10% off everything
on this site!

Detailed Book Information

The Instant Trainer: Quick Tips On How To Teach Others What You Know

McGraw Hill. 1997

Price: $17.95

Our online shopping cart is "under construction". Please call 1-517-993-5178 and leave a message. We'll call you back to take your order.


Book information:

Excerpts from The Instant Trainer


A book, like a training session, needs an opening. This is ours.

Welcome to our training world, the world of the Instant Trainers. One day we realized that all the books written to help people deliver good training programs were long and involved. We had a sneaking suspicion that very few people actually read them cover to cover. Sound familiar? You carefully placed those books on your bookshelf to make you look knowledgeable. Maybe you took them home—they ended up on the floor next to your bed and you hoped to get the information by osmosis while you slept. We have tried both of these methods; they don’t work.

Becoming a skillful trainer comes from practical experience. That’s what this book is all about— sharing the lessons learned during our combined 35 years of training and speaking experiences in an easy-to-read format. You won’t find us talking much about the theories our ideas are based on, although in Appendix D we’ll give you a list of the books that will. You won’t find ideas that take large budgets or fancy equipment. You won’t find complex answers when a simple one will do.

You will find sensible suggestions that work in the real world. You’ll find hints that will make your training sessions more fun for the participants and for you. You’ll find insights that might otherwise take years to discover.

We’re assuming that you are reading this book because:

  • You’re a subject matter expert—well versed in your content but with little or no experience in training others. Many people get thrown into a training position without advanced notice and given a limited amount of time to prepare. Out of nowhere someone says, “Since we’ve downsized, we need someone who knows a lot about _______ to train the rest of the work team. You fit the bill. I know you can do it.”
  • You’ve had a dream of becoming a trainer and you’ve just made it. Congratulations! You know all the theory and now you get to put it into practice.
  • You’re an experienced trainer and like the two of us, can’t pass up a new book on training.
  • You were inadvertently locked in a training room over a long weekend and you’re desperate for something to read.

You may have been given the title of trainer in an instant, but in our world you can’t realistically become an effective trainer in an instant. You will learn, as we have, that successful trainers have made an enormous commitment of time and energy to both their subject and their deliveries. The lessons we’ve learned from other exceptional trainers combined with our own lessons (many from the painful process of trial and error) are captured on the pages of this book. Depending on your need, you can access them in an instant!

While learning from experience is great, you won’t always have time for that. Benefiting from other people’s experience saves you time and energy, and prevents the anxiety of having to say, “I certainly learned from that!” It’s a great way to enhance your knowledge without the pain.

Our job is to help you succeed as a trainer, even on an instant’s notice. Just think; Whenever you walk into the classroom you can take The Instant Trainer with you. We’ll happily share what we know and practice every day. Whatever your topic and wherever you go, you can rest assured that the instant Trainers will be with you, ready to help. Our intent is to steepen your learning curve — but at a manageable rate so you don’t get lost in new information. In our combined 35 years of training, we’ve discovered a lot about our learners and the art of training. We’re happy to pass it on.

Section One: Understanding The People You’re Training

“Getting to know you, getting to know all about you.” from The King and I

Next time you go to the video store, rent a copy of The King and I. In addition to enjoying the story, the dances, and the scenery, listen to the lyrics carefully – especially my favorite song, Getting To Know You. Anna, much like you, is nervous about her assignment to teach the children of the King of Siam. She has underestimated the differences between the culture she knows, that of her home country England, and the world she finds herself in, Siam. Everything seems strange —the food and the climate, the way people dress and act, what is considered right and wrong. Anna is ready to turn around and go back to the safety of what she knows. Sound familiar?

Did you know that the story behind The King and I is true? There really was an Anna trying to understand the students in her class, believing that it might be impossible. Are you facing your training assignment with the same concerns? Most trainers do at one time or another. They ask themselves, “who are those people walking into the room and how can I possibly connect with them?” If you face a training session without knowing and verifying some basic facts about your trainees, you’re not really prepared.

Here are five basic things you must know about your participants before you start to plan your session. The answers to these questions will shape your choices about both what you include in the session (content) and how you present the material you’ve chosen (process). The time you spend answering
these questions will make the rest of your preparation more effective.

