In this post I’ll pass along suggestions and tips based on my own experience that will help you answer the question: “How do I become an IT trainer?”
Watch other trainers
There are many free webinars available from companies promoting products or services. Watch several of them and note what you find engaging. And if you think sales webinars are not closely related to training, then I would recommend the book “Telling ain’t training” (see below). When you train someone on a new procedure, process or technology you are in the business of selling or persuading. You have a message about changes you would like them to make and you need to convince them to make those changes. The fact that the new technology is cool, or a specific change is in a person’s interest might not be enough on its own to engage them in your training session.
While there are more precise definitions, in this article I’m using the term training loosely to cover traditional in-person training (a “lecture”), webinars, recording training videos and facilitating discussions – anywhere where you are essentially the person standing at the front of the room facing an audience.
Get some practice
Trainers train – so look around your workplace or social connections for an opportunity to deliver some training. For example, is there a new software application you know well that your colleagues might welcome some training on in a small group? It doesn’t have to be big, start small and build confidence and experience. Another great resource is the Toastmasters International organization (www.toastmasters.org) – they have clubs around the country where you can learn and practice the art of public speaking.
If you’re able to, get someone to record one of your early training sessions. Then watch it a couple of times and look for things you can work on. For example: did you say “um” or “er” a lot? Did you spend half the time subconsciously scratching an itch on your left elbow? Being aware of these things will help improve the training you deliver – you want the attendees to remember your presentation content, not your elbow! If you cannot record a session, then have a friend or colleague attend who can take notes on your style and provide constructive feedback. They don’t have to be a trainer themselves, after all, you want to know how your presentation appears to the audience.
Connect with industry associations
The Association for Talent Development, for example, has a wealth of information about what’s current and upcoming in the field, including a selection of targeted free newsletters you’ll find here: https://www.td.org/atd-newsletters.
Read a book or two
Receiving wisdom distilled from others’ experience can bring rewards. Below are a few books I found useful over the years:
- “Telling Ain’t Training,” by Harold. D. Stolovitch and Erica J. Keeps
- “Energize Your Training,” by Robert W. Lucas
- “Interact and Engage,” by Kassy Laborie and Tom Stone
My book recommendations are not intended to propound any particular learning methodology or training style, rather what these books have in common is that they make you think about key questions, such as:
- What exactly is training meant to achieve?
- What is my role as a trainer in the learning experience?
- What is the experience of training like for the attendees?
Contrary to what people may think, the trainer does not have to be the smartest person in the room. Once you realize that, you can accept that you don’t know, and don’t have to know, the answer to all the questions you get. It’s okay to tell an attendee that you’ll find out and get back to them – they’ll appreciate that you didn’t try and bluff your way through it. That said, be honest with your self-evaluation at the end of the session – if there were two dozen questions you didn’t know the answer to then it may be time to hit the books as well as ask other trainers for advice – we’re a friendly bunch who are happy to share ideas!
It’s also okay to accept input or even help from the audience if you get stuck: if someone tries to help when you when you’re stuck by throwing a soft-ball question, then accept it gracefully and gratefully knowing that the audience is on your side.
Start out with what you know
If you’d like to be an IT trainer, but don’t have enough IT product or technical knowledge, then consider delivering training on topics you are already very familiar with. This will allow you to improve presentation skills in parallel with studying for a relevant IT qualification.
Whereas this post has focused on the essentials of training in general, the next post in this series will explore in more details low-cost and no-cost resources you can use to build the technical knowledge and skills needed to deliver IT training.