Learning from my Mistakes as a Trainer

My First PowerPoint Presentation

I was not yet used to using PowerPoint presentations in my training, in fact it was my first time to create a PowerPoint presentation for a training session and use it during the session. I was volunteering to deliver such a session at some local place in my hometown. At first I was not planning to use a PowerPoint presentation for the session but the team organizing the training requested that I use one. I huddled and assembled a group of slides in which I kept listing points in bullet form in one slide after the other.

Saving the Day

During the training itself, I experimented by using the think and listen technique. It was my first time to use it after reading about it online. I had not even experienced it in any training I had attended before. Although the elements of interactivity I have used combined with my confidence in speaking to an audience helped save the day for that training session, which I was delivering for the first time, yet the dry sequence of bulleted slides I had been using was poor enough to reduce the overall quality of the training. The PowerPoint slides I had prepared contained no images, graphs or photos at all! My slides consisted of nothing but bare text in bullet form.

Poor Evaluation

The average evaluation of the training session as per the training evaluation forms for the trainer performance section was “good”. Compared to other trainers who had been getting “excellent” for their performance at that place my performance was considered pretty modest.

Feedback from Organizers

I remember those organizing the training politely suggesting to me, after the training session was over, that I add some images to the PowerPoint presentation to give it some visual appeal. They noted, however, that participants were “happy,” which seemed to surprise the organizers in light of my bland PowerPoint presentation.

Photo Slides

This experience I had gone through preparing and using my first PowerPoint presentation during a training session was enlightening and resulted in a powerful transformation of my skills later on. As I prepared PowerPoint presentations after that incident I started including some photos to provide visual appeal. This kept developing till my PowerPoint presentations were largely nothing but a sequence of full size photo slides with a few captions and minimal bulleted text which I found to be way more effective than cramming lots of text in bulleted form into the heads of participants.

Learning from Mistakes

Without having gone through the difficult and stressful experience of presenting my first bare PowerPoint presentation I would probably not have learned in such a powerful way the importance of using images and visual appeal in a PowerPoint presentation and would not have had the strong energy propelling me towards creating highly visual PowerPoint presentations later on.

Lessons Learned

Although a trainer should prepare well for the training program he is about to deliver and should practice before actually delivering it to participants yet poor performance and mistakes a trainer makes during the training itself can be a powerful way by which he learns and transforms his skills from a mediocre state to an exceptionally effective one.

So next time you make an embarrassing mistake while delivering a training program do not dwell on it, just use such force to fuel your efforts in developing your skills further in order to avoid such an embarrassing mistake or such poor performance from taking place once again. You will be surprised at the great positive transformation that can result in yourself after going through such an initially stressful situation.

Is there a difficult or embarrassing situation that you have been through which has helped transform the way you see things and has resulted in a positive transformation in your skills? Share your it with us.

Advertisements

How I learned Personal Shorthand

Shorthand Textbook

My sister needed to use shorthand for her work. She kept looking for shorthand training courses at so many places but couldn’t find a single place offering shorthand courses. After a long search, she finally stumbled upon one place that offered shorthand courses. After she took the training course and brought the textbook with her, I got curious about shorthand. I was still studying at university by that time. I started looking through the shorthand textbook and my interest grew.

Practice

I then set about to learn shorthand from the textbook on my own. I used lectures I attended at university as an avenue for practicing my shorthand skills. It was not that I was learning shorthand so that it could help me write down lectures I am attending but it was actually the other way around. I was curious to learn shorthand so I used university lectures I was attending back then as an excellent opportunity for practice.

Personal Shorthand

I remember I started on that journey during the second semester of my third year at Cairo University. The type of shorthand I was learning is called Personal Shorthand or PS for short. It is a renaming of what had been known before as briefhand. What distinguishes PS from other types of shorthand, such as Pitman shorthand, is that it relies solely on the 26 letters of the alphabet and therefore is very easy to learn compared to most other shorthand methods and can even be typed on a computer since it contains no special symbols and relies only on letters of the alphabet.

