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What It Takes to Be a Trainer

By Elaine Biech from Training For Dummies

Millions of Americans have to train others as part of their jobs. Whether youíre an employee training your co-workers on a new process or skill, a volunteer asked to train new volunteers, a chef training your staff, or a paramedic giving CPR training, itís just as important to know how to teach others as it is to know what youíre talking about. It doesnít matter how much you know about your subject if you canít share it with others.

Although training may seem like a glamorous profession to an observer, like any other profession, it has its hidden challenges. Having the skills to be a trainer is only one prerequisite. A much more difficult requirement for a successful trainer is to have strong mental and emotional composure. Training is a demanding profession. It requires constant energy output. If you tire quickly, become discouraged easily, or become frustrated if things do not go according to plan, training may not be for you. Here are some aspects to consider about training.

Are you willing to work longer than an 8-hour day? Even though a training program may be scheduled from 9 to 5, you may find yourself going to the training room much earlier than 9:00 a.m. and staying much later than 5:00 p.m. A well-prepared training session takes thoughtful room and material setup. If you arrive at the training room at the same time as the trainees, you will feel disorganized and unprepared. You may even start late because of last-minute preparations.

Are you also willing to stay later than your official "ending" time? The same principle applies after the training program has ended. It is usually the trainer's responsibility to ensure that all items you used for the training are removed from the training room. You may need to replace tables and chairs the way you found them. You may need to straighten the room. Also, many trainees stay after the program is over so that they can ask questions they did not wish to ask in front of the rest of the participants. They expect the trainer to be there cheerfully ready to answer their questions. In addition you may have many details to wrap up at the end of the day: add notes to your training manual, review your PowerPoint presentation for the next day, clean your transparencies, revise your schedule for the next day, complete administrative tasks, file your materials in order, send additional resources to a participant, or prepare a flip chart for the next day.

Can you stand on your feet all day? Trainers do not often have the opportunity to sit down. Because they are facilitating the program in one way or another, they stand during all presentations and during most discussions. Even when the participants are in small groups, trainers move from group to group ready to answer questions, address problems, or know when to move on to the next subject.

Even if you can literally stand on your feet all day, can you figuratively stand on your feet all day? No amount of preparation can equip a trainer for everything that can happen in a training session. The trainer must be prepared to respond to unexpected questions and events. A trainer must be flexible. Sometimes, the planned agenda doesn't fit the needs of the audience. A good trainer adjusts the agenda and changes the material so that it meets the needs of the audience. An effective trainer also reads the audience and adjusts the level of the training to fit the level of the audience.

Can you perform even when you feel lousy? Trainers don't often have the discretion to call in sick. When a session is scheduled, it often has been done long in advance, and often learners travel from long distances to attend training. Therefore, trainers must be able to present enthusiastically even when they are a little under the weather. The show must go on!

Are you prepared to constantly give of yourself without expecting to receive anything in return? Trainers are often viewed by others as "healers" ó those people who always have the answers and who can perform "magic." Conversely, trainers are not often perceived as people who have their own needs. As a result, participants may use your training program to get some bad feelings off their chests. Giving may extend to time as well, such as having time for breaks and lunch that may be used by participants wanting to discuss their personal situations.

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