Aiming for Imperfection in Training

Perfection is Unattainable

An experienced trainer never tries to aim for perfection when planning for or delivering a training session. Perfection is something illusive that should not be chased and can never be attained in training. Aiming for perfection in training would probably result in an imperfect training session anyway plus the added stress and extra effort exerted by the trainer. Instead of seeing a flexible trainer who is able to adapt instantly and deal with various circumstances a perfectionist trainer would show a great deal of rigidness and be under constant stress. Such a trainer would burn down quickly.

Developing Constantly

Aiming for perfection during planning for and delivering a training session not only consumes enormous amounts of resources from the trainer and keeps him under constant high stress but it also prevents any kind of experimentation or learning from mistakes to take place. It does not allow the trainer to develop and grow and enhance his craft gradually.

In contrast to that, a trainer who aims instead at creating a very good total effect for the training doing 90% planning for the training and delivering most of the training in high quality would have room for learning during the training session and improving after that. By leaving an amount of ‘air’ or space for some imperfection in the training planning and delivery a trainer allows himself to deliver the training without being overstressed and provides him with the agility needed to be flexible adapting to new conditions and dealing with various situations with ease and confidence while constantly developing and improving his craft as a trainer. This imperfection also reminds us of the flexible training session planning method.

Perfection from Imperfection

Aiming for perfection might be something practiced by the novice trainer yet a trainer who wants to keep on improving and developing should never aim at making each and every training session he delivers perfect. Interestingly, by not aiming for perfection a trainer keeps improving and developing thus getting closer and closer to true perfection as time goes on.

Are there situations for which the trainer should attempt to aim for perfection? What can those situations be?

Setting Ground Rules During Training

In order to make the training session proceed smoothly it is essential that the trainer set a number of ground rules and communicate them clearly to all participants. Ground rules can be set after the trainer has introduced himself and mentioned the training style. Alternatively, it could be delayed till after the first icebreaker.

Preset Ground Rules

There are several methods for setting ground rules. The simplest method is to include a slide in the PowerPoint presentation at the beginning of a training session listing a set of ground rules and to point to them as you proceed to that slide.

Sample of Ground Rules

Ground rules may vary from just requiring participants to switch off their cell phones or make them silent during the training session to a more elaborate set of ground rules including no smoking during the training session or inside the training room, asking questions only at the end of the training session and so on.

Collaborative Ground Rules

An alternative way for setting ground rules, other than listing them on a slide, is to have participants themselves suggest ground rules and write them down on a flip chart sheet. The trainer can then use voting to accept or reject any of those ground rules. The trainer may even go a step further by removing a suggested ground rule himself in order make a training session more relaxed.

he flip chart sheet can be hung on the wall at the side and in front of all participants containing the final set of ground rules clearly written in large type to act as a reminder for participants throughout the training program. The trainer can also easily refer back to it in case of any participant breaking any of the agreed upon ground rules. Icons can be drawn next to the ground rule statements for even better communication.

Allowing participants to participate in setting up the ground rules makes them more willing to abide by them.

Conclusion

Setting up ground rules from the start of the first training session in a training program can save the trainer a lot of effort and help make the training sessions run smoothly through such short or long set of ground rules be it preset by the trainer or decided on collaboratively by participants attending the training.

Do you think there are cases when it is not necessary to set ground rules? What are such cases?

Closing Training with a Grand Finale

A training session should be closed just like a piece of music played by an orchestra: with a grande finale. The trainer here being like a talented maestro creating a lasting positive and pleasant effect in the hearts and minds of attendees.

Participants Clapping

The final words a trainer uses at the closing of the last training session of a course may also purposely evoke clapping by the audience. The idea is to evoke feelings of great satisfaction in the hearts and minds of trainees. Of course this cannot be achieved merely by a few words at the end of the final session in a training course if the course itself was not effective but such a positive feeling and final impression would be a result of continual build up as the training course progresses.

Satisfaction Buildup

For instance during the training course the trainer must have shown participants that they are competent, allowed for a lot of interactivity through interactive and highly engaging training activities including ice breakers, pair work, group work, role play and reflection on videos watched during the training. The satisfaction build up can then be topped at the end of the last training session of a course by a series of words that would evoke such heightened feelings of satisfaction and perhaps also evoke clapping by the trainees as an expression of their gratitude and deep feelings of satisfaction from the training they have just completed.

Closing Sequence

One example sequence of words to say at the end of the last training session is to quickly:

  1. Sum up the core elements and benefits of the course
  2. Praise the performance of the trainees
  3. Hope for them applying what they have learnt during the training at their work
  4. Thank them by closing your words with “thank you.”

This final “thank you” may evoke clapping on the part of participants. This sequence of words should be said in a rapid highly energetic manner to produce their desired effect.

The trainer would thus be like a talented maestro closing a moving concerto with a brilliant grand finale that has a lasting positive and pleasant effect in the hearts and minds of participants.

In what other ways do you think a trainer could be wrapping up and closing a training program?

Structure of a Training Session

New trainers are keen to know how a training session should be structured and in what sequence elements of a training session should be laid out when designing and delivering a training session. Below I will be proposing a structure for the first training session in a multi-session training program.

