5. Effective delivery of the training event
- What skills are required to deliver training and what strengths do I have that I can use to deliver training?
- How do I deliver the training material effectively for this particular audience of participants?
- How do I try to ensure that participants stay engaged and interested?
- How do I ensure that the learning outcomes can be accomplished by participants?
Attributes of an effective trainer
First, we shall review the kinds of skills and attributes that an effective trainer needs.
We are all different people, we will deliver training differently, and we will be delivering to different audiences. However, there are some attributes which all trainers need to be successful.
- Ability to relate to specific situations and participants
- Commitment to the subject and the training event
- Willingness to consider criticism or advice about the training event or your training style; remaining objective and not taking remarks, situations or problems personally.
- Ability to encourage participants to be independent by not always giving the solutions to problems or questions and not always suggesting the way forward; willingness to learn from participants
- Ability to show genuine concern for the participants and establish an effective and helpful relationship with them; not being judgemental about participants’ views and contributions to the training
- Ability to influence assertively and build trust; not trying to score points over the participants
- Ability to relate business needs to training delivery
- Ability to be both logical and creative!
- Good listening skills
- Good organizational and time management skills
- Tidiness in appearance!
- Excellent communication skills
Every person who will deliver training should think about these attributes and ask him or herself where their strengths and development areas lie in this list. It is good to assess your skills every now and again. Any good book on training should provide information on how you can assess your training knowledge and skills. There are also websites which provide resources and information for trainers ( Annex 2: References).
Your skills and attributes will help to determine your training style. For example, you may feel very confident giving a PowerPoint presentation, but less comfortable about role-playing a Provost or Vice-Chancellor in a mock meeting! You may enjoy facilitating small group work, but feel more daunted guiding a plenary discussion. You may enjoy getting to know your participants in the training, but feel more hesitant about giving them honest feedback on how they are doing. This is quite natural. You should use your strengths but also remember that you can improve the skills that you feel less confident about. These are simply behaviours and behaviour can be learned or changed.
Bear in mind the state of your own experience and confidence. It is fine to stretch yourself as well as your participants during the training but stay within your competence and skills. For example, if you know that your IT skills are not advanced it may be better not to try to show a YouTube clip live online; or if you know your memory is not excellent, then make sure that you have good notes or prompt cards for your sessions.
You may wish to find a buddy or mentor to help you develop as a trainer. You might meet appropriate people if you attend ‘Train the Trainer’ sessions or you might find a colleague in your agency or another organisation. Such a person can support and encourage you and offer constructive feedback on your trainer development.
Almost all of the attributes of being an effective trainer have their source in good communication. Good communication skills are crucial if you are to deliver your training effectively. Good communication is embedded in everything that you do as a trainer. It is not simply about giving interesting presentations or writing intelligible training materials – although those things will help! In this section we shall review some principles of good communication, then look at the kind of trainer behaviour that encourages good communication, and lastly we shall briefly think about skills for specific kinds of communication.
Principles of good communication
First and foremost, knowing your participants’ background and needs is crucial for good communication, and this has been pointed out several times already in this handbook (see 3.4.1. Introduction to the training, 3.5.1. Order and timing and 4.1. Knowing your participants). Time spent before the training event finding out about your participants (such as in a needs survey, as mentioned in section 4.2. Needs analysis) will be well spent and will facilitate your ability to communicate well. Similarly, taking time at the beginning of the event to introduce yourself and allow participants to introduce themselves will also help effective communication (see 3.4.1. Introduction to the training). All of these activities help you to build up rapport with the participants and will help them to trust you and have confidence in the training. Hopefully, they will relax and feel at home in the training event, which will mean that they will engage well, participate fully, and achieve the learning outcomes that you have planned. Once you have established rapport and respect with the participants you will be in a good position to deliver the training material effectively.
The audiences or groups of participants that you will encounter in the different training activities that you deliver will obviously vary, and each group may be made up of people with different backgrounds, needs or characteristics. However, for panel member training, the participants may have some characteristics in common and it may help your training to be successful if you bear these characteristics in mind. For example, it is likely that the participants will be involved in higher education in some way, as academics, administrators and students. They probably will be used to a learning environment and may already have considerable experience of learning. They may have already thought about how they learn best. They may also be teachers or trainers themselves. This may mean that they will be ready and willing to learn on the training programme, but it might also mean that they express criticism of training that they think is not professional or well-prepared. You will need to ensure that this is not the case: that the participants will feel that the training is a worthwhile experience.
There is more discussion of difficulties that you might encounter in training below (in section 5.2.3. Training difficulties).
Do not forget any participants that have a different background from the main group. For example, if you are training employer representatives or overseas panel members. You will need to bear in mind that they may have slightly different experience or needs. Your pre-training participant questionnaire should have given you information about that.
Training should model the everyday situation that your trained participants will go into. Therefore, you should not include anything in the training that would create difficulties for panel members in the organisations in which they will be working for you. If the organisations in which they will be working value collegiality and discussion, then it would be counterproductive if your training had a culture of aggressiveness or control. The participants may have their own cultural backgrounds and you should be aware of this in case any of the participant cultural expectations differ from those of the institutions that you want them to work in.
Trainer behaviour that encourages good communication
This section talks about different behaviours. You may feel that you do not have all of the characteristics mentioned below, but do not worry. Because they are behaviours, not genetic characteristics, you can learn them. There will always be some people who are better at some of the behaviours than others, but with a little effort and the willingness to improve we can all reach a stage of enough competence to deliver training.
It will be apparent from section 5.2.1. Principles of good communication above that awareness is an important skill for the trainer. This includes awareness of yourself (your skills, preferred delivery style, experience, etc.) and awareness of your participants’ needs and characteristics. This awareness will allow you to think about the different learning styles that your participants may have and to design sessions and activities which give enough choice so that all learning styles and all stages of the learning cycle can be included. As we recognised before, this will help the participants to engage fully with the training.
Your behaviour should also be assertive (never aggressive!). This means that while you will respect the participants you should also expect them to respect you. You are the trainer and even in a training event that is interactive and facilitative it is your responsibility to ensure that participants find the training effective, so to that extent you are ‘in charge’. But you should also listen to what the participants are telling you – both in words and body language. They may be indicating that the training is not working for them and you may want to think about whether you can change an activity or a presentation to make the training work better. Or you may have to be able to say to participants that you cannot change the training; or you may have to prevent them being diverted from the main purpose of the training. Participants may be feeling threatened (if they are inexperienced) or embarrassed (if they are used to being the teacher, not being taught!). In all these situations you need to maintain respect for the participants and deal calmly with them without being judgmental, but also without making too many compromises or denying your own professional values.
Being assertive and aware demands that you know how to listen properly to participants, and to read other clues about how they are feeling about the training , for example from body language. If you need to improve your skills in these areas you will find some information in Annex 2: References, Section 4.
We noted above that some of your participants may be much more experienced than you are in delivering teaching/training, or they may come from very different backgrounds. Do not let this intimidate you or make you defensive. Openness to others’ experience and knowledge is a vital part of communicating well and helping participants to feel valued. Make the decision to learn from all the participants that you meet and to use their expertise where you can in the training event. This will improve the training and help to make experienced participants feel that it has not been a waste of time. Less experienced participants will also be able to learn from their more experienced colleagues so this will add value to the training event.
Flexibility to respond to participant needs is also an important behaviour to learn. You may get into a difficult situation with a participant, or you may run out of time, or some participants may decide to leave. On the other hand, you may have misjudged the level of experience that your participants have or some cultural aspects have arisen that you did not anticipate. For example, not all participants may speak the language that you are using as proficiently as you thought they would; they may need breaks at specific times of the day that you did not know about; they may have different ideas about the trainer-participant relationship from yours. Ideally, you would have found out all of these things before the training started so that you could plan training activities appropriately, but occasionally even the best planned activities go wrong!
If you want to make sure that the training still delivers as much as it can you will need to be able to respond flexibly to these unexpected situations. The best way to respond is to have anticipated those situations and have an alternative plan to deal with unexpected or difficult situations. If you are lucky enough to be delivering training with a colleague you can discuss possible changes with him/her, perhaps during a break in delivery. You could also discuss changes to the programme with the participants to see what would suit them best. This will indicate to them that you want the training to be effective for them, and that you value their views on the programme. It also helps the participants to take some responsibility for their own learning. That is an attitude that you would like to encourage because it means that they might be willing to further build up their training knowledge and skills after the training event.
If things do go wrong, be honest with the participants. Normally the majority of the participants will be sympathetic and will want to help sort out any problems. They will probably not be sympathetic if you ignore problems and try to carry on regardless.
Avoiding difficult or unforeseen situations is much simpler the better prepared that you are, and the better time-management skills that you have. In most training activities time will be very precious and you will have prepared a programme to make the very best use of your time and that of your participants. Normally you will be too busy just delivering the training material and concentrating on the needs of your participants to think about anything else. Although you must be flexible, there will be a limit to how much you can change the training programme on the day. The shorter the training event, the less flexibility you will have. So you must have prepared everything that you possibly can prepare beforehand. That includes simple things like always visiting the training room before the participants arrive – even if it is just a few minutes before. Then you can make sure that it is arranged as you wanted it, but also have a plan for what you will do if the facilities were not what you were expecting. Always test out the IT provision before you start!
But, as was noted above, preparation also includes anticipating difficult or unexpected situations and having a plan for dealing with them.
For example, if you delivering a training event for the first time you may not know exactly how long a particular session might take. You may need a plan for if it overruns (what else will you cut down?) or for if it is too short (an extra activity that will consolidate the learning, perhaps?). You may find that the material provokes some very interesting discussion, which you had not anticipated, or that the plenary sessions are very lively and fascinating. Even though you would like to contribute to these discussions, and to allow them to go on for a long time, you must remember the aims and outcomes of the training event. Do not be distracted even by fascinating discussions! Suggest to the participants that they might want to continue the discussion by email – or if you have a ‘chat room’, this could be used.
There might also be a danger that because you have carefully designed and prepared the training, that you will deliver it all, as written in the programme, whether participants need all the information or not! You may be tempted to stick rigidly to your programme, just because you have put a lot of work into constructing the training. This will not help the participants if you find out, for example, that they are more experienced or knowledgeable than you thought, or if the computer breaks down and you cannot show a clip from the internet. You need to be able to pass on to other material that is more relevant.
So what can you do if you find that you have too much material (or material that turns out not to be relevant) or too little to deliver (perhaps because you were relying on the internet for material and the link does not work)? First, if you need to adapt your programme as you go along, do not feel that you must tell the participants about this unless they have suggested a change themselves and you want to show that you have responded to that suggestion. Don’t give the participants the impression that you do not know what you’re doing – it will make them nervous! If your programme includes periods while the participants are working on their own, or you have breaks, then these are good points to ask yourself whether the programme needs changing and think about what you can leave out without removing the ability of participants to achieve the learning outcomes. Or, if you need to add material, you can look through the additional materials that you have brought with you and decide what is most appropriate and what fits the time gap. Because you can never be absolutely certain how training will be received it makes sense always to build in some breaks (even just 5 minutes) to give yourself the opportunity to tweak or adapt the delivery if you need to.
If you are working with another trainer then one trainer can think about whether the training needs adapting – and keep a watchful eye on the participants’ reactions - while another is delivering.
If you have seriously misjudged the timing of the event you may find that you do not have time to deliver enough material to enable all the learning outcomes to be achieved. This is a serious state of affairs and the reason for all the extensive preparation that is described in the previous sections is to try to make sure that this does not happen. However, if you are unlucky (perhaps a fire alarm went off and the room had to be evacuated), you will need to deal with the situation. Look at the programme and decide which of the learning outcomes could be delivered later - perhaps online or by an email correspondence. Any session which is mainly just a PowerPoint delivery would be appropriate – as long as it did not contain information which was necessary for a later session in the training. Again, it is essential that you have thought about this beforehand, so that you know which sessions you could miss out completely in an emergency. If you have to do this, explain it calmly to the participants and tell them how you will enable them to achieve the learning outcome another way. If you say that you will send them information by email, tell them the date by which you will do this.
