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  • Writer's pictureIan Gibbs

7 Common Mistakes Trainers Make

Updated: Apr 13, 2022

As a learning specialist, every time I attend a training event, I spend half my time analysing the structure of the course itself and how the trainer is running it.

I’m pleased to say that usually it goes pretty well, most trainers do a fine job. But occasionally I come across mistakes and usually they’re the same ones. This is frustrating because in this age of information sharing, no respectable trainer should be making them.

In an attempt to put an end to this, here is my top 7 mistakes trainers make.

1: Foggy start and finish

I’m sure you know the expression “Tell ‘em what you’re gonna tell ‘em. Tell ‘em. Then tell ‘em what you told ‘em”.

Every training or workshop should start with a crystal clear explanation of what is going to be learnt and the benefits of learning it and end with a summary of the same.

If you have ever started a training wondering why you’re there or walked out of a training without being able to succinctly explain how you benefitted from it, then you have had your time wasted.

2: Assuming they’re the font of all knowledge

The trainer might be the expert. But that doesn’t mean they’re the only expert in the room.

Not all attendees have had the same experiences. Maybe someone already has some experience that is useful to the training. Maybe someone knows something relevant the trainer doesn’t.

A good trainer checks on the attendees’ knowledge and experience. This way they engage those who might drift off because they already know it. They’re also giving valuable recognition which can make a world of difference.

3: To much talking, not enough listening

Some trainers love to talk. But focussing the mind on incoming new concepts requires time and effort. After 5 minutes of intense concentration your brain starts getting tired and attention starts to drift.

This is predictable and can be easily solved by getting you engaged.

Good trainers shouldn’t monologue. They should regularly ask questions and get conversation going.

I’ve heard trainers say, “There’s so much to get through. I don’t have time for discussion”.

Training days are for learning. A bad trainer might get through all their material, bang, bang, bang, but the only thing you’ll have learnt is what it’s like to have a bad trainer who doesn’t allow time to think, understand and digest new ideas.

So a good trainer should stop monologuing and engage by asking “Can anyone share a relevant experience?” or “How does what I’ve explained bear on your current situation?”

The difference is huge.

4: Too much, too soon

They say studying at Harvard is like trying to drink out of a firefighter’s hose. You get blasted with so much knowledge you mentally drown.

Changing metaphors for a moment, new concepts, like bricks, should be carefully placed one at a time. Each needs to be placed in position and understood.

Recognising a new concept is not the same as understanding it. You need to ‘toy’ with new ideas to be comfortable with them.

By ‘toying’, I mean doing stuff with them, handling them mentally (or physically), relating them to other concepts, slotting them into your world.

If your trainer doesn’t give you time to absorb new ideas, that’s bad.

5: Do you understand?

As a trainer, asking “Do you understand?” is a waste of breath.

Our knee-jerk reaction to is to say “Yes”.

If you’re paying attention and get it, you say “yes”.

If you’re paying attention and think you get it, even though you don’t, you say “yes”.

If your mind was wandering and you’ve just been snapped out of your daydream, you say “yes” (even if “Your presentation was so monotonous my mind wandered off” is more accurate).

A good trainer should never say “Do you understand?”. They should say something like “Can you summarise the main point(s) of what I’ve just explained?”

This immediately achieves two things.

Firstly, it accurately determines how much the person has really understood.

Secondly, if used regularly, it sends a clear message to everyone else that if they don’t pay attention, they might get shown up in front of everyone else.

6: Not enough reviewing

Before the start of each break, a trainer should review what you’ve covered so far, or even better get someone else to do so.

Then, after the break, do it again. Obviously not in the same way. They might say something like “Before the break, Sam summarised what we’ve achieved so far. Now before we move on, can anyone say why it’s important?” Here you’re being ask to think about the same thing but from a different point of view. It’s all part of the absorption process.

7: An explanation isn’t enough

You can’t get someone pregnant by showing them a naked man. A certain amount of ‘physical involvement’ is necessary.

In a similar way, a person doesn’t learn from being ‘exposed’ to new ideas.

Listening to an explanation isn’t enough. You need to get involved.

Discussion, role play, debates, guided practice, team activities, problem solving, challenges and quizzes are all ways of getting involved.

If your trainer honestly thinks an explanation is all you need to learn, they need to attend one of my Learnability training sessions!

If you would like to know how I can help get more out of your training program, please contact me

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