Before starting a training session there are three questions in the heads of the participants that need to be answered. And until they have all been satisfied there is no point in starting the programme.
The three questions are:
1 Why am I here? 2 What am I going to get out of this? 3 Why am I listening to you?
If you are lucky some or all of these questions may already have been answered in a participant's head before they came through the door - but you cannot assume that!
'Why am I here?' In most cases the participant should already know why they are there - but not necessarily.
If you are working in an organisation where employees are routinely 'sent' on training for their CPD or because a manager simply decides they need it, it is possible that they are not totally clear why they are there.
On the other hand, they may be trying to fit the training into their otherwise busy schedule and so it does no harm to get them mentally in the room by reminding them of the outlines and the aims of the training. However more often than not the participant has already 'bought in' to the need for the particular training programme they are attending and so Question 1 should not be a major issue.
Question 2 is slightly more subtle - 'What am I going to get out of this?' For instance, they may be thinking: 'I know I am on a sales skills programme and although I understand it may be useful, how exactly is it going to benefit ME?'
To be properly engaged a participant needs to have a clear idea of some very tangible benefit that will help them specifically. Very often when a trainer outlines the aims of the programme - those aims are expressed in terms of why the company wants the training to take place or how the company will benefit, but not in terms of how the individual will benefit.
As a willing participant, if I know at the very beginning that I will learn skills that will help earn me more money or help develop a successful career in the organisation, I have an even better reason to participate fully.
Having at times been engaged to deliver training to salespeople, I am very conscious of maybe one or two people in the room who, having already been in sales for many years, feel that they already know all they need to know and don't see how they are going to benefit listening to some 'trainer' when they could be out winning business.
For a trainer to ignore this can be fatal and so it is vital that the trainer makes sure that even the most apparently closed participant is given some sense of how they personally will benefit from the training process.
This then leads to Question 3 - 'Why am I listening to you?' I remember one time very clearly while I was working in sales myself. Our team was brought into Head Office for a day's training to gain some 'valuable' new sales techniques and skills.
Question 1 - fine - we understood why we were there. Question 2 - fine - by the end of the day we would have some new tools to help us close more deals and so earn more money.
However within 20 minutes of the training starts, almost at the same time each of us suddenly realised that the person training us had never actually done what he was asking us to do. In our eyes, therefore, he no longer had credibility. Within seconds his words had slipped from being a potentially valuable sales tool to bring some academic theory that may or may not be of use.
So Question 3 also needs to be answered before the start of training. 'Why you?' And as trainers that need to be very clear in our own heads. After all training others is a position of huge trust and responsibility.
Usually we can assert our credibility in terms of shared experience, or years of working in the field - and a participant needs to hear this, because they are giving up their valuable time to learn from you, and so before they give you their full attention, they need to know that the time and effort will be worth it. Once that is clear, then and only then are we ready to start the programme.
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