In the nonprofit sector, there’s this joke (sort of?) that we are prone to multiple-hat syndrome: instances when we’re asked to do things that fall outside of our job description, to keep things running smoothly. This summer, I’ve definitely fallen victim.
I’ve been tasked with getting my team up to speed on our new CRM software. Though I’ve played a big role in the setup and implementation (already complicated in its own ways), training others presents an ENTIRELY different set of challenges. You can know something like the back of your hand, but sharing that knowledge takes a lot of preparation…which can be overwhelming when multiple hat-syndrome takes over and you’re the person making it happen!
Though you may not be a professional trainer, there are still things you can do to deliver a staff training that is powerful and painless. If this has suddenly become your job too, here are 10 tips on things you can do to ensure that your training is as successful as can be!
1. Really think through your agenda beforehand.
What are the critical buckets of information that people need to learn? Is there a sequence that is most effective for absorbing the information? Use these answers to put together a learning agenda that will make sense to your staff. By sitting down and sketching out the areas where people need to learn, you can create a logical flow of session topics.
2. Determine the amount of time it will take to learn the information AND the amount of time it will take to explain it.
It’s important to determine what the time investment should look like here, on both sides. You don’t want to fly through your topics, nor do you want to sit for hours and exhaust your staff. Find the right balance, based on the density of the information and the availability (both mentally and physically) of your staff!
3. Then, space out your agenda topics in a way that makes sense.
Some trainings may only require an hour. Others might need to happen over the course of a few days. When plotting out your agenda, consider the quantity of information that you have to share, the level of complexity, and your own capacity to communicate it all.
Rather than try to cram everything in a few days, I tried devoting one hour per day over the course of a week. This way we could dive deep on specific topics, but do so in bite-size chunks.
4. Play to the habits of your audience.
If you’ve worked in a place long enough, you can easily pick up on the nuances surrounding your team culture. Do people check their phones when they’re pulled into meetings? Include a few breaks for them to step away, emphasizing that you need their full attention in-between. Is your office big on sharing memes and GIFS? Sprinkle a few of those in your presentation for fun. Do people get competitive once in awhile? Try to devise a game that will tie in their learnings and get them pumped. Anything you can do to meet people where they’re at is always appreciated!
*Tip:* Sometimes, a simple treat can bring up the mood. When in doubt, bring donuts.
5. Spend time working on your visuals…seriously!
It’s easy to throw words onto a Powerpoint, but presentations do much more for an audience when the font is easy to read, screenshots are included, and other relevant graphics are incorporated. Allocate enough time to building the visual elements of your training, and make it easy for staff to reference afterwards. For those of us who are visual learners, we especially thank you.
*Tip:* I once read that fonts in a slideshow should be no less than 30pt, so that’s what I’ve stuck to.
6. Find ways to deliberately make your sessions engaging.
It can be tough for folks to sit still for an hour, listening to one person talk at them. (It’s also tough to be that person who is talking endlessly.) Luckily, talking doesn’t have to be the only way to get your point across! Use videos, stories and other interactive elements to keep the attention of your audience.
For my CRM training, I found it helpful to create mini-exercises that required staff to use our new system and act on what they just learned! It also helped me reaffirm that the information stuck and really made sense to them.
7. See what else is out there.
Why re-invent the wheel if you don’t have to? If learning materials already exist elsewhere for your training topic – the internet, a software company’s website, etc.. – you may as well see how much of that can be reworked! Regardless of if you’re building a custom training for your staff, research could help you figure out the best way to categorize and deliver your training.
8. Gather feedback on what would be helpful to cover.
With any training, there are basic pieces of information that have to get communicated to the larger group. That doesn’t mean that you can’t get a sense of where people stand with a topic. Try getting a pulse on what people are looking forward to when it comes to this new system/process and what they’re uncertain about. This can give a sense of where you might spend more time as you all walk through the topics together.
*Tip:* You don’t have to ask every single person for this information. Having conversations with a few team members, or with a manager, could suffice.
9. Brush up on your public speaking.
Not too long ago, the thought of public speaking would make me sick to my stomach. For everyone who feels this way, the only way to get over it is….to find opportunities to speak in public! Staff trainings are a great exercise for this, but it could also help to formally brush up on this skill via a class or workshop. Even a youtube video with free tips is better than nothing!
*Tip:* When I used to get super nervous, I’d force myself to practice…and record myself doing it. Painful? Yes, but also reassuring to know that I had everything down to the tee.
10. From beginning to end, conduct your training with an audience-first mindset.
If you’re not a professional trainer or facilitator, the hardest thing about teaching others is remembering to put yourself in their shoes. As long as you remember who you’re talking to, you’ll position yourself to deliver a training that resonates meaningfully. If you’re communicating technical information to a non-technical audience, are there ways to simplify the information? If your staff is driven by the mission of your organization, can you find ways to tie this training into that work (otherwise known as explaining the “why”)? And ultimately, how can you explain the value of this to your staff and reassure them that this knowledge is only going to be an asset to their work?
Staff training may not be an official part of your job description, but it’s a great way to hone your presentation skills while bringing others into the fold of your work!
What are your tips for hosting a training?