How Industry Training
Can, and Should, Improve
If you’re attending this month’s CEDIA
EXPO, then there is a good chance you’re
planning on attending some of the many
training sessions offered by manufacturers
and others. Maybe you are excited about
the training, or maybe it is just part of your
job. Either way, hopefully you will find the
sessions both engaging and worthwhile. If
not, then it is not just your right but your
responsibility to say so. Otherwise, how
will the training ever get better?
They Don’t Want to Waste Your Time
Industry training is a hit-or-miss
proposition, often missing more than it
hits. This is certainly not for lack of effort,
however. Organizations spend a lot of
time and money to provide training, and
want very much for you to learn what
they’re teaching so you can go out in the
field and sell more of their products, or do your job more effectively. The
last thing they want to do is waste your time.
Unfortunately, most companies don’t have a staff of training experts,
and so they lack real expertise in adult education or the principles of
learning. As a result, they continue to take the wrong approach to
training, often mistakenly believing that the goal of training is to deliver
as much information as possible within the allotted time. Consequently,
the presenter races to cover a volume of facts–most of which aren’t critical
and will be forgotten almost instantly.
In addition, organizations often make the mistake of picking the wrong
person to present the training, typically basing their decision on whomever
happens to know the most about the subject. Leading classroom training
requires a very specific skill set–including a command of public speaking–to
make the experience engaging and effective. Simply knowing a lot about a
topic doesn’t automatically qualify someone to stand in front of a class and
So for the sake of everyone who will sit through a training session
and wonder how much better it could be, here are some fundamental
guidelines for great training.
So if the training you receive falls short of your expectations, don’t be shy. Take a
moment to let those presenting the training know that you felt it could’ve been better,
Focus on “Need to Know”
Our brains can only process a handful of concepts at one time.
Furthermore, research has shown that regardless of whether information
is delivered verbally or via printed material, our retention level is pretty
much the same, assuming the facts are explained in similar fashion.
Therefore, instead of trying to explain every little piece of information in
the allotted time, less important, “nice to know” facts should be reserved
for a well-structured printed handout, while valuable class time should be
spent teaching only the most important concepts. This allows more time
to explore questions and scenarios more thoroughly, and it increases the
likelihood that everyone will understand these key concepts better to use
more effectively later.
It’s a Two-Way Street
Great training should be an interactive experience. Good trainers are always
promoting discussion–not just lecturing while the group sits quietly. There
should be lots of opportunities for questions to be raised and explored; and
a talented trainer knows how to foster constructive group discussion while
keeping the conversation properly corralled and on track while not letting
digressions derail the session. The best learning happens when we teach
each other, and an interactive environment facilitates that capability.
Mix It Up
Training should stimulate a variety of senses, so real effort should be made
to go beyond the traditional slideshow/lecture format. Better learning
happens when we use more of our senses, like sight, touch, and even smell.
Therefore, relevant “props” should be provided whenever possible–real
items that the class can hold in their hands and examine. Additionally,
we learn better when we move, so opportunities should be provided to get
up and move around, perhaps to explore educational elements around
the room or to form breakout groups. Also, trainers should understand
that our typical attention span is only about 8-10 minutes, so the training
should be shifting gears continuously to keep everyone’s attention focused.
If the training you receive falls short of your expectations, don’t be shy.
Take a moment to let those presenting the training know that you felt it
could’ve been better, and why. Likewise, if the session was terrific, make
sure to tell them what you liked, so they know to keep doing it.