  1. Who are they?
    This is a question of demographics. How many men; how many women? What are their average ages? What jobs do they do? Will they all know each other or are they strangers? The answers to these and other questions will help you develop a mental picture of the people who will be sitting in your class.

  2. Why do they need to learn your subject?
    Adults learn best when the material they’re working on solves a problem they're currently dealing with. If people come to a class without understanding how the new skill or information will help in their daily life, the best you can hope for is indifferent learners (“Why bother?”). The worst that can happen will be downright hostile learners (“Why are you taking me away from my real work?”). If the participants don’t understand how this material will benefit them, you’ll need to establish its relevancy right away.

  3. How they will use what they learn about your subject?
    If you don’t know how the new skills and information will be used in the participant’s workplace, it will be difficult to prepare effective practice sessions for the key points and important techniques. When your examples and exercises ring true in the learners mind, participants are much more likely
    to join in and you won’t have to spend a lot of time explaining why your material is important.

  4. How much do they already know about your subject?
    Do you have beginners in your class or seasoned veterans? If you have a combination of both (a common workplace training occurrence) you might need to develop ways to use the more experienced people as coaches while the newer people practice a skill.

  5. What do they think of you as their trainer?
    This maybe the toughest question of all. Put your ego aside when you go looking for the answer to this question. Ironically, this is one place you’re apt to score higher than a full time professional trainer. If you’ve built a reputation for doing things well in your organization, people already respect your technical expertise. Sadly, the members of a training department are often perceived as not doing any “real work” (You now know differently, don’t you?) and they are not automatically considered experts.

Anna took the time to learn these and other things about her students. The more she learned about them, the better she was able to reach them sharing information in ways they could understand. That’s why Anna was able to sit down with her students and sing, “Haven’t you noticed, suddenly I’m bright and breezy, because of all the beautiful and new, things I’m learning about you, day by day.” If you take a lesson from Anna, and do your homework —learning about your participants —you— and they — will be singing too.

Section Two: Letters

Dear Instant Trainers:
I'm really new at this training stuff and the room that we use for training at our food processing plant is often used for other things. I have to bring equipment and materials for each session. It occurred to me that there are probably some supplies I should always have with me, no matter what the subject of the session is. What tools of the training trade do you think I should have?
Tool-less in Toledo

Dear Tool-less:
I'm so glad you asked! For years I spent time searching for, begging the loan of, and bemoaning the absence of things I needed in the training room. I must be a slow learner, it seemed forever before it occurred to me that I could come up with a list of necessities, put them in a kit and bring them
to every training session I did. It worked, no more last-minute, frantic searching for me! Here's what my kit contains:

  • A roll of masking tape
  • A pair of scissors
  • A small Swiss Army knife
  • Two sets of overhead markers—one permanent, one washable
  • Assorted flip chart makers (none of which are the stinky kind)
  • Several small noise makers
  • Several sharpened pencils
  • Several pens
  • Assorted color post-it-note pads
  • A stapler with extra staples
  • A few rubber bands
  • A few paper clips
  • Some thumb tacks or push pins
  • Some aspirin and Imodium AD (can you guess why these are included?)

I keep my kit in an inexpensive cloth cassette carrying case that I found at Target. I just removed the plastic form that holds the cassettes and it became a perfect soft sided, easily packed, handle provided carrying bag. If you go looking for one you might want to choose the larger size, your list
of necessities may be longer than mine.

One final hint. Discipline yourself to replenish you kit after every session. As trainers, we tend to have exceptional memories, they are, however, often short! Just yesterday I opened my kit to grab the masking tape so I could hang some flip charts... I bet I don't have to tell the rest of the story!

Dear Tool-less:
Here are a few additional items for your trainer’s necessity kit. The items marked with an asterisk are only for the occasions when I will be using an overhead projector.

  • A three prong adapter
  • A rubber door stop (I’m amazed at how often I use this!)
  • A fingernail file
  • Butterscotch hard candies or cough drops
  • Facial tissues
  • Transparent tape
  • An 8 1/2 X 11 size note pad
  • A small digital clock that lays flat
  • *Blank overhead transparencies (if I’m using an overhead)
  • *A heavy duty extension cord (if I’m using an overhead)
  • *My Instaframe (if I’m using my overhead)

It’s a good feeling when you have a need for an item and you open up your trainer’s kit and there it is! It is a bad feeling when you kick yourself for forgetting an obvious necessity. Keeping your kit packed up and ready to go teaks you one step closer to being an effective trainer. And if you want to go from effective to excellent trainer, browse through the section on room set up and logistics. You might find some other tips there.

