The Trainer's First Impression

First impressions in any form of public communication are vital to the success of what follows.

Similarly, a trainer whose introduction to the session is slow, ponderous or unsure is setting up a low level of expectation and energy in the participants. This is difficult to alter. It is like a juggernaut set rolling in one direction that becomes incredibly difficult to divert in any other direction.

If the first few moments of a training session seem halting and insecure, sparks of dread shoot through each participant's head and connect with everybody across the room. An unspoken thought permeates the room amid fleeting snatches of eye-contact, 'This could be a long day. I am already bored and unsure and we have not even started yet'.

The problem is that once a trainer sets up those expectations it becomes very hard to undo them.

One may argue that if you start off slowly then you can steadily improve as you move on. However, experience as a public speaker suggests that this is not the case. The introduction to a training session is a bit like a stage introduction to a speaker - it sets up a level of expectation.

Any of us speakers, at some point in our careers, will have had to endure a tame, limp introduction that leaves the audience thinking 'Yeh..and..?'.

It is very difficult to change that feeling once it has been set.

Sports trainers always emphasise how hard it is to change pace mid-match if the team or competitor has started off in a defensive frame of mind. So I would recommend that the opening of a training is regarded as a 'set piece' that should require a lot of consideration and attention.

If the opening comes across as clear, concise and controlled, psychologically the participants will settle back in the same way as a good friendly welcome over the intercom from an airline pilot makes the passengers relax and feel they will be in safe hands during the ensuing flight.

We should never forget that as a training session starts some of your participants may be arriving late or have just come from their offices or answered a text or phone call, so it is important that a good, solid, confident opening gathers their attention and helps them leave all their other issues outside the training room.

Therefore, the introduction should gather the participants together, give them a positive anticipation for what is coming next and give them a sense that they are about to embark on an interesting, valuable and worthwhile journey.

Your students' first impression will have an indelible quality. 

This article was written by Michael Ronayne, director at the College of Public Speaking and four-time UK National Public Speaking Champion.

To discover more of Michael's top training techniques, check out his professionally accredited Train the Trainer course here