Management & leadership, Personal development

Trainers and Presenters: Fit for purpose or fraught with pain?

Cathy Shimmin explains how you are not alone in feeling imposter syndrome as a trainer – and where help is at hand.

Were you born to be a trainer? Are you passionate about presenting? Or do you happen to be doing the job anyway, but with a really unhelpful voice in your head (your inner gremlin) shouting “Charlatan!  Fraud! Fake! Imposter!” 

I’ve been a trainer, consultant and performance coach in the voluntary sector for about 30 years. I love it and it is my dream job. Funny though, I didn’t ever dream about it. As I sat in school, staring out of the window, I wasn’t dreaming of what it might be like to be a trainer working with charities and community groups. It was certainly never brought up in any lesson or the one career discussion I had in school. (and they wondered why I was staring out of the window!)

Did you? Did you ever think “When I grow up I want to give training courses and/or presentations to people working with charities?”

If you are anything like the 100’s of people who attend DSC’s Training and Presentation Skills courses, it’s likely you didn’t. Perhaps you even wonder how this all happened. Did training and presentations just get tagged onto your role somewhere along the line? Or you knew it would probably come to this but now it’s here you’re not convinced you’re the real deal.

It’s a really common thing with trainers and presenters, that feeling that somehow they are just busking it. They are a fraud in the world of ‘real grown-up trainers’. Similar story with new managers – “I’m just pretending and hoping no one will notice that I’ve sneaked into this position”. Commonly known as imposter syndrome.

Have a think about some of these things:-

  • Learning happens effectively when there are clearly defined learning outcomes shared with participants.
  • The trainer maintains control and credibility in the class when there are agreed ways of working.
  • Trainers and presenters feel more confident when they have done the necessary preparation and anticipation for the talk or class they are about to give.
  • Presenters and trainers who engage their audiences have usually done something more impressive than death by PowerPoint or a laundry list of stats and facts

If you generally agree with most of the above – yay! – you are not an imposter. These are some of the fundamentals to great training and presentations. You will know and agree with these things because you have experience – of when it went well because you paid attention to these things – and probably where it didn’t go so well, because you overlooked them and tried to wing it. Congratulations on your new role – you are a Fit for Purpose Presenter/Trainer.

The problem is because we often drifted or were shoehorned into this role, we have missed some of the basic tools and techniques that help us plan, structure and deliver training and presentations which capture the audience’s attention. Not having these foundations in place can make our learning experience as trainers and presenters fraught with pain. If you feel training and presenting are fraught with pain, how much of it would be soothed by having the foundation knowledge in place?

A story; When my daughter was about 6 or 7 her maths teacher asked to talk to me about her drifting off in class, not paying attention … staring out of the window (oh dear – like mother like daughter). Through much discussion we discovered that she (and many in the class actually) were struggling with some new maths topic – say, fractions. The previous year their teacher had failed to engage them with times tables, for whatever reasons. So they all had this ‘missing link’ thing going on when taking the steps to the ‘new maths’. The brilliant Mr McCann had the class singing, dancing, painting, competing, collaborating and questioning to stimulate their interest in learning, and so embedding the tables.  My 19-year-old daughter still knows the song and dance for her 7x tables.

The story shows us that;

  • Learning happens when we start with the learner and their needs
  • We learn when we are having fun, when we are challenged, and when we can share learning with others
  • Teachers, trainers and presenters need to make connections/provide connectors for learners between their current world and the new skills or knowledge

Mr McCann found new and creative ways to help his learners develop their skills, knowledge and interest in the topic. I imagine he also enjoyed the experience himself – better than listening to 30 kids recite times tables by rote, slumped in a plastic chair. He took things from Fraught with Pain to Fit for Purpose. When the audience is involved,  when they engage with the topic, it is far less pressure on the trainer,

What can we do as trainers and presenters to help our audience engage with our topic?

  • Understand why, how and when people engage with learning
  • Use a range of methods, activities and interventions to support a range of learning styles
  • Plan presentations and workshops which provide structured, step-by-step learning
  • Review their own learning and materials to remain fresh and excited about their topic

Maybe you are Fit for Purpose as a trainer or presenter. If you would like to stay fresh and fit for purpose, a good start is to review your own learning and to get some foundation training under your belt.

Reviewing your own learning

Every time you deliver a presentation or a course, when you put this in your diary put a second entry in there as soon after the event as you can. This is your 30-minute reflection review. Ask yourself: What went well? What would I do differently next time? What new ideas do I have for engagement?

Make sure you seek out feedback. This may be from usual participants or you could ask a critical friend to observe your session. Ask them for feedback using the same questions.

Research, re-write and re-design materials to keep you fresh and passionate about the topic.

Developing Skills

Take the pain out of presentations and the tension out of training and refuse to feel like a fraud any longer. Join us this autumn for foundation skills or to review your own learning as a Fit for Purpose Trainer or Presenter: