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  • Irina Ketkin, author of #adventuresofthelearner

What I Know About Trainings - The Secret Ingredient

I've been asked several times now what is the one thing a trainer should be able to do. Or what the secret ingredient is. In my experience - it's confidence. Period. I could finish my post here. But allow me to take you to a land far, far away where a brand new trainer who was chosen among 30 other candidates and miraculously got the job despite not having any experience walked into the training room for the first time. The session was part of an induction programme and she was supposed to talk about the payment methods the company offered. From her own induction a year earlier she remembered most of them, but not all. She thought she’d wing it – after all it was only a 30 min segment of a day-long training.

Oh boy, was she wrong! Her knees were autumn leaves about to fall, her palms could fill a bucket, her words got tangled on the way out and her smiles couldn’t convince a single person in the audience.

That first experience taught her a lesson she will remember for the rest of her life. But what happened?

First of all, being chosen among so many other people really gave me (see what I did there?) a boost of confidence – I must have shown something to inspire the recruitment partner, the HR Manager, the Training Manager and two-thirds of all the managers from the office to give me a chance. While that was a great boost it led me to a false sense of security.

You’re only as good as how much you have prepared.

And, unfortunately, I had to learn that the hard way.

Which leads me to the second big mistake I made that day (and happy to report, I’ve never repeated since) is not preparing enough. I had read through the manual, I remembered vaguely my own induction and I looked through my notes. What I failed to do was put myself in my audience’s place and think of what questions they may ask. Regardless of your current knowledge (whatever the topic is), you need to make sure you can explain it to a 6 year old. And what makes them different? They ask “Why”. They want to know where something came from. And if you cannot explain that, you’re not ready.

Another thing I failed to do was rehearse. If something makes sense in your head it doesn’t mean you can explain it. Both of my parents were doctors, my father for a short time also taught at a university. As a kid, if I ever needed help with anything, I would first ask my dad, because he could explain things to a 6 year old. My mom on the other hand, while just as knowledgeable (and in certain cases more so, if you ask her) would use the “correct terminology”, she would start explaining something simple with a lot of unnecessary background and so on. If it doesn’t come naturally, and very often it doesn’t, stand in front of a mirror and start talking to your group. Stop, makes changes, rehearse your lines and even jokes.

Practice with a video camera, experiment with your tone, pitch, volume. Just make sure you do it 10 times by yourself.

Why is confidence so important for a trainer? There are thousands of books on confidence. I am not going to refer to any of them, simply because I learnt from my own experience. And it’s that if you don’t have the confidence, you cannot hide it (the “fake it till you make it” principle, in my opinion doesn’t apply to trainers, unless you are a really good actor). And if you don’t have confidence, your learners are not going to believe you and what you’re saying. I suppose all of this would apply to public speakers as well. But remember that trainers ARE public speaker after all. But also so much more.

I’ve heard people try to boost their confidence by meditating, breathing just before a session, visualising themselves being brilliant, running their palms through cold water and many-many more. For me, the secret is being prepared.

How do you boost your confidence? And what do you think is the secret ingredient to being a good trainer?

P.S. What training-related topic would you like me to write about next?

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