Dear Instant Trainers:
Imagine my surprise when our Fire Chief asked me to present a series of Fire Safety courses in our community! I’ve never spoken to a group before, but just think—I could be responsible for helping prevent a tragedy. Count me in! For that reason, I want to make sure people clearly understand what I’m saying: what’s the best way to determine if they’ve actually learned what I’m teaching them? Are there any secrets you can share?
Conscientious in Columbus

Dear Conscientious:
Your question is a good one. You’re teaching awareness rather than a specific skill, such as when you conduct a CPR class. To properly determine if people are “getting it,” you’ll need some kind of response mechanism so you can measure what people are learning. Many trainers in this position encourage participant involvement (and even excitement) by introducing the element of competition into their presentation.

Here’s an example. Create a checklist of the most common fire hazards in the average home. After you have raised people’s awareness level by citing statistics, showing slides of the aftermath of a fire, demonstrating with props how even heavy metals are melted in a fire, and showing various examples of fire hazards, distribute the checklist. Ask people to identify the potential hazards in their own home, and discuss how they are going to remove or significantly reduce the number of hazards in their homes. You could ask for examples after the discussion, and applaud the participant’s ability to both identify and correct the situation.

You could also give “prizes” to the people with the fewest items on their checklist or to those who came up with the best preventive or corrective measures. Prizes could consist of brochures on fire safety, first aid, CPR, poison control, and other safety tips. You are only limited by your own sense of creativity and desire to make the experience meaningful for your audience. With your level of conscientiousness, I expect you will be able to create
the atmosphere you want once you grab their attention.

Dear Conscientious:
Games are another way to check for learning. In chapter 21 you’ll find some suggestions on how to create a game that fits your subject. Thanks for knowing that the trainer’s job extends beyond the classroom to the real world. You’ve done your job when people not only enjoy your sessions, but when they tell you how much they can use what you taught them!


Dear Instant Trainer:
As a Postal Service employee, I will soon have the opportunity to instruct new employees on our new scanner technology. As I reflect back on some of my initial training experiences, my most vivid memory is that of feeling isolated and intimidated. I was afraid to ask questions or admit I was
confused because I didn’t want my co-workers to think I was stupid. I would like people to feel comfortable so they will talk with each other and feel free to interact and especially to ask questions. How do I go about this?
Friendly in Fresno

Dear Friendly:
How good of you to concern yourself with the comfort level of your learners, and yes, your attitude can make or break the training session. Here are some suggestions to help put your learners at ease. Openly state that there are no dumb questions. Putting it up front in your presentation and mentioning again midstream will help everyone feel more comfortable asking. You might make up or disclose a “dumb question” you had about the technology prior to your training.

You could also speak to others who have conducted training on scanner technology and find out what kinds of questions arose during their sessions. You could even write down a few questions (either by making them up or gathering them from others) and go through them one by one in front of your group. This might generate additional questions.

You can also occasionally interject hypothetical statements such as, “Now you may be wondering why...” or “Perhaps it has occurred to you...” As you work with your group watch people’s faces closely. A furrowed brow, nod, tilted head, raised eyebrow,or blank look can indicate it’s time for a question.

Of course, how you respond to the very first question (whatever it is!) can also influence the quantity and quality of the questions you get, so make sure you reinforce that first participator, regardless of what he or she asks. These techniques are simply common sense, but your willingness to apply them can make the difference between silent confusion and sustained interaction between yourself and your trainees.

Dear Friendly:
One more tip. How about rewarding people for asking questions? I like to keep some Tootsie Rolls or Tootsie Pops handy (they’re under 30% fat) and when some one asks a question, I say, “What a great question, you deserve a reward!” You’d be amazed how many people will ask a question for a prize. While candy is dandy, there are other prizes you can use. A pencil or pen, a button, or a small company token will work just as well. The only thing to remember is once you start giving them away, if you stop the prizes, you’re apt to stop the flow of questions.

Back to top of page.

© 2008 Leslie Charles, Yes! Press & Trainingworks / Webmaster: Tara E. Nofziger