The two main requirements for success as a trainer

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If you want to be a successful trainer, this free article by Derek Stockley highlights two important requirements.

Effective training

As audience members, most of us have stories about really good or really bad training courses that we have attended.

For the good ones, the stories will include examples about the professionalism of the trainer, how well the course was presented, how relevant it was and how the course really developed knowledge, skills and a positive attitude to get the job done.

For the bad training courses, the stories will be about how boring it was, how it was aimed at the wrong level (too basic, too advanced) and how the trainer just wasn’t skilled enough to communicate with participants effectively.

There are many contributing factors to successful training. I believe the two main ones focus on the knowledge, skills and attitudes of the trainer.

To be successful, a trainer has to have:

  • Knowledge and skills in training techniques.

  • Excellent knowledge and skills on the training topic.

You need to know your subject and you need to have the ability to communicate with others about it.

People will often quote the frustration they felt with an expert in a field not being able to communicate. The expert did not have the ability to translate their knowledge into language and concepts that the audience could comprehend.

I have heard of examples of participants being taught by people who did not have the advanced knowledge required. They felt that the trainer cramming a textbook or an operator’s manual the night before was not sufficient.

Balancing 'expertise' with training ability

The good news is that you do not have to be an expert to be able to successfully train in a particular topic. What you need is a good working knowledge and relevant experience, plus the training skills that allow you to share your knowledge with others. If you need more technical expertise, have a technical expert sit in with you as you train or have them available at specific points to answer the very technical questions that may arise.

As an example, to be able to conduct an 'Introduction to Personal Computers' course, you would need to have been a regular computer user for some time. You should have used a variety of software packages and applications (email, internet, word processing, spreadsheets, etc.). You would need to understand the range and potential uses of software, but you would not need to be an expert in all the software products and features. In fact, it may be useful to have used Apple and IBM (or compatible) models, as well as PDAs (Portable Digital Assistants), iPods, etc. - but for a 'basic' course, it would not be essential.

Computer courses are a prime example of where the trainer needs to have training skills. The trainer needs to understand:

  • Training needs analysis techniques, so that the true needs of participants are understood.

  • How to design and prepare a program based on those needs, so that the training is targeted at the right level.

  • How to deliver a program that is interesting and enjoyable, whilst providing for real and valuable learning.

  • How to evaluate training, so that the expected behaviour is assessed and the impact on the organisation is achieved.

Which is more important?

Both are essential. I may have a bias, but I think the possession of the training techniques and skills is slightly more important.

A training session can still be a success if the trainer has good training skills, but only an acceptable knowledge base. However, the session will not succeed if training techniques are not used and the communication is poor or non-existent, even if the trainer knows the topic.

A basic definition of training is the transfer of knowledge and skills from one person to others. The participants need to be able to perform appropriately (better) with the knowledge and skills that they have gained.

Is it hard to develop training skills?

The short answer is no. The essential techniques can be explained in a day.

Naturally, it takes practice and experience and further study to develop the full range of training skills. It is a continual development process.

A person with basic training skills that designs and delivers training that meets needs is far more effective than a person who does not know how to train.

Summary and conclusion

I believe that successful training comes from the combination of topic knowledge/skills with training ability.

Personal reflection

Do you have training skills?

Does your organisation develop its internal trainers?


All topics covered in these newsletter articles have a connection with the training and consulting services I provide. I write about topics where I believe I can provide worthwhile comment (which is related to one of the points made above). However, this particular article could be taken as a direct promotion of my Train the Trainer services. If you agree with my comments, then it probably is. However, like many of my articles, this article was prompted by comments made by participants in a recent training course. I thought it was a viewpoint worth sharing.

Related information and article

Aiming training at the right level - more information about the importance of targeted training.

Calculating ROI (Return On Investment) for training - if you are trying to quantify the economic and other benefits of training, this article may help.

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Derek Stockley conducts public training courses in Australia, including a Public Train the Trainer Program.

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