Anyone can train… or can they?

teacher-1013735__180“Anyone can be a trainer or facilitator.  It’s no big deal. You just stand up and talk about a subject that you know a lot about”

I remember the first time I was told this.  I had just started work in the NHS and I was talking to a consultant surgeon just before he led a section of a development programme I was facilitating.

I was quite taken aback by his attitude.  Of course, his job as a surgeon requires A LOT of specific knowledge and training.  It takes years of studying to develop enough knowledge to even be allowed NEAR a real, live patient. But just because:

  • someone has specialist knowledge of a subject
  • someone is good at public speaking
  • anyone can stand in front of a room of people and talk

It doesn’t mean that they SHOULD do this. It doesn’t automatically mean that the people attending the session learnt anything, or left with any intention to change their behaviour.

And at the end of the day, that is what training, learning and development is all about.  It’s about getting someone to do something differently. Inspiring them to improve their performance, getting them to work in a new way or with new people effectively….

And that requires a particular set of skills and knowledge.  It is both art and science to understand how people learn and change AND to apply that successfully to create and deliver learning which makes a difference.

I do believe that anyone can train or teach others – but only if they have acquired the knowledge and developed the skills to ensure their success.

What do you think?  Can anyone just stand up and train/facilitate?  I’d love to hear your views – join us on twitter or facebook and let me know what you think.

And If you would like to develop your skills & knowledge further why don’t you book a free discovery call with me to talk about how I can support you to do this?  Book your call here!

Posted in How To...., Training Tagged with:

The Unintentional Trainers Guide to….. The Flipped Classroom

flipped classroomThe Flipped Classroom is a technique you can use to maximise the effectiveness of the face-to-face time that you have with your learners.


What is it?

Traditionally when you deliver learning face-to-face the session is made up of both theory and practical elements.  In some instances, if your audience is very new to the topic at hand you might even find yourself presenting for the majority of the session – giving them all the information that they need.

Now, whilst this is an easy pattern to fall into, it doesn’t necessarily make for the most effective learning situation.  The face-to-face time that you have with your learners is precious and it’s vital that you make the best use of it.  The flipped classroom is one technique that you can use to help you do this.

The premise is simple – you just flip the focus of your face-to-face sessions.  So rather than providing theory during these sessions, learners do this as pre-work, leaving the face-to-face time to focus on practical application, groups exercises and problem solving.


How Do I Use It?

Using this technique requires quite more preparation than the traditional delivery model, as you have to prepare and create all of the pre-work too.


Pre-work can take the form of:

  • Short video tutorials presented by you.
  • Information videos created by others, such as TED talks or subject experts.
  • Relevant articles or book excerpts

At the start of your face-to-face session it is always helpful to carry out a quick knowledge check with delegates.  This gives you the opportunity to ensure that everyone is starting out with the same level of knowledge and will let address any areas of confusion.  Just make sure that this portion of the session is kept to an absolute minimum – one good way to doing this is to ask learners to complete a pre-course learning questionnaire and send it to you in advance of your face-to-face session.   This should give you the information you need to lead an effective initial discussion.

During the face-to-face time you can:

  • Set case studies and have learners work in groups to apply their new knowledge and solve the problem.
  • Set group exercises, asking learners to explain, describe or analyse a particular element of the subject.
  • Have group discussions around the issues learners face when applying their new knowledge in their role.
  • Hold practice opportunities (role plays) for people to try out their new knowledge in a practical way.
  • Ask leaners to work on a live project i.e. create an action plan for tackling a live situation or issue they currently have using their new knowledge.  This kind of task can work well as either a group or individual task.

These are just some examples of the sorts of things you can do, there are many many more options which really help bring the theoretical knowledge to life for learners.

The first time you do this, it might feel quite strange – like you are missing out vital components of your session. But you are not.  Remind yourself that all of that stuff was provided to learners in advance of your face-to-face time and your job now is to make that knowledge as easy to apply back in their roles as possible, which will make your training much more effective and impactful.

I’d love to hear how you use this delivery technique!  Please share your experiences in the comments below or give us a shout on social media (buttons below!)


Posted in Facilitation Techniques, Learning Methods, The Unintentional Trainers Guide To.... Tagged with:

Are robots the trainers of the future?

robotsThere are some cutting edge learning developments being tested in Scottish classrooms at the moment.  Developments that could impact the sort of classroom learning that we deliver at the moment.  The use of robots to assist teachers. (Sunday Herald, 20th September 2015, ).

These robots have been designed to sense the mood of learners and to alter their teaching/support method as required.  They do this by using a camera to pick up on body language and expressions.  For example, if the learner looks like they need more help, the robot will offer a suggestion to make things easier, or if the learner is looking bored, the robot will tell a joke to help re-engage them in the subject.

I know it sounds like something out of The Jetsons, but it’s really happening and it’s pretty fascinating stuff.

