Training the Trainer

I’m sometimes asked to conduct workshops on “training the trainer.” It usually means I’m working with HR people or management folks who will, in turn, help their people improve their presentation skills. It is a tall order to be a trainer. Giving someone feedback requires finesse. Evaluating someone’s rehearsal might mean addressing 25 different things, from technique to content. Yet, feedback works best when it is limited to 2 or 3 key items.  Which 2 or 3 will you choose? Finally, most of the people who take on the training aspect aren’t necessarily great communicators on their own, so they’ll probably have some issues trying to tell others what to do.

With that proviso, I offer some thoughts for any would-be-trainers. Start by letting the presenter have a full run-through with no interruptions. It’s very important that the trainer understand the gist of what is being said. Then, follow these guidelines:

  • Your #1 job is to make the presenter feel confident. So heap high praise on everything you liked.
  • Technique is very important in a presentation. Did the speaker have good posture? Good eye contact with the audience? Speak in a      strong voice? Good smile. These are simple things to address. (see all of my tips on this web site for more specific ideas)
  • From a content standpoint, focus on the open and length.  Did the opening communicate the big idea of the presentation? Could the      whole presentation be made shorter? Short and focused is almost always better in a presentation.
  • If you are rehearsing a team of presenters, pay attention to how each speaker hands-off to the next.  Research shows the audience reads into the hand-off. It tells them whether the presenters like each other and have worked together in the past.
  • Does the close require a call to action? Make sure the presenter articulates that call to action. It should never be assumed that because you are pitching a project, you want the assignment.  Ask for it and tell them why you are perfect for it.
  • Don’t critique word choices. If you would say it one way but the speaker says it another, let the speaker say it her way.  It’s the way she is most comfortable.
  • Keep your feedback to 2 or 3 critical things.  More than that is hard to absorb and undermines the speaker’s confidence.
  • If there is something particularly critical you need to say about a person’s run-through, say it privately. Not in front of everyone else.
  • Most importantly, go back to the first tip. Your job is to make the presenter more confident. Correct the big stuff. Leave everything else alone.  Heap high praise on what the presenter did well.  Confident speakers always excel.
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