Traditionally, new employee onboarding is very text based: read a bunch of documents and FAQs, practice a few tasks, and ‘Boom’—you’re thrown in the deep end.
At Anchor, we focus on hiring smart, energetic and passionate people. However, new employees have to take in a staggering amount of information if they are to have any chance of keeping up with the constantly changing hosting industry. We felt we needed a more robust method of onboarding new employees.
I was tasked with forming the core of this new onboarding framework, through the creation of ‘Minh’s Modules’; a set of training sessions I ran initially with a new intake of employees which were recorded to give future Anchorites a set of training materials to start with. But there was only one problem. While my public speaking skills are quite good (Zone Debating Runner-Up, 2004), I had never performed formal training before, let alone for a packed room of eager new Anchorites.
Let’s start with the elephant in the room; training other people isn’t easy. If you aren’t used to public speaking, it can be downright frightening. To become confident enough to deliver your content well, there are a number of things you need to consider and learn throughout the process (yes you will learn a lot). Confidence is the end goal, since it is the single most important thing you can improve.
Your confidence reflects on the whole training session, from your tone of voice and speed of delivery through to how much information your audience will retain.
According to the ‘official’ Learning Pyramid, the most effective way for a person to learn something is to teach someone else. I can definitely relate with this. I completely surprised myself with how much information I retained after each ‘Minh’s Module’.
Importantly, keep in mind that training is a journey in which both you and your audience learns more as you explore the subject matter together. Training other people is rewarding, even more so if those people come away from a session having learnt something completely new, which they can then apply to their work or personal life.
Other than confidence, there are two important but related things that a good trainer should always remember.
The first is credibility. Your audience wants to be assured that your information is correct and that they can rely on your expertise and experience. Audiences primarily gauge crediblity though questions regarding the subject matter, but also via non-verbal cues such as body language, facial expressions and level of eye contact.
The second point is all about your presentation skills (or lack thereof). Content and credibility is important but how you actually deliver the training can make even the driest content amazing!
Presentation skills can be broken down into the following:
- Public Speaking
- Body Language
- Interaction (with the participants)
Public speaking refers simply to the act of standing up in front of a number of people and clearly communicating your message to listeners. Confidence plays a large part in accomplishing this. Being too timid or shy normally means excessive nervousness, leading to stuttering or speaking too quickly. This aspect of presenting is improved most rapidly and efficiently through practice and taking feedback on board.
Body Language is all about the messages your posture, facial expressions, gestures and eye movements are sending to your audience. While not neccesarily the most important aspect of the presentation, poor body language sends a clear signal that you are disinterested or lack confidence which will rapidly result in poor audience participation. Similarly to public speaking, the only way you’ll improve quickly is through practice, whether this means dry runs in front of friends, family or a mirror is up to you.
Structure relates to how well your content is written, paced and formed. There is a reason why the traditional ‘Introduction, Body and Conclusion’ method of essay writing has worked so well and it comes down to the typical adults attention span.
Looking at the image above, the optimal length of time for a training module would lie somewhere between 15-20 minutes. Any longer and attention spans drop rapidly before rising slightly towards the conclusion. If you can structure your training in short, meaningful modules, your audience will be more engaged and will retain more afterwards!
Finally, Interaction, an often misunderstood aspect of training and presentations. Audience interaction is a powerful and essential tool for building and maintaining attention. By involving your audience at various times during the training, you can be sure that they will be kept on their toes. Interaction can involve questions to random participants, a switch up in media (e.g. changing to video) or opening the floor to questions. No matter the format, the interaction should always be fun and meaningful rather than simply punitive when you think someone isn’t paying attention.
At the conclusion of the ‘Minh’s Modules’ project, I found myself a better trainer, and also a better employee. I learnt so much about things I already thought I knew, and I’m now confident enough to stand in front of a group of strangers to teach them something new.
So, go forth and train people! Who knows? You’ll probably learn more about yourself along the way!
- National Training Laboratories, Bethelm, Maine