Until recently (similar trials have been taking place in other countries for a couple of years now), robots have been used for process driven tasks, to increase accuracy or do mundane and repetitive jobs, but the development of a robot that can detect senses is a real game changer, don’t you think?  It means that they will be able to react to what is going on around them and respond (for want of a better word) to the needs of people in the room.  What’s more, robots won’t get impatient or frustrated with learners, their mood won’t ever alter – something even the best of teachers/facilitators can’t promise!

Knowing the technology exists and thinking about how it can work in a learning environment, it’s hard to imagine that robots WON’T one day be part of our training classrooms.

Of course, there is the view that no matter how advanced software becomes, it still will be no match for a live interaction with another human being and the learning that can come from that.  So it may be safe to say that teachers/trainers/facilitators won’t be entirely wiped out!

What do you think: are robots the trainers of the future?  Will we start to see robots in our training rooms instead of us?  Is it all just a flash in the pan?  Or will we reach some kind of middle ground where robots assist with material delivery?

I’d love to hear your thoughts, share in the comments below!

Posted in Facilitation, Training Tagged with: , , ,

What does it mean to be “professional”?

business-894846_1280When I started out training many, many years ago, I remember being expected to be “professional”.  Back then, that meant being suited and booted, leading by example by demonstrating the company values and always towing the company line.  It usually meant taking quite a formal approach whilst delivering slick presentations.  But is that what being a “professional trainer” means now?

A few years ago, I remember meeting a women (she was to be a new colleague actually) who delivered face-to-face training in her trainers.  I was horrified!  When we chatted about it afterwards, she explained that being in her trainers made her feel more relaxed.  She moved more freely and more easily around the room and it changed the energy of the session both for her and her learners.  She felt it gave them a more positive experience and not once had anyone ever queried why she was wearing her trainers.

I tried it a number of months later, working for a different organisations, and I saw exactly what she meant.  It was far easier for me to raise the energy level in the room becasue of the way I moved.

Fast forward another few years and things have moved on even further.  This week I attended a brilliant webinar.  It was really informative and engaging.  It was fun to be part of and I couldn’t scribble things down fast enough I learnt so much from it.

The trainer clearly knew his stuff.

But he was also running the webinar from his home office.  With his toddler son running about in the background.  and he made no attempt to hide those facts – in fact he said it from the get-go.  He also shared that this was the first time he’d run this particular webinar so to stick with him if he jumped around a bit.

Did those things make me thing any less of his ability to do his job?  Did I think of him as being less professional than he should have been?  Absolutely not!

He was honest, transparent, knowledgeable, credible and wholly passionate about what he was doing. These are the things that make you professional.  Not the clothes your wearing or the smoothness of your presentation or the state-of-the-art graphics that you’ve spent ages developing in your slide deck.

Focus on those qualities when you are delivering learning and you’ll always come out on top.

What do you think?  Do you agree that the definition of professionalism is changing?  If not, do you think it should be?  Share your thoughts below.

Until next time, happy learning.



Posted in Facilitation, Training Tagged with: , , ,

Are you like a cobblers child?

Cobblers childrenHave you heard the phrase “the cobblers children go unshod”?  It’s an old one and origin is largely unknown, but the meaning is still very applicable – if not even more so – today.

If you haven’t come across the phrase before, it basically means that the cobbler is so busy looking after the needs of his clients that he neglects the needs of his own children.  You may have seen this play out in real life:  the painter and decorator who never gets round to decorating their own house, the accountant who submits their own tax return late, the gardener whose own garden is overgrown, the trainer who never develops their own skills and knowledge….

Whilst most people can appreciate the irony of these situations and even often laugh about it, for those of us in Learning and Development, failing to maintain and develop our own skills and knowledge can really affect the quality of the learning that we are providing.  Best practice in training design, delivery, methods, assessment, facilitation (to name a few areas) all move on so quickly that it would be easy for us to use out-of-date methods, tools or techniques.

It is vital that as the teacher/educator/facilitator we lead by example and ensure that what we are staying at the top of our game and undertake regular, meaningful CPD.

The Trainers CPD Club can help you do just that.  Every month you get access to a different module and the topics are always focused on key areas that Trainers/Facilitators have identified as learning needs.  I set the Club up to provide CPD in a flexible way – everything is delivered online so you can access it anywhere, at anytime.

Why not check it out?  Click here.

Not ready to commit to monthly CPD?  That’s ok.  You can access our weekly CPD blog over on the Club website.  Short blog posts on emerging trends, models, topics, latest books, allowing you to top up your knowledge over a coffee.  Click here to read the welcome post.

And to help you get started with keeping a CPD record, we’ve made our own 1-page CPD log available (this is the one that I use!) fo you to download for free.  Just click here.

So, what are you waiting for?  Don’t be a cobblers child any longer – grab yourself a nice pair of shiny shoes!  😀

Until next time, happy learning!