Making big changes to the programme in this way are really emergency reactions. If you have prepared properly, and you know your participants, all you should need to do during the programme is make small ‘tweaks’. If you have taken into account the advice in earlier sections of this guide, then you should already have thought about your preparation and you will be ready for anything!
The best way to prevent difficulties during your training event is to make sure that you recruit the right people, and that you have clearly specified the aims and objectives of the training. Recruiting the right people will make sure that participants have the correct experience and knowledge to prepare them for training so that they will not feel out of their depth or isolated or threatened. You can also check that participants have the right attitude to training (open and participative) and to the panel tasks that you may have for them in future. Specifying the aims and objectives clearly will prevent participants from straying from the purposes of the training or asking many irrelevant questions. However, you may still encounter some difficulties during the training and you will need to make up your own strategies for dealing with these. The strategies you use should reflect your own training style and should reflect a genuine desire to help participants – not simply wish them to be quiet or to be somewhere else! Remember that you and the participants have invested a lot of time and effort to be at the training so you need to try to deal with any difficulties that a participant might present without alienating them or making them want to leave, or to cause further disruption.
What difficulties might you find on a training event designed for the kind of people who will be acting as panel members?
You may find that you have people who ask questions all the time. This might reflect the fact that they do not have the correct background knowledge to make use of the training. Or if you gave out pre-training work, they might not have completed that work. Or they might just be very enthusiastic about the subject and have a lot to contribute. Obviously, you want to encourage participants to participate in the training, and asking questions is one way of doing that, but if it starts to take up too much time, or the participant is asking questions that are of no interest or use to other participants, then you need to deal with the situation. Remind the whole group of participants that you have certain materials and activities that you need to work through together, so you can only deal with the questions which are relevant to the training. Offer to deal with other questions during the breaks (if you have breaks) or after the training, perhaps by phone or email. If you offer to do this you must make sure that you keep your promise or you will lose credibility with your participants. Assuming that you do not wish to spend long hours on email or the phone, you will see why it is important to recruit the right participants and to make the aims and outcomes of training clear!
There may be participants who disagree with what you are saying, and will say so openly in the training event. First of all, always allow for the fact that they may be right! You are not infallible and however well you prepare you might make a mistake during delivering material, or one of your participants might have some up-to-date information which could correct or amend what you are saying. Always accept criticism graciously. If you can deal with it quickly during the training, do so. If not, inform the participant that you will think about it later. If the participant is criticising you and you know that the criticism is unwarranted or given in a rude manner then you will need to speak to the participant to find out why he/she is behaving in such a manner and decide whether you can help the participant to take a more constructive attitude. Do this privately with the participant. If the person is being really disruptive and your training programme is short you might need to call for a 5 minute break for everyone so that you can talk to the critical participant discretely. Otherwise your training could be disrupted completely.
Most people you train will not set out deliberately to make life difficult for you. Usually there are reasons why people behave in a difficult way – they may feel threatened by all the clever people in the room; they may be tired or worried about their day job; they may be feeling guilty because they have not done the preparatory work. If you can help the participant to lay these considerations on one side for a short time and try to enjoy the training, then you may find that the difficulties go away.
You may see people texting or leaving the room to take frequent phone calls. If you are allowing participants to use lap tops some people might be reading work documents while you are speaking. Before the training stress to would-be participants that they must be able to leave their day job behind, at least while sessions in the training room are taking place. If they really must, then participants could use the breaks to contact their office or work. But on the whole it is a good thing to use the breaks for relaxing and networking, so make sure that you set that expectation before training. Some training groups add these expectations to their ground rules (see section 3.4.1. Introduction to the training): no use of mobile phones in the training room; concentrating on the training activities while in the training room; etc.
