After 20 years of teaching, I have a few suggestions for both participants and trainers. Indulge me, please.
Participants, prepare yourself:
1. Bring something to write with and something to write on. Taking notes by hand is more effective than using a laptop to write down what the instructor says.
2. Remind your supervisor that you are taking a class. Before you leave, make sure your work is covered. Constantly answering texts from your boss during class is distracting for you, the people around you, and the instructor. You need to pay attention to the class.
3. Bring enough water so you don’t have to leave the room to re-fill your supply.
4. Do not expect the instructor to know where the best lunch spots are. Instructors show up at a training location that is new to them, too. The amount of time set for lunch is not up to the instructor; they are told how long the lunch break will be.
If you are late to class:
1. Do not explain why you were late, particularly not in detail. “I’m sorry I’m late,” is enough. Explaining interrupts the class flow, and rips attention from the instructor to yourself. You don’t have much information to offer the class at this point. Just sit, figure out where others are, and, if necessary, apologize to the instructor during break.
2. Do not ask, loudly, “Did I miss anything?” Of course you did. We were not waiting for you to show up. Do not expect the instructor to skip lunch or stay after class to help you. It’s your responsibility to manage your time.
3. Plan your training day. Do not ask to be let our early and get credit for the class. Emergencies are one thing, but doctor’s appointments, child pick-up and other appointments need to be planned ahead so they do not conflict with class. You know the class hours, plan accordingly.
If you don’t understand something:
1. Ask. Do not wait to see if you will get it later. The time to ask is as soon as you don’t understand.
2. Explain what makes it hard. There are usually several reasons you might not understand the concept. Explaining what you don’t understand will help you get a better answer.
3. Use an example to explain your problem. Abstract explaining is hard for you and harder for the instructor to understand quickly. An example is a story that focuses on the problem as you experience it.
4. Do not stay frustrated. Speak to the instructor during break. Do not take out your anger on the evaluation unless you have spoken to the instructor first.
1. Take time at the beginning of class to explain what the day-plan looks like. Explain when the breaks are, when lunch is planned, how long lunch lasts, if it will be catered or if students are on their own. Let them know when you expect class to end.
2. Training is often punishment. Many participants are sent to training because they are struggling or failing. Make them glad they came to class. Make your classroom a place of curiosity.
3. Plan ahead. Bring your water, your food, your markers, your evaluations, another pair of shoes, a jacket. Do not depend on the client to have juicy, fresh markers. If you need special equipment, mention it to the client weeks ahead of time.
4. Explain any rules you may have. No phones? Let them know and give them a few minutes to wind up business. (Check with your client first.) Tell them when to ask questions and how to clarify what they don’t understand. (I’m a big fan of asking questions as soon as they arise.)
5. Don’t let a participant’s anger or frustration get you off track. Letting a participant pull you off-topic leads to losing the connection link that builds one topic to another. And it eats into teaching time.
6. Don’t be afraid to be light-hearted. You don’t have to tell jokes, but don’t be so serious that a misspoken word causes a major problem. It’s fine to be self-deprecating.
7. Your presentation slides are not the content. You are presenting content. The slideshow adds visuals or information. Don’t fall into the slide-umentation trap–putting everything you say on slides and then reading them.
—Quinn McDonald has learned a lot about training by running business writing training classes.