How to conduct an effective training session

As a Salesforce consultant at Traction On Demand, the largest pure-play Salesforce Implementation firm in Canada, I’ve had the privilege of guiding some amazing software projects from start to finish. As with any complex implementation of software, one of the areas that contributes towards project success is the effectiveness of the training. 

Relating to software, training is the action of teaching people (users of the new system) to use the new system effectively and efficiently. It’s important to the audience, in this case the users or trainers who will be training users, because they are developing a new skill that (hopefully) increases their productivity, safety and satisfaction. When delivering your training, it should be your mandate to ensure an effective transfer of your knowledge to the minds of your audience.

This article breaks down training into 3 segments:

  1. Before the Training Session

    • Defining objectives and outcomes
    • Preparing audience ahead of time
    • Align the main stakeholder(s)
  1. During the Training Session

    • Clear and concise
    • Speak their language
    • Manage time
    • Repetition
    • Feel the room
    • Live feedback
    • Master body language
  1. After the Training Session

    • Provide documentation
    • Solicit detailed feedback

In each segment I’ll cover the most important points that will help you deliver effective training sessions.

Before the Training

Clearly define the objectives and outcomes of the training session

Clearly defining the objectives and outcomes of the training session, allows the audience to have a sense of expectancy, and limits the amount of ‘unknown’ information. Psychologically, stating the exact purpose of the training, reduces the audience’s nervousness and fear of the unknown. Doing your due diligence on this step will make the audience more receptive and open to receiving your message.

Prepare the audience ahead of time

If possible, send over any training material ahead of time. Ensure users have the access they need, such as login information. By limiting the number of ‘surprises’ and providing information ahead of time,users will feel more prepared for the training session.

Align the main stakeholder(s) with what you’re presenting before hand

Aligning the main stakeholder of the project is the most important step in ensuring a successful outcome. Ethan M. Rasiel, author of “The McKinsey Way“, outlines the importance of aligning stakeholders ahead of time with the material that’s about to be presented. If the main stakeholder(s) is aligned with the purpose of the session, they will help you manage the room and prevent major digressions. I cannot stress the importance of this step enough, it has helped me in countless situations and I’m confident it will do the same for you as well.

During the Training

Clear and Concise

The two main words to focus on are clear and concise. Well articulated speech spoken with clear intent and purpose will ensure the message is communicated to the audience. Avoid verbose language and technical jargon as much as possible and aim to use simple and concise words to describe your material. Being clear and concise won’t overwhelm the audience and will effectively communicate your message.

Speak their Language – Use Business Context

If the client is in the medical manufacturing business, using terminology in your examples that are used by the client will make the training more relatable.

E.g. “This object on Salesforce allows you to track your DHRs (Device History Records) and report on the number of complaint cases that are lodged against particular devices, and the corrective and preventive actions about how they were resolved. For example if we have a product, let’s say a surgical laser that has 50 cases lodged against it and the average for surgical lasers are 20 then we know we have some investigation on our hands.”

In the example above, it is a much easier and less rewarding to tell the client “For example if we have a product, let’s say ACME Product 1, …” Everyone would know what you’re talking about, however, it would be less relatable and memorable. 

Manage Time

Send over a clear agenda with allotted time slots for each component of your training. Make sure you leave ample time at the end for questions, especially for those training sessions that are over 4 hours in length. Answering a short question or two through out the training session adds to the engagement of the session and is a good indicator of audience engagement. However, if there are frequent questions, there are three possible reasons:

  1. the content isn’t clear enough – you’ll have to work on improving your content
  2. the delivery isn’t effective – you’ll have to work on improving your delivery
  3. the questions are a result of enthusiasm and curiosity – you’ll have to manage the room better and ask everyone to hold questions till the end, for the interest of time. Here’s where your stakeholder alignment before the training will come in handy. 

Repetition

Light repetition of key ideas and points through out the training increases understanding of the audience. Pay attention to not overdo repetition as this could come off as condescending instead of being perceived as helpful reminders.

Feel the Room

Feel the energy of the room. Is it a Monday morning and the audience is grumpy or is it just after lunch and the energy is lethargic? Test the audience’s responsiveness by asking a few small questions and observing the responses.

If the energy level is low, then try injecting the following in your training session:

  • humor
  • live demos – audience to follow along
  • Inspirational story telling of similar trainings and results

Live Feedback

Through out the training session, take a step back and check that everyone is on the same page. The act of asking “is everybody okay with the material so far? are there any questions?” allows you to gauge the understanding of the audience. Let the audience know they can ask you to slow down if you have a tendency to rush through the material. By preemptively arming the audience with the power of controlling some aspects of your presentation, they will become more comfortable and receptive to the material being presented. 

Master Your Body Language

Body language will contribute largely towards your effectiveness as a speaker. Congruent body language can transform a drab training session into an exciting one. Everything from your eye contact to hand gestures convey information to the audience that mere words cannot convey on their own. Paying attention to your body language and actively working towards synchronizing your verbal and non-verbal communication will make your training sessions more successful. Body language is a vast topic I won’t cover here, if you’d like to dive deeper into the subject and improve your body language click here.

If your training is delivered via a video conferencing system and the audience primarily relies on your voice, ensure to talk at a comfortable pace and enunciate words properly. Pausing between ideas and transitions will allow the audience to digest the information and provide a small opening for questions.

After the Training

Provide Documentation

Once the training is done, it’s tempting to pack your bags, jump on the next project and never look back. However, to maximize the effectiveness of your training session and to ensure the audience will retain the information covered, provide detailed documentation for future reference. This will empower the trainees and allow them to clarify any questions and review the material at their own pace. I’ve noticed that the more detailed documentation I provided my clients, the fewer simple questions I received post-training.

Solicit Detailed Feedback

The final component to conducting a killer training session is soliciting detailed feedback. The feedback must have a clear purpose. I’ve rarely met people who enjoy filling in detailed forms; make it easier on your audience by focusing on 3 – 5 questions that will help you improve your presentations.

E.g:

  1. 3 things you enjoyed about the training session
  2. 3 things that could be improved on the training session
  3. 3 things you didn’t like about the training session

The questions above could elicit a variety of responses. Pay attention for trends and themes amongst the feedback results. If a large majority of responses said they think you could slow down at times, maybe it would benefit you to reflect whether you did whiz past certain sections and make necessary adjustments for future sessions. 

Detailed feedback will allow you to continuously improve and over time, your training sessions will become legendary.

I’ve found these tips extremely helpful in conducting training sessions, and I’d like to hear your top tips for conducting successful trainings.

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2 Comments, RSS

  1. Razi December 13, 2016 @ 15:33

    Concise and useful.

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