Training is like sex and driving. Everybody thinks that they can do it and everybody thinks that they are going to be good at it.

Managing Directors do it, Sales Directors do it, Personnel Managers do it, even Accountants do it. But do they know what they are doing?

There seems to be popular misconception that if you are ‘good on your feet’ you are by definition, going to be a good trainer. Not so.

Training requires a whole raft of skills which is a great deal more than simply standing in front of a group of people, looking good and talking.

The word ‘training’ means something very specific –you train a horse, you train a dog, you potty-train a baby, you give the child a Trainer cup to drink from. You train your child to be good. 

Training is all about changing behaviour – it is about helping an individual to DO things differently. Teaching is about giving knowledge in order to do things differently. If training does not achieve that difference in behaviour then it is not real training.

When a Sales Manager stands in front of his sales team on a Monday morning and tells them that he wants more business from them and how more business will mean more income and then proceeds to give them his ‘sales tips’, he probably imagines that he is delivering a ‘training session’.

He tells them a story about someone he knows who has been successful (normally himself) and tells his team that they all have the seeds of greatness within them and then sends them ‘over the top’. The trouble is that next Monday, he will have to do it all over again. 

So what qualities should you NOT have in order to be an effective trainer? Let’s have a look at the two extremes:
  1. Salesman-trainer (Trust me): ‘The Ego has landed’.

There is a type of trainer who models himself on the old 1940s and 1950s American-style sales crusader – you know the one (their CDs are still being marketed) – He appeared to be a cross between an Evangelist and a huckster. He used to wear white suits and give what used to be known as Motivational speeches. Unfortunately, those guys had more in common with entertainment rather than training. A lot of training in the UK has still not recovered from that old medicine-salesman style. Especially in sales –related training. The Salesman-trainer thinks he is so interesting that he could listen to himself all day and just cannot stop telling you how great he used to be. 

  1. The Technical-trainer (Tell me):The audience were right behind me – but I managed to shake them off at the station’.

This type of trainer may have modelled himself on a college lecturer….and in common with the lecturer, he is an excellent cure for insomnia. The participants soon learn to yawn with their mouths shut and by the end of the second hour they suspect that the lecture-room clock has a flat battery. And the ‘trainer’ drones on….and on….and on….The Techie-trainer has the charm of a week-old sausage roll, enjoys sounding learned and complicated and is so boring that even politicians avoid talking to him.  

In their own respective little ways, both the Salesman-trainer and the Techie-trainer are ineffective.

So where is that elusive perfect training style?

Let’s consider THREE types of interaction with an audience: The Lecturer, The Motivational Trainer and The Stand-up Comedian.
  1. The Lecturer.

At one end of the scale, we have the Lecturer or Technical-type. He requires very little audience participation – as his style is a pure regurgitation and demonstration of knowledge. The last thing on a lecturer’s mind is the feel-good factor. He deals in facts not emotions.

I have seen lecturers who have hardly looked up from their notes and there have been occasions when I haven’t been too sure whether the lecturer has been aware as to whether or not he has an audience in front of him. If you ever hear of a lecturer being described as ‘good’ it is probably because he managed to engineer some participation or accidentally tapped into an audience’s or an individual’s emotions.

  1. The Motivational Trainer.

The audience listening to the American-style motivational speaker tends to end up in a daze, dreaming of the day when they are all going to become a success. The sad fact is that the odds are against them. In this type of training, the word ‘motivational’ is very often misunderstood – as in ‘He was a very motivational speaker’. The audience is not motivated – Motivation suggests a certain amount of doing, i.e. action.

What they are experiencing is a temporary amplification of their ‘feel-good’ factor which makes them believe that they can set the world on fire or that they have learned something valuable. Unfortunately, the feeling does not last.

2.The Stand-up Comedian.

The stand-up comedian/entertainer is also manipulating the audience’s feel good factor. He is much more direct though – he takes them out of their world and brings them into his. He paints pictures in their minds, makes them feel warm, makes them laugh.

Both the Motivational Speaker and the Comedian instil a temporary sense of well-being in their audience. That begins to decay immediately after the end of the show – the rate of decay depends on the power of the performance relative to the individual. Some may feel good for hours, some for days – but gradually they will return to their own personal psychological base-line. If they want to feel good again, they need to seek another ‘fix’ of comedy or Motivation.

Commercial Sales, Administrative and Management Training all come from somewhere in the middle as far as the balance between factual and emotional input is concerned, but are at the top of the hill as far as audience participation is concerned.

Training requires the ability to ‘work’ an audience and it also needs high levels of energy – not as high as the entertainer, but nevertheless much higher than the lecturer.

Let’s think about the volume of information being transmitted but more importantly, the volume of MEMORABLE information being transmitted.

The lecturer wins hands-down because he uses all of his time transmitting information. The entertainer is transmitting very little information. The trainer makes no attempt to rival the lecturer in the amount of information that he is transmitting but interestingly, the amount retained by the audience of a good trainer exceeds that of a lecturer – BY FAR!

Why is it that it is possible for an individual to go to a good comedy show, be entertained, and recall so much of what was said by the entertainer? Simple – the atmosphere and the fact that he was participating both intellectually and emotionally.

Mental retention is EVERYTHING to do with emotional involvement. It is the difference between reading a textbook and reading a novel. 

INVOLVEMENT is what distinguishes proper training from all the other types of presentation that I have mentioned.

The qualities that you need to be an effective trainer (apart, that is from a good set of legs and lots of energy!) are Humility, Confidence, Charisma and exceptional Communication Skills.

Are you a Trainer? Or just a bad driver who imagines that he is a Grand Prix champion?