Training Tip: Ask the Questions No One Dares to Ask

Ask the Questions No One Dares to AskQuestions? Anyone?

Whether addressing a large group or conducting one-on-one training, everybody can have questions. You may know your stuff, but on the receiving end, things are not always clear. Sometimes even basic concepts become garbled.

At times the participants may be dwelling on a previous point. Or they may simply not be paying attention or their minds were distracted. Concentration beyond a minute or two can be difficult for some. And all of us have our limits when exposed to complex or new technical information.

Tip: Merely presenting information does not constitute training.

What is Training?

Training is teaching, or developing in oneself or others, any skills and knowledge that relate to specific useful competencies. Wikipedia

— A process by which someone is taught the skills that are needed for an art, profession, or job. merriam-webster.com

— Organized activity aimed at imparting information and/or instructions to improve the recipient’s performance or to help him or her attain a required level of knowledge or skill. businessdictionary.com.

From these definitions we can see training is an activity or a process of teaching or developing skills, knowledge, information, instructions, or competencies. Training is something that takes one to the next level of knowledge or skill.

How Do We Know When Training Has Been Achieved?

Simple skills are easy to teach. Highly complex skills and knowledge can take years to learn or master.

Successful training should result in a change of behavior or the learning of a new behavior. In short, the person being trained should be able to somehow demonstrate what they have learned.

One problem I frequently encounter during training sessions is that participants don’t always ask the questions they have.

Some Training Tips

  • Know your stuff. Training is all about prep. Take the time to review what you will teach and what the objectives are. Create a lesson plan and start with your objectives. What new skill or knowledge will the participant(s) be able to demonstrate when finished?

You can’t teach what you don’t know.

The worst training session I ever attended was a Hazmat presentation years ago by a DOT employee in Lansing, MI that lasted about twenty minutes or so. The trainer ended with, Well you guys know this stuff anyway. Perhaps we did. Perhaps he did . . . but I still wonder.

  • Break it down. Complex training can be broken down into “chunks.”
  • Stick to the plan. It can be easy in our highly technical and information-centric world to get off-topic. Everything presented should support the training outcomes and objectives.
  • Encourage note taking. Taking notes is a proven learning method. Not everyone is a good note taker, so it’s a good idea to prep the participants by saying, Write this down . . . before any key concepts, phrases, procedures, etc. I like to have extra pens, pencils and paper available for the training session. For field training, encourage participants to bring a pocket notebook with them. (This is also an excellent marketing opportunity to distribute pens and notebooks with your company information or logo.)
  • Review, review, review. Tell them what you are going to talk about. Tell the information. Then tell them what you told them. Ask questions like: Are you with me so far? Does that make sense? What was the key thing I said when we first started? Fire off a pop quiz or ask someone a direct question.
  • Ask for their questions. This is where you may get the most blank stares. Have a few questions prepared in advance about the materials, then ask and answer them, saying, Well these are some questions others have had . . . Then ask for more feed back about their understanding.

Thank you for reading this.