No one’s perfect. That doesn’t mean we should stop striving to improve. Even the most seasoned, confident trainer can make mistakes in the classroom. After coaching thousands of trainers, I have found there are five common mistakes that instructors make. Here they are, with tips on using a variety of instructional techniques to avoid them:
1. Starting Late
The most common reason a trainer would start late is to wait for stragglers. But then everyone who made the effort to arrive on time realizes it wasn’t worth the trouble. No one has ever entered a training session late and said, “Why didn’t you wait for me?”
How to avoid it: Start with an activity that involves people but doesn’t lose the stragglers. Examples include puzzles, icebreakers, or reviews of prior content.
2. Talking Too Much
It’s so easy to include more than was originally planned in a training session. But those extra examples and experiences you share take up time. You don’t just lose time when you add the extra talking, you lose learner focus.
How to avoid it: At the start of every exercise or activity, ask yourself, “How did I do in that presentation segment? Did I convey the right content? Was the focus where it should have been?” Asking yourself these questions regularly will keep your talking time to a minimum.
3. Getting Off Track
As learners ask questions or share experiences, there’s a risk of straying from the objectives of the training. Those tangents can eat up precious time and put you way behind in your lesson plan.
How to avoid it: Put your agenda on a whiteboard or a flipchart page on the wall. Look at it often. When people start to veer off course, point to the agenda to get things back on track. This simple instructional technique can come in quite handy!
4. Answering Every Question
This mistake has a double impact. It reduces interaction because learners have fewer opportunities to share their own experiences. It also puts more stress on you, the trainer, contributing to your nervousness and anxiety.
How to avoid it: Redirect questions to the audience once in a while. Ask if anyone has any thoughts before you share your own. You’ll get more thorough answers overall, and feel less stressed about handling questions in your training.
5. Avoiding Corrective Feedback
This is a very common mistake. Trainers are often hesitant to point out where learners went wrong. We’re afraid of shutting people down or making them uncomfortable.
How to avoid it: Start your feedback with positive comments and then make a diplomatic transition to corrections. Some of my favorites are, “If there was anything I would suggest…” or “The only thing that would make it even better is…”
Even after 17 years of training people, I have to be vigilant about these five mistakes. I hope this list helps you fine-tune your own training style. Are there any instructional techniques you use to help avoid these common trainer mistakes? I’d love to hear them…happy training!
Hi there! I’m Alan Magnan, a Canadian-born-and-raised course leader with Langevin Learning Services. I grew up in and around the Ottawa area where I studied business administration in college.