You may find that some people are shy or embarrassed about joining small groups, work-pairs or practical activities. Again, you should be honest with participants before the training that you will expect them to take part in such activities, and that the activities are designed to prepare them for similar activities in panel work. During the training event let participants know that everyone is in the same position, and that the training is a learning activity. Make sure that you give participants enough information to know how to carry out group or practical activities, and be prepared to facilitate groups if they do not seem to know what to do. Also encourage group members to help and support each other. Congratulate groups when they have done well.
If your training event involves small group work it is possible that some of the participants in the group may not get on with one another and the work of the group may be disrupted. If the training extends for a significant length of time, and the participants stay in the same groups, this could potentially cause problems for you. The best way to deal with the problem is to ask the group to reflect on the situation, identify the problem, and see whether it can produce a solution for itself. In real life, panel members will be working in groups for their panel activities and they will not usually choose who they work with, so they need to be able to get along with a variety of people. Each group member will need to have their own strategy for working in a group or team, and this may be one of the things that you ask them to reflect on and produce an action point for at the end of the training event. If you frequently encounter problems with group work you may want to include a specific session on team-working in the training. As we have seen in other sections, the best way to prevent difficult situations with your participants is to (a) know as much about their backgrounds as you can; (b) make the training environment welcoming and conducive to building up trust between you and the participants; and (c) make sure all participants know what the aims of the training are and what the ground rules are. But sometimes all your preparation may not be enough for a particularly difficult situation, e.g. if a participant is dealing with personal issues and is not amenable to discussion. There may be a time when you must discretely ask a participant whether staying on the training is the best use of his/her time. Do not consider this a failure; mistakes in recruitment do happen and occasionally a participant may feel unable to complete the training. Make sure that you know why so that you can try to prevent the situation happening again.
- For participants with a lot of energy who may want to be the centre of attention: ask them to help with organizing tasks or logistical matters; remind them that you would like to hear from everyone; you could answer some of their questions by saying to the whole room, „Let’s hear what others think about that.
- If a participant is not joining in, try using an exercise which expects an answer from everyone and go around the room, asking each person to reply briefly in turn. If some people are very shy you could give them a few minutes to write down the answer first.
- If a person is voicing very negative opinions about aspects of the training ask if he/she is willing to suggest a practical alternative; ask other members of the group what they think and whether they also have alternatives.
- If a participant is behaving rudely or aggressively towards others: remind him/her that the training is about a process, not about the other people in the room; participant’s comments should be confined to the training material. If you have a ground rule about courtesy or respect, remind the participant of this.
In all cases where a person is behaving in a difficult way, manage the situation in the training room as best as you can and then in the next break you have, discuss the issue with the participant on his/her own.
Specific communications skills
The specific skills that you may need for your training event will depend on what kind of event it is. If it is a short event which concentrates mostly on information briefing you may need to ensure that you have adequate presentation skills. If participants need to work in teams or small groups you will need to have skills for organising and facilitating those groups. If the training is interactive then you will need to be able to guide discussions and plenaries and ensure that all participants are included.
Whatever form the training takes, and however long it takes, the basic skill you need is the ability to encourage your participants to learn by facilitating the event effectively. This will involve remembering the characteristics of adult learners that we noted in section 4.3.1. Adult learners. In particular, your behaviour will be collegial not dictatorial. You should enable two-way conversation between you and the participants, guide discussion rather than leading it, asking good questions rather than always needing to have the answers, take the participants’ goals into account, allow them to take responsibility for their own learning.
There is a wealth of literature available to help with acquiring or enhancing these skills and some of these are given in Annex 2: References, Section 4.