I would like to note from the start that the structure I am about to suggest here for the first training session is not set in stone and can be modified by adding or removing elements from it or by changing their sequence as needed or as seen appropriate by the trainer.

First Training Session

Here is the structure I am proposing for the first session of a training program:

  1. Start by introducing yourself as a trainer or have someone introduce you such as the organizer of the training.
  2. Provide the title and main elements or goals of the training program.
  3. Explain the training style you will be using during the training and its benefits.
  4. Set ground rules.
  5. Start with an ice breaker that includes fun introductions among trainees.
  6. Optionally follow up with a more thorough introductions activity that can be fun as well.
  7. Gather trainee expectations.
  8. Provide the rest of the training program elements such as pair work, group work, videos, role play and games.

Such elements would also form the content of the following training sessions. Other than the activity elements, there is also direct explanation by the trainer and answering trainee questions. You can also include questionnaires and written exercises and drawing that can be done individually by trainees.

Breaks are an important element to include during the training as well as time for summary and recap.

Next Training Sessions

As for the following training sessions they also include the same elements except for the initial one time elements of intros of the trainer, the trainees, the training program ice breakers, ground rules and trainee expectations.

During the following sessions such initial part is removed and replaced by one element only which is recapping of what took place during the previous training session. This is an important element and may take time yet it has great benefits and should not be skipped.

Again I would like to point out that the structure and sequence I am proposing here for the first and following training sessions is not set in stone and should be used only as a general guide by new trainers and can be modified as seen appropriate.

What change would you suggest to the sequence of training elements proposed here for the first training session in a training program?

Silencing Cell Phones During Training

It is essential to ask participants at the beginning of the first session of a training program to make their cell phones silent. Having a participant every now and then getting out of the training room to answer his or her cell phone disturbs the training and breaks the focus of the rest of the participants.

Methods

This can be done as part of laying down the ground rules or it can be done by itself if there are no other ground rules to set. If the trainer is using a PowerPoint presentation, he can make a slide with the image of a cell phone and a cross over it. An alternative is to wait until the first cell phone rings and then ask everyone to make their cell phones silent.

Model

It is a good idea to tell participants that you, the trainer, are going to make your own cell phones silent also with them and do so in front of them after asking them to do so. Such a behavior for the trainer makes it feel totally OK for them and guards against offending anyone who had not made his or her cell phone silent before the training session started.

Calling Back

You should make it clear to participants that whenever they receive a phone call during the training session they should disregard it while calling back during one of the breaks.

Clearly asking participants to make their cell phones silent during the training session will help in having a smoother running and more focused and thus useful training session.

In what situations do you think it would be appropriate to allow a participant to answer his or her cell phone during the time the training session is running?

Alternation and Variation in Training

Alternation is an important concept in training. A trainer should be able to use alternation during a training session and throughout the training program in order to guarantee a strong and effective training program.

Breaks in Between Training

Alternation can manifest in different forms during the training. For instance, a trainer should alternate between providing training and giving breaks to trainees during a training session specially for long training sessions. This alternation between training and breaks helps trainees revitalize themselves and be fresh and absorbent during the training. It creates a strong training session.

Alternating between Activities and Lecturing

Other than breaks, a trainer should also alternate between providing interactive activities for trainees and giving them direct information himself by speaking or presenting. This alternation makes trainees highly appreciate the interactive activities when the time for them comes and be highly attentive when the time comes for the trainer to present something or speak.

If the training becomes nothing else other than activities trainees might get exhausted and less appreciative of such activities. Likewise, if the training consists only of lecturing by the trainer, trainees get bored, become less attentive and the training as a whole becomes less effective.

Variation in Training Style

Breaks, activities and presenting are elements of alternation during a single training session. Across the whole training program there is also a third element of alternation namely alternation in training style. It could be a good idea that a trainer varies his or her training approach from one training session to the other. This could lie more under the concept of variation rather than alternation.

Variation of training style during a training program not only makes trainees less bored but it also provides them with different elements that build and satisfy their training needs in a way similar to how varying the type of food one consumes from one day to the other helps the body get what it needs from the various elements.

Alternation and the related concept of variation are two important concepts that allow for more enjoyable and useful training if used by the trainer appropriately.

What other forms of alternation can you think of that can be used in a training program?

Introducing Training Style to Trainees

It is a good idea at the beginning of the first training session to a new group of participants to explain to them the training style that will be used during the training and to portray such a style in a highly positive manner.

For instance, you can inform participants that the traditional lecturing style would not be used except for 20% only of the training due to its being boring to participants and being of low effectiveness in terms of retaining information and skill development. Then you may go ahead and explain that the training will be using the latest methods used in training internationally and would be highly interactive and fun while providing very high value to participants in a very short period of time. You may then mention briefly some of the elements that will be used during this interactive training such as role play, videos, pair work, group work and games.

After this brief explanation of the training style that is about to be used during the training, participants become mentally ready to accept and appreciate the style and methods that might be new to many of them.Their appreciation of the training style about to be used by the trainer makes them more willing to participate with their full energy.

This explanation of the training style before using it also helps in having participants respect and trust the trainer as they now know that he knows what he is doing. Therefore, it is a good idea to first explain to participants the training style at the beginning of the first training session.

Do you think there could be times when it would be counterproductive to introduce the training style at the beginning of the first training session?