Full Lecture Transcription

I started reading in the personal shorthand textbook and doing the exercises it had. I started practicing during all lectures I attended at university. It was a lot of fun. By the second semester on my fourth year at university I was able to write down every single word the lecturer was uttering during the lecture. I no longer needed to rewrite my shorthand notes into longhand as I came back home. I just kept the shorthand sheets I had written during the lectures as they are and studied from them directly.

Tools

When I went to university I did not need to take any notebook with me, all I needed was a few folded foolscap folios and a pen. A whole 2 hour long lecture could be transcribed in full in just 2 foolscap folios since I wrote on both the front and back sides of each folio.

Exams

As the time for the final exam came at the end of the semester, I used the transcripts of the 12 or so lectures that I had stapled together as a way to revise all lectures before taking the exam. I was surprised at the amount of information they contained most of which I would have totally forgotten had I been attending the lectures without caring to take notes during the lectures.

Lessons Learned

There are many lessons to be learnt from this story. One of them is that a new skill can help you do better in life. Another lesson is that lots of practice is required to master a new skill. Practicing in a real life context also proved more effective. A third lesson is that one can learn some skills from a book plus practice without the need for external help.

Have you ever thought about learning shorthand? If so, what might you be using it for?

Role of Training

Solving Problems

Effective training must effect positive change in trainees on the knowledge, skills and behavioral levels in a way that completely or partially solves problems faced by those trainees, their organizations or their communities. If a training program does not lead to positive change in trainees attending it then such training is of little value. Even if a training program does happen to make some changes in trainees, let’s say on the knowledge level and even on the skills level too, yet fails to help in solving any real problem or fulfill any strong need then such training as well is not very useful. The role of training is to problem solve through effective positive change in participants on various levels.

Transformational

Highly successful training transforms individuals completely by making them have a paradigm shift thus changing their behavior by changing their beliefs in addition to developing their skills. Such transformational training does not have to be long. It should focus on experiential learning, total immersion training, powerful story telling, lots of visuals and videos as well as informational stats to support and effect belief change and thus a powerful and sustained positive change in behavior.

Story of a Mind Maps Workshop

I once attended a training session about brainstorming using mind maps. The session was largely nothing but a PowerPoint presentation that had lovely illustrations of colorful mind maps while the ‘trainer’ or presenter set about to speak about the history of mind maps, their uses and how they can be constructed. He even asked us to each draw a mind map on paper for how we see ourselves in 5 years. I admit that the visuals were good, his explanation was clear and his providing of an activity was a good idea yet by the end of the training we did not really grasp how to use mind maps to problem solve.

The session was also a bit too boring with me wanting so much to leave. The person next to me actually left early in the session telling me he found it boring. The most astonishing part to note here was the big smile on the face of the trainer by the end of the session and his sense of pride and happiness thinking that he had done an amazing job in that session! I believe if evaluation forms have been provided to participants and in particular questions about practicality of the training and its usefulness in real life were included the trainer would have known better about his real performance. The session was largely information based with lots of visuals but with no focus on actually using mind maps to solve problems.

Conclusion

Effective training is that which leads to positive change in the behavior, skills and knowledge of participants attending it in a way that helps solve pressing problems and fulfill strong needs. A training program that fails to problem solve or achieve a positive change in trainees is of little or no value at all.

Have you ever attended a training program only to find that it was completely worthless and useless? Tell us why you found it as so.

My Story with Uncovering Client Training Needs

Requirements Email

A few days ago I received an email containing the training requirements of a client. The email was forwarded to me by the training company. The requirements were too much to include in a single training session. The training company then negotiated reducing those requirements with the client. Again I was forwarded another email containing a  shorter list of the client’s requirements. They were still too many to jam into one training day but I believed I could still manage.

Analyzing the Written Requirements

I had a deep look at the client requirements, they were written as a set of points in bullet form. I tried to read between the lines and understand the real reasons behind those requirements. The requirements were too specific and set about to decide on how to solve some of the problems the company was facing with regards to its employees. I would have preferred to have them written in the form of problems then I would have had the freedom to decide what specific training solutions would have helped remedy such problems.

