You have secured your first contract and the training date is set. All that remains is to prepare your session. How to teach your first face-to-face professional training course when you are just starting out? If training is your secondary activity or represents a career change, the answer is not always easy.
Without presuming to contain all the tips and tricks of the profession, this article will give you a few ideas on how to structure and successfully teach your first course.
The necessary skills to teach a course
Teaching requires a certain number of skills and qualities:
- technical skills: in-depth knowledge of the field, implying the continuous development of your expertise;
- organizational skills: time management, structuring the training programme, defining the priorities;
- teaching and educational skills: if you are an occasional trainer or have never received teacher training, courses exist to help you acquire these skills;
- people skills:
- having the desire and passion to transfer your knowledge;
- creativity, in order to make your courses interesting: the ability to constantly come up with new ideas and propose original topics depending on the audience;
- knowing how to listen and detect the needs of trainees before and during the course, and adapt your teaching accordingly;
- knowing how to create an environment conducive to learning: a friendly atmosphere, active listening and the ability to diffuse potential conflicts;
- ability to adapt: in order to understand and adapt to the culture of the target company or audience and remain calm in the event of unexpected situations.
Delivering the training course
Preparing the space
If you are delivering face-to-face training, arrive sufficiently in advance to set up your equipment, organize the training space and, above all, give yourself enough time to resolve any technical problems (computer or video projector that won’t switch on, missing equipment, etc.).
Opening and introduction
The first few minutes of the session give the trainer the opportunity to welcome the trainees and create a warm and friendly atmosphere.
Start by presenting yourself: who you are, your background and expertise.
Don’t forget to provide practical information: times, length of breaks, lunch arrangements, location of the toilets and coffee machine, etc.
If the group is not too large, ask the trainees to present themselves in turn by introducing an “ice breaker”. For example, you can ask each person to answer 3 questions (write them on the board before starting): What is your name? What is your role in the company? If you were an animal/a flower/an object, what would you be? What film/book/series would you recommend?
Lastly, before getting started, present the training programme, pointing out the general goals and various topics that will be covered.
Topics covered by the course
Each topic should include several steps:
- Topic plan: present what the forthcoming topic will cover.
- Discovery of the subject: determine what the trainees already know about the subject. Example: ask open questions and the note the responses on the board.
- Presentation of the theory: on the board, PowerPoint or any other presentation tool.
- Exercise: practical application of the theory and ‘anchoring’ of knowledge. These activities will also enable you to transition to the next topic.
Of course, depending on the training content, you can alternate as many theory presentations and exercises as you wish. Take into account period during which trainees’ attention may be flagging and alternate short presentations (a maximum of around 20 minutes) with more up-beat exercises.
Conclusion and course assessment
The assessment and conclusion stage has several objectives:
- Review the day’s work based on the topic plan, checking that everything has been covered and reminding trainees of what they have learned.
- Consolidate trainees’ knowledge by reactivating the subjects addressed and the exercises carried out.
- Find out how the trainees aim to use what their new knowledge and skills: the idea is to encourage them to refer to their notes after the training to practice what they have learned. You can, for example, suggest that they set themselves some goals and draw up an action plan to achieve them. If the course takes place over several sessions sufficiently far apart, suggest they report on what action they have taken to apply what they have learned at the start of the next session.
- Ask the trainees if the course met their expectations: this will enable you to adjust your methods and content for the next sessions and identify any missing information that you can forward to them later, by email or via the training extranet, for example.
- Get the trainees to complete the satisfaction survey: the satisfaction survey is essential for obtaining immediate feedback about the training and eliciting areas for improvement, as well as for identifying new training needs. For the trainer, this is a valuable tool for improving your training.
Give the trainees enough time to complete the questionnaire in full.
Some tips for livening up the course
- Vary the pace by alternating between different types of learning. The aim is to make the most of periods when the trainees are at their most attentive. Alternate between round table discussions, different ways of presenting theory, exercises, quizzes, tests, simulations, role plays, etc. Breaks provide the opportunity to lighten the atmosphere within the group. If you think the trainees will be receptive, feel free to introduce discussions, tell anecdotes, show funny videos, etc.
- Forget lengthy PowerPoint presentations with miles of text. Images, videos and diagrams are much more dynamic and effective for anchoring knowledge. Try to find original ways of transferring your knowledge (YouTube and Dailymotion are excellent sources of inspiration). Applications like Prezi and Slid.es enable you to create animated and impactful presentations. The less text there is in your materials, the easier it will be for you to step back from them and make the most of your talents as a speaker.
- Eliminate spelling and grammatical mistakes from all materials! There are some much more powerful writing assistance tools than the standard applications (Antidote and Grammarly, for example).
- Have a plan B in case of a technical issue (broken or forgotten equipment, etc.). Before the course, try to imagine the worst-case scenarios that could happen and the strategies you could use to effectively overcome them. This will give you peace of mind on the day of the training.
Training tools and documents
Lesson plan for the session
This is a detailed plan of the various topics to be addressed, reserved for the trainer and based on the teaching goals established when designing the course.
- Indicate the time allotted to each topic with start and end times. At the end of the day, note the actual start and end times of each topic. You can then correct the planned timings for the next sessions.
- Indicate the learning goal for each topic.
- List all the themes addressed in chronological order — highlight the most important themes and those that can be discarded if there is not enough time.
- List the method used for each subject addressed (presentation, video, role place, etc.).
- In your lesson plan, don’t forget to include breaks and time for the group to complete the satisfaction survey. One idea is to plan the day backwards: determine each block of time based on its scheduled end time.
- Be as concise as possible, with sheets or documents created specifically for the course (better than photocopies of books).
- Don’t dismiss the importance of paper: trainees always like to leave the course with some documentation.
- A bibliography containing paper and online resources.
- Depending on the type of training, you can also hand out other types of materials: USB stick, log book to complete, etc.
There are many ways of integrating digital technology into face-to-face training. Here are a few examples:
- Presentation tools (Prezi, Slid.es): forget PowerPoint – too old-fashioned! Nowadays, applications exist to create much more attractive and dynamic presentations: Prezi, Slid.es, etc.
- Videos (YouTube, Dailymotion, Vimeo): YouTube and similar platforms are full of useful resources to use in training: explanatory videos, animated computer graphics, interviews, etc.
Applications to increase engagement: online applications such as Socrative, Google Classrooms and Kahoot can improve trainees’ engagement in the course by proposing fun activities, questionnaires and online surveys to be completed on a computer, smartphone or tablet.