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Detailed Book Information
The Instant Trainer: Quick Tips On How To Teach Others What You
McGraw Hill. 1997
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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 homethey 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 dont work.
Becoming a skillful trainer comes from practical experience. Thats
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 wont find us talking much about the theories our ideas
are based on, although in Appendix D well give you a list of the
books that will. You wont find ideas that take large budgets or
fancy equipment. You wont find complex answers when a simple one
You will find sensible suggestions that work in the real world. Youll
find hints that will make your training sessions more fun for the participants
and for you. Youll find insights that might otherwise take years
Were assuming that you are reading this book because:
- Youre a subject matter expertwell 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 weve 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.
- Youve had a dream of becoming a trainer and youve just
made it. Congratulations! You know all the theory and now you get
to put it into practice.
- Youre an experienced trainer and like the two of us, cant
pass up a new book on training.
- You were inadvertently locked in a training room over a long weekend
and youre desperate for something to read.
You may have been given the title of trainer in an instant, but in
our world you cant 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 weve 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 wont always have
time for that. Benefiting from other peoples experience saves
you time and energy, and prevents the anxiety of having to say, I
certainly learned from that! Its a great way to enhance
your knowledge without the pain.
Our job is to help you succeed as a trainer, even on an instants
notice. Just think; Whenever you walk into the classroom you can take
The Instant Trainer with you. Well 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 dont get lost in new information. In our combined
35 years of training, weve discovered a lot about our learners
and the art of training. Were happy to pass it on.
Section One: Understanding The People Youre 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,
youre 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 youve chosen (process). The time
you spend answering
these questions will make the rest of your preparation more effective.
- 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.
- Why do they need to learn your subject?
Adults learn best when the material theyre 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 dont understand how this material will benefit
them, youll need to establish its relevancy right away.
- How they will use what they learn about your subject?
If you dont know how the new skills and information will be
used in the participants 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 wont have to spend a lot of time explaining
why your material is important.
- 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.
- 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 youre apt to score higher than a full time professional
trainer. If youve 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, dont
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. Thats why Anna
was able to sit down with her students and sing, Havent
you noticed, suddenly Im bright and breezy, because of all the
beautiful and new, things Im 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
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
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 markersone 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!
Here are a few additional items for your trainers 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 (Im 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 Im using an overhead)
- *A heavy duty extension cord (if Im using an overhead)
- *My Instaframe (if Im using my overhead)
Its a good feeling when you have a need for an item and you
open up your trainers 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! Ive never spoken to a
group before, but just thinkI could be responsible for helping
prevent a tragedy. Count me in! For that reason, I want to make sure
people clearly understand what Im saying: whats the best
way to determine if theyve actually learned what Im teaching
them? Are there any secrets you can share?
Conscientious in Columbus
Your question is a good one. Youre teaching awareness rather
than a specific skill, such as when you conduct a CPR class. To properly
determine if people are getting it, youll 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
Heres an example. Create a checklist of the most common fire
hazards in the average home. After you have raised peoples 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 participants ability to both identify and correct
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.
Games are another way to check for learning. In chapter 21 youll
find some suggestions on how to create a game that fits your subject.
Thanks for knowing that the trainers job extends beyond the
classroom to the real world. Youve 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
confused because I didnt 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
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 peoples
faces closely. A furrowed brow, nod, tilted head, raised eyebrow,or
blank look can indicate its 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
One more tip. How about rewarding people for asking questions? I like
to keep some Tootsie Rolls or Tootsie Pops handy (theyre under
30% fat) and when some one asks a question, I say, What a great
question, you deserve a reward! Youd 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, youre
apt to stop the flow of questions.