The best trainers have the best content. Their delivery is flawless, their research iron-clad, and their materials polished to perfection. But there is one trait that’s more important than anything else. That trait is being trusted. You can’t teach someone effectively if they don’t trust you. So how do you build trust when you only have two days for your training, or maybe even just a few hours.
Trust has a branding problem. Most people hear “trust” and think of something hard-won, a long-term effort. We think that the only way to build trust is to keep promises over months or even years. In reality, trust can be built very quickly (and can be lost just as fast.) There are many ways to build trust with a group from the minute you introduce yourself. As a trainer or facilitator, here are 6 ways to quickly build trust with a group:
Be the Expert- Competency
Building instant trust begins before you ever walk in the door. People trust those who stay fresh, relevant, and capable. As a trainer, you are expected to be the expert, and experts are defined by their high degree of competency. Keeping up with the latest research in your field, continuing your own education, and relentlessly improving your skills are the foundation that you need to build trust with any audience. Gaining professional competence is an absolute must when you are looking to build trust fast.
Preparation is Everything- Commitment
No matter how many times you’ve given a speech or training before, prepare every time. Preparation shows you care, and that you are committed to your client’s success. When a group senses a lack of preparation, they will feel that your commitment to them is low, and trust levels will go down. In-person, when you have practiced and reviewed your notes ahead of time, you will be more relaxed and less stressed. When you are remote, also be sure to triple-check your tech before you go live.
Create a Safe Environment- Compassion
Without psychological and physical safety, any potential for trust goes out the window. Treating every person you encounter with compassion is the key to creating that safe, generative learning environment. People trust those who care beyond themselves and as trainers, you can increase trust through compassion in each and every interaction with your trainees. A training group will feel, collectively, the impact of how you treat each person individually. The person who comes in late, appearing frazzled, maybe their babysitter canceled, or they got stuck in traffic; if you don’t react with compassion and understanding, the whole audience will feel the impact of how you treated that one person. If you are empathetic and welcoming to everyone, the trust level of the whole group will rise immediately.
You can show compassion to your group in four primary ways—I call them the L.A.W.S of Compassion:
First, LISTEN to your participants well; people feel cared about when they are listened to. Second, show APPRECIATION for their contributions. Everyone likes to be appreciated! Third, WAKE UP and be present in their session; your participants can sense from a mile away if you are distracted and not fully showing up for their training. Lastly, SERVE them SELFLESSLY; make the training about them by contextualizing the content for their specific needs.
Make it Relevant- Contribution
People trust those who contribute results. Training should always be immediately actionable: by today, or tomorrow at the latest. This level of specificity means you need to customize your training by role, industry, and even local and global relevance. The magic words to integrate into every training you give are “what this means for you is….” and offer specific action steps that they can use right away. Instead of leaning on the group to translate your material for their specific needs, come prepared to show them exactly how your material can be useful to them.
Be Engaging- Clarity
A confused audience is disengaged because people trust the clear and distrust the ambiguous or the overly complex. In our attention span-starved world, if your audience doesn’t comprehend your message immediately, you’ll lose them in a heartbeat. Hone your material in advance to ensure that your takeaways are crystal clear and leave nothing up to interpretation. Then take it one step further by recognizing that everyone learns differently. In order to engage everyone, you’ll need to vary your instructional tactics. Use storytelling as well as data; integrate both reflection and discussion, and employ video on top of your in-person delivery. Clarity of message increases trust with your participants and creates higher engagement.
Close the Loop- Connection
People want to be around those who connect and collaborate. At the end of the day, trust is all about relationships, and relationships are built on connection. Trainers who facilitate genuine connection within their group will increase trust and the overall impact of their content. Of course, starting with individual (or at least table group) introductions early on is a good starting point for increasing connection, but even the way you lead discussions will impact your connection level!
Most people are not ready to start out a training discussion by sharing their thoughts with the whole group. You can facilitate connection by gradually expanding psychological safety. When there is a discussion question, start by having participants share their thoughts with the person next to them, then move on to a table or small group discussion. Once participants have shared in smaller groups, they are more likely to share with the full group as part of a shout-out form of conversation.
In every interaction, we either increase or decrease trust. Remember, to become a highly trusted trainer be compassionate with your participants, contribute results by delivering actionable content, clarify your message to avoid confusion, and facilitate group connection!