Escaping the bubble

The key to a good postal service is not so much how many parcels are sent as how many arrive.
As a trainer it is very easy to get stuck in your own bubble, transmitting away, thinking the students are benefiting from the training, when in fact they are not.

During training we need to continuously test to see if the connection between us and our students is really working effectively.
There are a number of ways we can do this:
formal feedback forms at the end of each training is one obvious way of finding out how the training went.
However these come after the event and the most we can do with the information is to use it to improve future sessions. 
Therefore, as every session is a little different, it makes more sense to test as you go along.

One simple technique is to ask lots of 'bounce-back' questions.
Such as:
- Is this making sense?
- Am I going too fast?
- Is this helping?
Like an echo-sounder this creates continuous feedback and helps to keep us on track and may even give an occasional clue to how we may need to adjust our style or content.

I once had a standing joke with an ebullient trainer friend of mine.
He used to come out of training saying:
'I was fantastic today!'
to which I would reply
'I am glad you were pleased - but what did your students think?'
Unless your antenna is continuously up during the session, you may remain happily in your bubble and may miss hints or clues that could improve the effectiveness of your style or delivery.

Of course, it always feels safer in the bubble.
There is always that anxiety that if we ask how things are going, we might not like the answer.
However we need to get over that, otherwise it is likely to create a barrier between the trainer and the students.

So ask the students questions about the training material, to find out where they are and what they know.
Ask questions about how they are feeling to discover whether they believe what you are doing is still relevant to them.
Run a little quiz either at the beginning or during the training to see how much they have retained.

You may also involve the students in helping to recap on previous training sessions.
This will help you understand how much they have taken on board and in so doing guide you as to how you should proceed.
It also means that by requiring their involvement, rather than just passively listening to you, the students are engaging actively in the training process.

Continuous feedback will help keep you free from your bubble.

So as soon as you sense a bubble forming around you, you need to break through it and reach back out to your students and make sure you are still connecting.

Otherwise like a tour guide that does not regularly check up on the group,
you could find yourself asking:
'Are you all still with me?'
- only to turn around and find there is no longer anyone there!

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