Lesson 1) The Art of Being an Upfront Trainer
Leading upfront trainings comes with the responsibility of delivering high quality, clear and thought out trainings that set participants up for success in the field. This section provides some of the principles, methods, and tips for making your teachings the best that they can be.
Principles of Effective Skills Trainings
Know where your participants are and where they want to go. Training is incremental. As a trainer, it’s your responsibility to find out what your participants already know about a subject or skill, and then take them one step further with your training. This means gauging experience levels of participants before your training and crafting your objectives accordingly. A needs assessment can be done in many formal or informal ways, including an online survey before the training or conversations with participants.
Tip: If you can’t perform a full needs assessment, you can always spend a minute at the beginning of your training asking participants about their experience with whatever topic you're training, and adjust your presentation accordingly. This is called do a spot assessment.
- Create Bridges to Experience. Placed in the context of participant's own experiences, ideas and concepts presented in your trainings will become more meaningful and easier to process. Using stories and anecdotes from your own experience and asking participants if they have similar experiences can accomplish this. You can use these stories and anecdotes to create learning moments by getting them to connect the dots between their own experience and the material being presented.
- Learning is Dynamic; Your Training Should Be Too! Every participant will have unique experience levels, learning styles, and attention spans. This means that you need to appeal to a variety of learning styles in order to reach everyone. In order to make sure participants with no experience, those with some experience, and advanced participants are all benefitting from your training, attempt to engage each group by touching on the principles, methods, and tips for whatever topic you are training on. Additionally, think through how your training appeals to visual, auditory, read/write, and kinesthetic learners.
- Facilitate Reflection to Crystallize Lessons Learned. Close every training with a debrief and an evaluation. First, a debrief should get participants to address the questions of what they learned, how they will apply it to their work, and what it means for the work they do. Answering these questions will challenge participants to articulate the key lessons from their perspective and will reinforce their understanding of the material, while also creating space for them to learn from each other. Second, an evaluation should address the question of “how did the training go?” " What can we do better next time?" Integrate any helpful feedback into the next time you train on this topic.
Facilitating Group Discussions
As an Upfront Trainer you will often find yourself facilitating group discussions about the topic on which you are training. Remember, as a facilitator it is not your role to give all the answers, but to gradually move the conversation in the right direction and get the participants to critically engage with the material and key learning points. Some tools for facilitating group discussions include:
- Open-ended Questions: Used to draw out participants' general opinions or ideas or to get lots of details. Use evocative open-ended questions to kick off discussions or get a quiet group active.
- Clarifying Questions: Used to ensure common understanding of information or concepts among the whole group.
- Probing Questions: get a participant to more clearly articulate an unclear idea, or challenge them to make a deeper connection.
- Reflect Questions to the Group: If asked a question you don’t know the answer to, or to draw in more participation from the audience, ask if anyone in the group can think of an answer.
During group discussions make sure to manage the room by keeping track of who has raised their hands, upholding norms, and drawing out responses from many different participants.
As previously mentioned, every training should end with a debrief. Debriefs are for the benefit of participants, and should be used to crystallize key learnings and how they plan to apply new skills. They differ from evaluations, which are for the benefit of trainers, and should be used to evaluate how the training could have gone better.
Methods for Effective Debriefs
- Small group discussions: have participants break into to groups and discuss the most important parts of the training and how they will use it, then report out and discuss with the whole group.
- A whip: Have each person in the training go around in a circle and report out. Challenges everyone to participate.
- Large Group Discussion: Run the group through previously prepared questions that challenge participants to apply lessons learned, demonstrate understanding, and plan next steps.
- Popcorn Key Learnings: Like the whip, but leaves room for some to remain silent and does not single anyone out, instead of forcing everyone to contribute.
- Gallery Walk: Have groups peruse the training space looking at the work of the other teams.
Tips and Best Practices for Being an Upfront Trainer
- Practice twice: ALWAYS practice your training twice in front of an audience capable of giving you constructive feedback on your training and how it can be improved. You will flop the first time, improve the second, and be ready to go by the third.
- 7 Second Pause: After you ask a question, allow 7 seconds of silence before you rephrase or ask anything else. Give the group time to think and reflect.
- Active listening: Repeat questions loudly enough so everyone can hear. Ask for clarification if you need it. Make sure you understand what is being asked.
- Clearly set up activities: Make sure the instructions are clear and people know what you want them to do before anyone starts moving. Ask for questions. Point them to the proper page in the participant guide, or flip chart instructions.
- Create and Maintain a Safe Space: Each of your participants come from a unique personal background with unique life experiences. Instead of calling on individuals, always ask for volunteers for role-plays, or when asking for something to be read to the group.