have 40 people registered for the seminar. First time in town and I can’t wait to meet my friend Sue, and have another great event. We catch up for a quick bite to eat and head to the meeting.
When we arrive at the hotel, and follow the signs to our room, we realise that they have given us a room a little larger than we expected.
Instead of a cosy room to house 40 people, we have the full grand ballroom! It would hold 400 people! And the conference team at the hotel have set up 40 chairs – not in the corner – but right in the centre!
It didn’t matter to me for presenting, but it looks to your students that you were expecting 400 and only 10% showed up.
When you’re preparing for a training session, you have to consider some key questions long ahead of the delivery time.
I run a training at a University of Western Australia for 300 people, in the evening, when the day students had all gone home. A sloping theater so everyone had a great view. International Guest Speaker, exciting atmosphere.
Of course not everyone arrives on time, so once we begin, for about 15 minutes into the workshop, new people keep arriving.
Because it’s night time, only the doors at the bottom of the lecture theatre are open, so every new arrival is to the right of the speaker. A constant distraction for 15 minutes.
Many people had to walk directly in front of him to get to their seats!
Bad planning. If I’d known the top doors would be shut, I would have requested them to be open and put signs on the doors for the late arrivals.
In Hamilton New Zealand, I have a sailing clubroom for the training. Just 20 people but the room is the perfect size. The only problem is because it’s a workshop where everyone gets up and down a lot – and the floors are wooden, and the walls are glass – every scrape of a chair, every footstep, and every sound is magnified till it sounded like we were inside the kitchen of a busy restaurant!
And one of my favorites. In Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, I am just about to begin speaking when the promoter says we have to keep quiet, because there is a meeting in the next room. It turns out to be a church group who are singing every 15 minutes, and no-one can hear me speak. I have a lot of exercises that day with people working in pairs and small groups.
Every training session is different. But regardless if you are on the beach giving lifesaving CPR training or showing a new staff member the layout of a factory or sitting in a classroom learning bookkeeping, the principles of preparation are the same.
We’ll go into each of them in depth, but here are some starting topics to consider for a trainer delivering a new training for the first time. They are all vital, because with any distraction or unprofessional behaviour, your audience is taking ‘respect’ points off you till they no longer feel they should listen to what you are saying.
So consider the following subjects.
Why? Why are you running this session?
Are you training people to improve a skill? Is it to share your wisdom and knowledge? Is it vital for safety? Were you told to do it? Is there a test at the end to prove you did it right? And is there a deadline on getting it completed.
Are you just speaking for your own ego and to impress people?
What are you going to train?
Is it one skill or piece of knowledge, one aspect of a topic that you’re going in depth?
Or are you giving an overview, the introduction to what could end up being a deep and long weekend of training in the future if they like you the first time?
When are you training?
Is it a morning, a breakfast? Or a lunchtime brief? Maybe an evening after people have been at work all day? Different times of day have different outcomes. People are energized, tired, hungry, full. You need to know how to speak according to the time of day.
Who are you training?
How well do you know the audience? What are their qualifications, how long have they been in this company? Or do they even know each other at all? If its a public training session you could have 50 people from 50 totally different backgrounds. What’s your mix of male and female?
What do they already know?
You might be talking to a bunch of beginners, or a room full of experts. Knowing that up front will be important so you can pitch your training at the right intelligence level and match their existing knowledge. No point wasting anyone’s time sharing what they already know, or forgetting the basics.
How much material do you want to cover?
If you have 10 points to cover on the surface but only 3 you want to go in depth because the rest is in “Session 2” or in your book or online course, you need to know ahead of time. So you can set your audiences expectations and they feel they get value for their time not be surprised when you seem to only cover 30% of your material.
Where is the training session taking place?
Are you in a well-lit room with no curtains trying to do power point?
Are you in an underground basement trying to get some light on your face so it feels less like a cave? Is there a thin partition between your wall and the South Pacific Church service next door? Or is it a giant hall where it would fit 300 people but only 30 are coming. Do you have heating and cooling or are you going to have to put up with whatever is there?
What can happen if you don’t prepare everything? You get a few surprises!
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