Clarification from Training Company

I called the training company to ask for more details on the requirements and which ones were the more important to stress on. I received some answer that satisfied me yet still I wanted to get a feel for the requirements by meeting directly with the client.

Experiencing the Problems Firsthand

As I traveled to the location of the client for my training assignment I observed a few issues that such client could be suffering from. I observed this through my direct interactions with several of the employees there as I had arrived one day prior to the actual day of the training.

Interviewing HR

In the evening of the day prior to the training I met with the key HR person in the company and asked more about their requirements. I pulled out the original longer list of requirements and went through it one by one with the key HR person. The picture became mush clearer for me now as I got to know which points they need the most and have the most difficulty in facing and which points were of lesser importance.

After listening attentively to the key HR person at the company, I then set about to suggest an approach for solving such problems through the training and my thoughts about the followup process. It is important to listen attentively to the client first and take notes while listening then provide your suggestions and view at the end.

Adjusting the Training Program

Although the outline as well as the content of the training session had already been set by the training company based on the written requirements of the client yet I set about to customize the training program so that it would better fit the real needs of the client as I understood them more clearly after my fact to face meeting with the key HR person at the client company.

Best Practice

One of the lessons learnt from this story is that face to face interviewing of the client can be essential and could help in clarifying the true needs of the company. It is best to understand the client needs and requirements in terms of problems the client is facing rather than what training solutions your client believes would be the answer for such problems. This approach of specifying the problems gives you, the trainer, the freedom to decide on the training solutions yourself based on your knowledge and experience as a trainer.

Conclusion

Although there could be more formal approaches for determining the training needs of an organization, such as training needs analysis (TNA), yet a simple even informal meeting with the HR of such organization could tell you a great deal about employee related problems they are facing which helps you determine their training needs and thus be able to design an effective training program that caters for their real needs.

Have you ever attended a training program only to find that it does not cater for your real needs and is thus not of real practical use for you? Tell us about it.

Stories of Extreme Training

Extreme Handball Practice

Many years ago my cousin once told me about a friend of his who played professional handball. His friend told him that during their handball training, before entering into competitions, they practiced by playing handball while wearing weights tied to their shoulders, legs and around their waists. He said that practicing while having those extra weights tied to their bodies was very difficult and put enormous strain on their bodies. As they kept practicing one time after the other with such extra weights attached to several parts of their bodies, they started to get used to the extra weights and were eventually able to play handball normally with such extra weights on as if they did not have them attached at all.

When the time came for the actual game during the competition, they were asked by the coach to put off their extra weights. During the matches, having put down the extra weights they had long been practicing with, it felt to them as if they were flying! They were so agile in the field, moved extremely fast, had strong stamina, never felt tired and achieved outstanding results.

Stretching Arrays

One of the main lessons from this story is that extremes can be used during practice in order to boost abilities even though such extremes would not be part of the actual performance when the time for the real ‘game’ comes. For instance, I remember when I started to learn a concept in computer programming called arrays. I started to use it extensively in my programs. I jam packed computer programs I created with arrays. I used arrays to the extreme even where they were not needed or where they were not the best solution of choice.

After such period of being extreme in using arrays in computer programs I created, I then moved on to normal usage and used arrays only when appropriate and suitable. The period of time when I used arrays in an extreme way helped me in fully grasping them and mastering their use. It is as if you are stretching your body to revitalize it then getting your body back again in normal position.

Edges

Going to the edge of something and getting close to its extreme states as a form of practice helps one master such thing and makes the learning and skill development great.

Have you ever experienced going to the extreme in something then coming back and found yourself mastering it well after such experience? Tell us about it and what happened.

Engaging Participants with Storytelling

Training of Trainers

I was once delivering a training of trainers course. One of the participants was already an experienced trainer who was herself delivering training of trainers courses yet decided to attend my training to see how I delivered that course. During one of the sessions of the course, I asked participants to provide a brief 10-minute demo of workshops they are preparing. That participant, who is already a trainer, raised her hand to have a go at providing a demo of her workshop. I allowed her other colleagues to take turns first then signaled to her to come present her demo.

