Stand and Deliver

Delivery process is equal to content in importance, especially when learning is information intensive.

How do you prepare for your training sessions? How do you prepare the subject matter experts (SMEs) to present in your classes? Often, we are eager to give people course content and assume the presentation process will take care of itself. That’s a mistake we can’t afford to make—especially when a training program is using multiple presenters.

At most of the conferences I attend, people are on information overload before they get halfway through. Why? Because many presenters design their presentations in a vacuum. They act as though the knowledge and skills contained in their presentations are the only information people are exposed to. They overuse lecture and provide illegible visuals (and with their first PowerPoint slide, they say, “Now I know you can’t read this, but…”). They spend too little time making their handouts valuable through preparation, and do a poor job of demonstrating the relevance of course materials to workplace situations.

As trainers focused on results, we must consider and make adjustments for:
• The time of day our information is presented
• How much other content is being provided before and after our content block
• How much experience people bring to the program
• Participants’ likely learning style
• What material goes into each section of a handout (“need to know” vs. “nice to know” vs. “where to go”)

We constantly have to keep in mind that training is a process, not an event. If our participants haven’t caught it, we haven’t taught it. Until the information and skills are being used on the job, the process of training isn’t finished.

I worked with one large group of trainers to implement these ideas for an upcoming annual corporate training event. In the past, evaluations have been marginal. We invested a day-and-a-half with 100 of them to look at how to do their best sessions based on the five considerations above— and a few more particular to their situation. We focused on how to deliver their best 90 minutes. We helped them break their content into logical chunks of 20 minutes or less (most chunks end up being 10 to 12 minutes). We showed them how to help participants revisit key content, rather than the instructor reviewing information.

The trainers then had three weeks to develop new handouts and visuals based on the guidelines we developed. Then they had two weeks of additional prep time working with two other trainers/presenters. At the end of those two weeks, we met again. The group of 100 was subdivided into groups of six to videotape and critique their conference presentations—the first 10 minutes, 10 minutes from the middle, and then the last 10 minutes.

Subgroups of three then reviewed the videotapes, allowing each presenter to self-critique first, followed by additional feedback from the other two trainers/ presenters. The focus was on delivering content in a way that kept the energy up. After critiquing and coaching one another, they had an additional month to polish their presentations before a second videotaping session. At the conference, one of our trainers was on site for several days to provide any final coaching people wanted and to do on-site evaluation.

The results: the highest conference evaluations in 10 years, and six months later, field reports of how what was learned at the conference was being used and how that was translating into increased sales and improved technical support. A lot of time and expense, you say? What’s the salary, time out of the field, travel, and lodging cost of bringing 10,000 people into town from all over the world to listen to five days of 90-minute presentations that will be the foundation for sales and support efforts for the coming year? What happens when more than half that time is wasted because people are burned out from ineffective presentations?

As trainers, we are in the business of helping our organizations achieve improved results through people. The only way we can do that is by remembering to blend content with optimal delivery, so what we teach transfers out of the classroom and into the workplace.

Is there a question you’d like me to answer in a future column? E-mail me at Until next issue, add value and make a difference.

Bob Pike, CSP, CPAE, CPLP Fellow, is known as the “trainer’s trainer.” He is the author of more than 30 books, including “Creative Training Techniques Handbook.” You can follow him on Twitter and Facebook using bobpikectt.

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