I came back from a half-day training in England last night. The whole development team is holding training sessions for a group of developers from Vietnam and the UK for about three weeks and it’s a lot of going back and forth.
I only knew four people out of a group of about 20 participants. This can be quite intimidating. Yet, I imagine these kind of situations may be just as intimidating and awkward for the participants as it is for the trainer. They don’t know me any better than I do know them. They don’t know what to expect from the training, how I will react, whether they can be comfortable asking questions, how to best address me and so on.
I find there are very simple ways to show the participants of a training that:
a) You’re just human, too.
b) They don’t have to be afraid to ask questions or ask you to clarify something.
c) You are interested in who they are as well.
The tricks I find to work are the following:
Explain that questions are important for the training and for you
This may seem obvious, but I’d still want to mention it. Tell your participants that you want and you need them to ask questions. Tell them that this is important for you as well to make sure that what you teach them is actually clear and makes sense.
Learn their names
When I say learn their names, I mean, try to make an effort. I was holding a training for a group of people from Vietnam and UK and at one point when everyone was busy playing around with the system on their computers I walked around and tried to get the names of the Vietnamese guys right. It’s not that easy with foreign names and you’ll probably not get it perfectly, but showing an interest in learning who your participants are and what their names are and how they are pronounced is important. After all your name is important to you and it is part of who you are. Practicing someone’s name in front of the whole group also shows your participants that you are not perfect, but willing to learn new stuff.
If I learned one thing in my years of working it’s that people like cake, cookies, and whatever other sweet things there are. Basically, nobody is ever too old oor too serious to not like chocolate. For the training I bought some German sweets at the airport to bring to the training and told the story of how I lived right down the street from the Haribo factory in Bonn and could smell licorice in the air sometimes. Whether it’s chocolate, cake, donuts, cookies or something else. Your participants probably will like it. Plus, bringing a bit of sweetness to your training might add a bit to the fun side of a training.