Incomplete Story

She came and stood in front of her colleagues with great confidence, briefly introducing herself by mentioning her name then mentioning the title of her workshop. She then proceeded directly to telling a story related to the subject of her workshop. It was an actual story that had taken place long ago and contained powerful lessons within it.

The assigned 10-minutes for the demo came to an end and I signaled to her to stop. She had not completed the story and wanted to continue. I told her that time was already over. Many participants pleaded and begged me to let her continue with the story she had started. They were so eager to listen to the rest of the story to know what happened next. Nevertheless, I refused her extra time so that she would learn how to manage her time better next time despite the many pleadings I got from her colleagues who had been following her story with full attention and deep engagement.

After she went back to her seat, I praised the technique she used during her demo which was storytelling. I pointed out to participants of the training of trainers course the fact that they were fully engaged with the story she was narrating and how they were dying to have her continue it. This experience showed everyone how engaging storytelling can be.

Lasting Effect

Storytelling is a very powerful technique that can be used by the trainer during a training session not only to deeply engage participants but also to achieve a deep lasting effect and induce a strong learning experience. The human mind is designed to handle stories exceptionally well in terms of attention, retention, digestion, reflection, deduction and later practical use of the information in and deductions from such stories.

Types of Stories

The most effective kind of story is one the trainer has experienced himself and was part of. The second best are real stories the trainer had heard or read about. A third type of story, still very effective, is fictional stories that make a point or provide specific lessons.

Conclusion

No matter what the training is about, a competent trainer can make good use of the storytelling technique to achieve deep engagement of participants and a strong and lasting learning experience. A trainer may even allow and encourage participants to use storytelling themselves during their presentations or as part of other training activities during a training session.

Is there a story that has changed your life after you listened to it or read about it? Tell use about it.

My Story with Lively Vs. Boring Training

Creative Writing Workshop

I once joined a 3-day creative writing workshop. We were a small group of trainees and the trainer was a highly competent one. I really enjoyed attending the workshop and benefited from it enormously. The main focus of the workshop was activities rather than lecturing. The amount of information provided by the trainer during the workshop was minimal yet the activities were plenty. We had pair work activities, solo activities and group activities. We were guided and gently pushed to write which eventually led to the opening up of some creative doors in our minds that have long been locked.

Conflicting Session Time

I remember that at the final day of the creative writing workshop it coincided with another training course I wanted so much to attend. It was about how to start a new business. I had to make a decision whether to attend the final session of the creative writing workshop while leaving the first session in the other training course that I have long been dreaming of attending or do the opposite. I decided to go for the start your own business course and leave out the final session of the creative writing workshop. I even excused myself from the creative writing trainer and told her by the end of the second session that I would not be able to attend the final one.

Start your Business Course

Off I went with great hopes to attend the start your own business course. As it started, the ‘trainer’ told us that the course will be interactive and that he will not be relying a lot on lecturing but rather taking a participatory approach. I was shocked from the start of the session that his approach actually lacked any activities, was so boring and the ultimate ‘participatory’ element he ever used was asking questions to participants. His comments on participant answers were even so negative and not by any means encouraging.

Back to Creative Writing

seriously considered leaving as my heart was leaping at the thought of the creative writing session I had left behind to attend such dry and useless course. I kept meditating the idea of leaving this boring session to catch the coinciding creative writing session. Luckily, we took a break soon and I did make the decision and drove to the location of the creative writing workshop which was not very far away. I entered the creative writing workshop and was a bit late. The trainer looked slightly surprised that I showed up. I told her that I just could not resist attending! I was indeed extremely happy that I have joined that final session of the creative writing workshop. It was so lively, engaging and enjoyable. After the workshop I realized that a creative door has opened in my mind and an avalanche of writing started to flow from pen to paper as I went back home.

This experience of mine showed me a sharp contrast between a boring useless course with little value vs a lively highly engaging truly interactive workshop that is of high value. One of the main lessons learnt here is that a training course with plenty of engaging activities and a minimal amount of direct information can not only be more enjoyable than another with no activities and loads of information transferred through lecturing but can also be of much higher value to participants.