Tied to many of our first-time experiences are a myriad of emotions that range from fear to pure joy and exhilaration. One of the participants in a recent course I delivered shared her concern and fear around having to roll out a course for the very first time. She wasn’t a subject-matter expert and was given very little time and resources to prepare. The reality is that this story is not unusual.
What if you have tickets for a theater production on opening night, or any night, and are excited and looking forward to the experience of being entertained? And, what if the cast had only received the script the day before and was told to “Just go out and perform and make it look pretty!” We know this situation is unrealistic and wouldn’t happen. We also know that as audience members we would probably want a refund.
It’s not unusual for trainers to be given very little time to prepare and be told to “Just make it look pretty.” Lack of preparation can impact the success of your training program and can lead to a lose-lose situation for the trainer, the client and the organization. When I sat down with the participant, I decided to use an analogy for our discussion. The following suggestions highlight the correlations between training and theater I shared with her. By using this analogy, she could achieve a win-win situation between her and her manager.
1. Begin with a detailed lesson plan – We always hear that we must prepare; however, we need something to prepare with. Actors prepare with a script. The script for a trainer is a Lesson Plan. It assists in giving your course focus, consistency and standardization.
2. Coaching – Every theater production has a director to guide it and bring out the best from the actors. In training, it’s important to have a seasoned trainer who knows the course inside and out who can coach the trainer on the new course. This allows the newer trainer to ask questions and to receive feedback.
3. Practice, Practice, Practice – In theater there is an extensive rehearsal process that includes individual preparation and study. Actors must actually memorize their lines and then make it appear effortless on the stage. Trainers need sufficient time to practice and prepare in order to achieve a seamless flow in the delivery of their courses.
4. Pilot the Course – There is always a dress rehearsal for theater productions. A Broadway production may have weeks of previews before the official opening night. We know that in training it’s ideal if we can pilot our courses; however, we often lack the time and resources to do this. At a minimum, it helps to have a run-through with a small group. This allows the trainer and instructional designer to identify what works well in the course and what doesn’t, and to revise as necessary.
5. You’re On! – Then comes the moment where the trainer is finally ready to present the course. Given the opportunity to prepare effectively, he/she can let go and trust that it’s time to “shine.” And if the trainer shines, the learners will shine—it’s a win-win event for everyone!
As audience members, we see the end result of what goes into a production. We don’t witness the weeks of rehearsal and preparation that go into a shining performance. As training professionals, try using this analogy to theater when asking for management buy-in and time to prepare for your course. You’ll walk away with a “hit” on your hands!
Check out our Instructional Techniques for New Instructors workshop for more ways to shine as a trainer.