Training styles are unique to individuals, but I have created a classification system that represents a big majority of them. With two small hiatuses – one to drive tour busses and one to test software – I’ve been teaching my entire employed life. I taught public high school and in a public university. But upon arriving in the corporate world, I had a title change. They call teachers “trainers”. But there’s a crazy thing about trainers – in all my dealings in corporate training for the last 25 years, I’ve met only one person who set out from college with corporate training as their career goal. One. Everyone else just sorta found it. Or it found them. Or they were forced into it. Or nobody else would do it. Or they were the expert, and just sort of expected to step to the front of the class and start teaching. Many find it’s a rewarding experience and stay. Some can’t stand it and move on. The saddest ones can’t stand it and stay in the position.

The only real problem with that discovery is that most – maybe all – trainers start their career with little to no training (the thing they’re doing, I remind you) in the skills of being a trainer. And even then, the skills you learn in train-the-trainer workshops usually leave you unprepared for the rigors of teaching most anything that really matters in the corporate world. So you labor through, eventually figuring it out or moving on to a safer and perhaps more lucrative career title.

This lack of preparation is similar to teaching, where most teacher education programs teach you necessary-but-not-sufficient skills that cater to the bureaucratic environment of teaching and not necessarily what you need to know to be good at leading in the classroom. Side note: if you or someone you know wants to learn what really works in a school classroom, run without delay to and buy their book and anything else you can get your hands on by this fantastic organization. Doug Lemov and his crew have a mission to find what works, replicate it, and teach others on how to be awesome in any classroom.

Back to corporate training. Most trainers are selected/drafted based on one of two criteria:

  1. they’re the de facto expert in what they are supposed to be training, or
  2. they have a personality and affinity to stand in front of audiences that few others have (especially true in engineering and data technology).

Interestingly, I had neither, but became competent enough at both to make a career of it before I found and practiced the skills that really allowed me to hone the craft and find my niche.

In my dealings with trainers, I’ve created a classification system of training styles:

  • The Slide Reader – the information is solid and immovable. The schedule and its completion are sacred. And the students are asleep.
  • The Rabbit Chaser – this expert has stories from the trenches and isn’t afraid to use them. Ask a question about strategy, get troubleshooting, change management, budgeting, and conflict resolution for free.
  • The Joker – this entertaining expert deals out the punishment and the punchlines. Expect to laugh and the time will fly, whether or not the objectives were realized.emcee
  • The Drill Sergeant – You’ll spend part of the opening of this class covering the rules. And you better follow them. Or else.
  • The Game Show Host – This trainer is all about audience involvement. From questions and competition to prizes and crazy sound effects and videos, expect to be called upon.

Note there is nothing inherently wrong with any of those tactics and training styles, in moderation. Some sort of intersection and combination would be nice. Which leads us to…

rock star

The Rock Star – these trainers do what few others can do. They don’t care what others think of their training styles. The fans rave and tell others. Establishment may pan the methods, even as they acknowledge the results.

And just like the music rock stars, they make it look easy. But those on the inside know it isn’t just about the music (content). There’s a method that’s being followed and a purpose to every riff and rhythm.

I’ve spent the last fifteen years of my life studying what makes some trainers (presenters, teachers, speakers, facilitators – can we just call them COMMUNICATORS) better than others. Then I’ve worked (and still am working – now pivoting to how to teach this when the students are in a 2”x3” box on my computer screen) on how to get others to use the skills to make a difference when they are on stage.

I’ve determined two driving truths:

  1. It isn’t magic, heredity, or environment. Anyone can do it.
  2. The most indicative trait that someone will do it is an insatiable desire to try and stick with it. Effort and attitude trumps talent every time.

I doubt I can teach you much you can’t learn online or through trial and error. Eventually. But one of the most important aspects of a great trainer is to shorten the learning curve of the students and help them to focus on what really matters based on their current situation. Whether it’s generic communication skills (in our signature two-day Powerful Persuasive Speaking workshop, back to live attendance in August!) or niche skills like Storytelling, Content Development, Make-A-Trainer, Demoing software, or Asking and Answering questions, our favorite students and clients are those that genuinely want to change the way they perform on stage. If you’re a past student, thank you for letting us pursue our passion and invest in you. If you’ve yet to experience our drive to make others great on stage, give us a call and let us change your life, or your team’s. There is nothing greater than to multiply your knowledge by training others to pick up the skills and carry them forward.

Communication matters. What are you saying?

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This article was published in the August edition of our monthly speaking tips email newsletter, Communication Matters. Have speaking tips like these delivered straight to your inbox every month. Sign up today to receive our newsletter and receive our FREE eBook, “Twelve Tips that will Save You from Making a Bad Presentation.”  You can unsubscribe at any time.

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