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How to Develop Your Skills as a Trainer

For those new to training, standing in front of fellow healthcare professionals can be a little daunting. If your training is well designed and interactive, you should have nothing to worry about.
Image show a confident trainer speaking to a group
© Health Education England Creative Commons 4.0 International

For those new to training, standing in front of fellow healthcare professionals can be a little daunting. If your training is well designed and interactive, you should have nothing to worry about.

Be Prepared

Practice and preparation will not completely eliminate nerves. However, a well-prepared trainer will significantly reduce their stress levels. They will find training becomes an enjoyable experience for both their trainees and themselves.

How to Develop Your Skills as a Trainer

Practice

Working memory is limited in how much it can process at one time. These limitations apply to trainers too. If unexpected problems occur, such as technology which doesn’t function correctly, a trainer’s ability to think and adapt to learners needs may be compromised.

Quite simply, the more familiar a trainer is with everything needed for the training, the less likely it is that an unwanted distraction will occur on the day.

In the image below, a trainer practices his session in the room he’ll be using.

Trainer practicing in an empty lecture room

In this way, he is able to test all the technology and mentally run through the content and activities in a sort of ‘dress rehearsal’.

Prompts

Even when you’ve planned and created a training event yourself, it is easy to find yourself at a point where you are unable to recall what comes next, or which slide is next in the sequence. It’s a perfectly natural consequence of being immersed in the moment.

If you are showing slides, it’s helpful for learners if you prepare them for what will be shown next. The image below shows a smart phone used as a slide advancer. These allow the trainer to see what the next slide will be. They are then able to introduce it beforehand.

Screen showing slide. In the foreground a smartphone slide advancer also shows the next slide

Some trainers use homemade cue cards. If you use this method, write key words rather than sentences. In this way you can glance at the card without the need to stop talking. If you have longhand notes, you’ll need to pause in order to read them.

Nerves

Even with good preparation, many trainers still feel the effect of nerves. A key factor is the unwavering gaze of participants, especially at the start of a session. It is perfectly normal for learners to stare at a trainer while she/he is speaking. But the emotional part of the brain interprets the stare as an indication of potential danger.

A conversation between two smiling people contrasted with image of serious lecture audience

In a normal conversation there are many indications that the other person is listening. In training, you have invested much more effort in being interesting, yet everyone sits motionless and stares at you. Who wouldn’t be nervous? It’s perfectly normal and trainers gradually get used to it. Then one day, you’ll probably find the nerves have gone.

Dealing With Nerves

At the bottom of this step you can download some tips for dealing with nerves. One of the most helpful is to chat to your participants as they arrive. In this way trainers avoid a formal ‘Um, good morning my name is…’ introduction because they have already met. When the start time arrives, they can begin instead by saying something like, ‘Raman and I were talking earlier about today’s topic, and he made a really interesting point that I’d like to share with you…’

Don’t ‘hide’ behind PowerPoint!

Sometimes a nervous trainer may forget what comes next. If there is a text slide on the screen, they may look at it to remind themselves. Before they know it, they’re reading the slide aloud. When the trainer looks back at the group, they are staring again! If this happens, ask them, ‘What do you think is the most important part of this slide?’ and take a quick look at your notes.

Icebreakers help trainers too

A relevant ice breaker can reduce nerves for a trainer too. If you didn’t have a chance to meet everyone as they came in, an Icebreaker activity provides an opportunity to move around the room. Then you can join in with different groups as they undertake the activity, or perhaps speak to a quiet person who hasn’t found it easy to join in.

Nerves and Video Conferencing

Many people find video calls less stressful than classroom training. Even though participants are looking at you, the effect of their gaze is less than when everyone is together in the same room. With video conferencing, glancing at notes and prompts is easier because they are usually near to you.

One final thought on nerves. A certain amount of nerves is helpful. They can drive us to produce high quality learning that participants genuinely appreciate, and they provide a degree of energy when training. If a trainer feels no nerves at all, there is a risk that they also lose the element of self-consciousness that prevents talking for too long.

Talking point

  • How do you prepare for a training session? How much do you try out before the event?
  • Have you any tips for reducing nerves that have helped you?
© Health Education England Creative Commons 4.0 International
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