Why is it so dang hard to stop talking too much when you’re trying to train people?
Recently I sat in on a 3-hour teaching session, given to a small group of 10 adult learners. The topic was fundraising and every one of the people in the class had some real-life experience with that subject. I was just an observer, curious in part about the content, but more curious about how the material would be presented.
I knew and respected the session leader and so I expected a lively and exciting session. And I was truly surprised when all she did was lecture.
After asking for a brief introduction from each participant, the leader turned on her PowerPoint slides and start talking.
Every once in a while, she’d pause to ask for questions. If someone asked a question, she’d answer it briefly, but then she’d dive right back into her slides, reading each one and then riffing on one or another point.
The three hours crept by slowly and I was left with a nagging sense that even if the participants understood what she said, they had no way to make it their own.
Stuck in Lecture Mode
The presenter was stuck in lecture mode. I think she would have liked to encourage more interaction, but she simply didn’t know how.
Why? Because she thought of herself as the content expert and she believed that her job was to tell the participants what she knew.
But really effective teachers and trainers start with a different assumption.
They believe that it’s their job not simply to impart information, but to get the participants to think about and discuss the ideas so they make sense of the content that will be most helpful to them.
Lecturing vs Training: A Paradigm Shift
Trainers (as opposed to lecturers) design group processes that will get the participants to discuss the ideas they want to explore. They don’t outline content and prepare bulleted lists on slides.
Trainers figure out what ideas they want their students to explore. Then, they create exercises that give everyone in the room a chance to actively work with the content.
They allow time not only for the exercises themselves, but also for the group to make sense of what they’ve learned.
It’s Not Enough to Ask the Group for Questions
It’s not enough to lecture and then ask the group for questions. That approach distracts from the content flow and divides the group into those who are brave enough to ask questions and those who aren’t.
Some lecturers go a step farther. They break their lectures by asking the audience members questions — fishing for the “right” answer they have in mind.
This approach has a big downside too.
For everyone who offers an answer, many others shrink back. And you’ve got to find a constructive way to handle the suggested answers that are simply wrong or off topic without appearing to put the student down.
A Trainer’s Mindset
To be a trainer who actively engages the participants, you’ve got to believe that the most important things you have to teach are already in the minds of your students.
Your job is merely to help them find and articulate those ideas.
Lecturers begin with an outline of their content and then develop slides to match. But trainers begin with 3 or 4 teaching objectives and design group process to draw those objectives out through discussion.
Get Started With Tried and True Exercises
If you’re a beginning trainer, start by trying out some of the exercises in our book, How to Train Your Board (and Everyone Else) to Raise Money.
Fifty-one exercises are spelled out step-by-step and all you have to do is follow the instructions. Try a simple one and see what happens.
Start down the road of becoming a real trainer. Before you know it, you’ll be invited to give workshops here, there and everywhere. And believe it or not, when you start giving great workshops, you’ll be in demand!