Matching learning outcomes and delivery methods to the training materials
The most important criterion for effective delivery of the training material is that it should enable participants to achieve the learning outcomes. In order to facilitate this we need to think about how material can be delivered so that participants achieve the learning outcomes. We need to bear in mind that different participants may prefer to learn differently, and they may come to training with different backgrounds of skills and knowledge. We also need to appreciate that certain learning outcomes might demand different kinds of delivery methods if they are to be achieved. For example, returning to the learning outcome given in section 3.3. learning outcomes:
If this learning outcome is to be achieved, the training event must include a mock meeting exercise to facilitate learning outcome (b). Participants will not be able to achieve that learning outcome from a PowerPoint presentation or small group discussion.
Similarly, if the participant is required to be able to use online resources and one learning outcome is:
then there must be pre-training information which provides instructions on how to log on, and gain access to the secure server. Again, just lecturing participants or sending them an email about this will not enable them to achieve the learning outcome.
Some ideas for the kinds of delivery methods that you might use are given in Annex 6: Evaluation of delivery types.
You should now look over the programme for your training event and the learning outcomes that you decided for each session. For each learning outcome you should decide on the most appropriate delivery method. The delivery method should ensure that the learning outcome can be met, but also bear in mind that participants will value a variety of delivery methods (remember they may have different preferred learning styles) and also some fun from time to time!
Participant learning materials
You will need to decide whether you will provide any learning materials for your participants, such as handouts, copies of slides, reading lists, learning logs, and so on. Again, bear in mind that different participants will have different preferred learning styles – some may welcome having all the materials written down, others may rely on listening to you and making their own notes. So even if you do provide written materials make sure that you explain key material verbally as well. If you expect all participants to take away a large pile of paper containing important information and read it afterwards, you may be disappointed.
If you are providing a general handout for each session, consider including the following:
- Aim(s) of the session (remember an aim is a statement of what you intend)
- Material to be covered and how it will delivered (PowerPoint, group work, role play, etc.)
- Learning outcome(s) (remember a learning outcome is a statement of what the participant is expected to learn)
- Expected length of the session (you may choose to leave this out if you are not sure, but if any part of the session includes an activity which has set timings you will need to include those).
These handouts could be provided before the training so that participants understand exactly what the training will cover and how it is being presented. This will help to make their expectations of the training realistic. Other kinds of handouts that you might want to consider are:
- Task description: detailed instructions (including any timings) for an activity or exercise
- Briefs/role play instructions: if you are having a role play exercise and you want certain participants to play a particular role you can give them a brief of the characteristics and behaviour that you want
- Case studies: these are particularly useful if you are including exercises on reading, analysis, reporting, and so on. If you use real cases then you should get permission from the owner and make sure that participants appreciate any confidentiality aspects.
Remember to bear the participants in mind when you write the handouts. Think carefully about language – will the language in which you are writing be the first language of all participants? Will you have to be mindful of the language for different sets of participants? Will you need to avoid HE jargon if some of your participants come from industry? Will the handouts be in hard copy or an online interactive document with active links? If so, have you made sure that participants know that it will be acceptable to use laptops at the training – have you told them to bring them? Put yourself in the position of your participants and think about what they might need to know.
Here are some basic tips for writing materials:
- Make the material easy to read; it is often helpful to use a conversational (but professional) tone
- Order the materials so that it is easy to find the information required for a particular session (use different sections, headings, links, etc.)
- Short paragraphs, leaving space or giving margins for notes often help to make a written document less daunting and more pleasant to look at
- Break up the text with bullets, indentations, boxes, etc. Again this will help to make the document look friendlier and will help to retain the participant’s attention
- Use graphics and clip art if you can: these also help to maintain interest
- Number the pages!
However, do not produce handouts just for the sake of it. Make sure that they contain information that your participants need to know. If you add lots of documentation ‘just in case’ a participant might need it, or because it makes it look as though you have done a lot of work on the training, then you run the risk of participants concentrating on the less relevant material, and not getting around to the information they really need to see.
- 1. Introduction
- 2. Overall aim and general area
- 3. The contents, session aims and learning outcomes
- 4. Taking the needs of the participants into account
- 5. Effective delivery of the training event
- 6. How to ensure that training has been effective
King, G., 2012. Handbook for training panel members for quality assurance procedures, ECA Occassional Paper. The Hague.