As a training and development professional, you know that the work of designing and delivering training always focuses on the needs and perspectives of adult learners. Learner needs shape how information is organized, delivered and reinforced—the whole process from beginning to end.

You also know that a workshop’s success depends on the trainer’s ability to deliver it. What is often overlooked is that individual trainers, like individual learners, have unique needs. They have different preferences, concerns and coping mechanisms which must be kept in mind when coaching them to succeed. Let’s think of them as adult trainers.

Here are some ideas that will help them succeed.

It’s Complicated

First, let’s recognize that the live training environment—whether face-to-face or virtual—is remarkably complex. Even when it is a resounding success, trainers often feel that they have spent the day herding cats. The risk of losing the trust and goodwill of learners is always high.

To understand why this is and what individual trainers need to do to manage it, you have to recognize that live training has two defining characteristics and that throughout the planning and delivery process these characteristics compete with each other.

On one hand, training has to be a conversation—an exchange of information, attitudes and beliefs—between trainer and learners, and among learners themselves.  If this conversational exchange is not present, there is no need for live delivery. Other options are plentiful.

On the other hand, the training conversation must have order, focus and relevance. Without these things, learning does not take place or at least does not take place efficiently. At its core, then, live training is both spontaneous and deliberate, free-flowing yet orderly.

The tension between these two characteristics plays out differently with individual trainers.

  • Some trainers gravitate toward the orderly, structured part of the process. While this is good, it’s important for these trainers to remember that the plan is only a plan. It must be adapted and massaged during delivery.
  • Other trainers are far more comfortable with the free-flowing nature of the training conversation. While this is also good, these trainers can be easily pulled off course and lose site of the plan. These trainers need to be encouraged to trust the plan that has been made and use it to bring focus and efficiency to the conversation.

What does this mean for instructional designers?

  • Do not use scripted facilitator guides. For the trainers in the first group, the information in the script becomes the training, discouraging fruitful conversation around it. For trainers in the second group, the script will be ignored.
  • Create slides with an eye toward delivery. For example, create slide titles that will launch the conversation that should take place around the content of the slide. In the facilitator guide or in the notes section of the slide, provide information that will help the trainer understand the slide’s design and its takeaway.

What does this mean during preparation?

Preparation for training delivery can take many forms, and it’s important for trainers to know what they’re doing and why.  For example

  • Many trainers assume that rehearsal, and the “perfect” delivery it develops, is the only road to success. It’s important for trainers like this to develop a more flexible approach, one that centers on adapting content to a variety of people and situations.
  • Some trainers hate practice because they assume that it will destroy spontaneity and engagement during delivery. Trainers like this need to understand that being prepared and being rehearsed are not the same thing. The work they do in advance should focus on getting comfortable with the overall plan so that they can use it to stay focused. Rehearsal may be the enemy of conversation, but being prepared is not.

The fact that individual trainers are as unique as individual learners is often overlooked. By keeping their adult trainer needs in mind, you can help them achieve greater success in the classroom. That’s a good thing, not only for training and development, but the business as a whole. 

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