Posted in How To...., Training, Uncategorized Tagged with: , ,

5 Top Tips To Get Creative

creativity2Training, education, facilitating, developing, teaching… whatever your preferred terminology they all have one thing in common, and that is that they all require a fair degree of creativity if they are going to be done well.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes it feels like the hardest thing in the world to get creative!  It requires us to give ourselves time, space to think and to let ideas evolve and develop.  Day-to-day, there just doesn’t seem to be time to do that, there is always so many other things demanding our attention that it becomes very easy to be task focused.

However, luckily being creative is much like a muscle.  The more you do it, the easier and stronger it becomes.  So, to help you get your creative hat back on, try one of these fab tricks:

1. Do a doodle – don’t think about it too much.  Just grab  pen and a blank piece of paper and see what you draw for a few moments.  Let you mind wander and see what ideas you come up with.

2. Get Moving – if you are struggling to think of how you can deliver a key learning point effectively, take a break. Get up and go for a brisk walk, get some fresh air, move your body.  All of these things will give you a break from thinking about the problem and when you come back to it, you’ll come back with the fresh pair of eyes.

3.  Set yourself some limitations – what would you do if you couldn’t use Power point, or a particular piece of content has to be delivered in 20mins, or if you had to use a particular delivery method?  Sometimes having a limitation can help us find a more creative solution.

4.  Get your filing done – doing a mundane task like filing, which require little thought can help you see a problem from a different angle.  If you are working on something that doesn’t require much brain power, your mind is free to think about other things and explore other ideas – you might find you get an “Ah-ha!” moment.

5. Tip the Bucket – sometimes a good old brainstorm is just the trick to get your creative juices flowing.  Just make sure you write down everything that comes to mind, don’t dismiss any ideas in the storming process, just write them down!  You never know where you will find an idea which with a little bit of polish can turn into a gem!

What are your favourite tricks to getting into a creative groove?  Share them in the comments below.


Posted in How To...., The Unintentional Trainers Guide To.... Tagged with: , , , ,

5 questions to ask yourself to make sure you are not over-sharing.

Over sharingWhen I sat down to write this week’s blog, I was going to share something which had happened over the weekend.  But as I started to write it, I began to wonder whether or not I was sharing too much.  I questioned whether or not I would cause offense to those involved if I blogged about the situation (it was a very specific situation and not one that could be easily disguised – those involved would absolutely have been able to identify themselves) and I wondered whether or not people even wanted to read about that kind of thing.  Is it interesting to hear more about the facilitator or does it cross a line and become unprofessional?

I don’t know about you, but very often whilst I’m facilitating there are opportunities to share more about myself.  My experiences, my history, my personality.  Sometimes I take these and sometimes I don’t.

Whilst I don’t always consciously think about what I’m doing at the time (I tend to follow my gut feeling a lot of the time in these situations), over the years I have development a mental checklist which helps me strike the right balance between professional and personal.  And here it is…..

1. Do I already have a relationship with these delegates?  If I already know them and they know me, then I will already have some understanding of what is appropriate or not to share.

2.  Do I need to build rapport/establish a relationship with these delegates? Of course the answer to this is almost always YES!  If there are plans for me to work with people for a longer period of time (i.e. a Facilitator that I’m coaching) then I will tend to share more openly than if I’m likely to only meet them once.  Having said that, to help ensure they get the best from the training session, I want to have a good rapport with even those people I will only encounter that day.

3.  Do I need to demonstrate my credibility?  Sometimes when working with groups, you need to establish yourself with more than just a brief summary of your background.  It can be really helpful to share your own real-life experiences during a session with learners.  It not only brings content alive but it provides evidence that you do know what you are talking about!

4. Whats the tone of the group? Some groups are more relaxed than others.  Some just want to focus on the content whereas others enjoy a lighter tone to the session.  I always try and respond to the mood of the group.

4. Am I keeping myself safe? I’ve had times when I could have shared very personal things with groups of learners and perhaps had I not been in a “learning” setting I may have done.  But when in a classroom (virtual or face-to-face) environment, it is important that you keep yourself emotionally safe.  And that can mean holding back, but it’s right to do so.

What are your top tips to ensure you don’t over-share in the training environment?


Posted in Facilitation Techniques, How To.... Tagged with: , , ,

The Dangers of Self-Directed Learning

washing-machine-380835_1280Do you want to learn how to change a tyre, fix a mobile phone, conduct an appraisal or interview?  Chances are when you are faced with a task which is unfamiliar to you, the first thing you will do is “google it” or search You Tube for an instructional video.

This form of self-directed learning is hugely popular – I think regardless of what you want to learn about you would be able to find some resources somewhere on the internet to help you.

The problem, of course, is how reliable, valid, accurate or useful these resources are.

A number of weeks ago I decided I MUST wash my venetian blinds.  Don’t ask me why.  It was just one of those things that I decided needed doing.  Having never done it before I took it upon myself to find out the easiest, most effective way to wash my blinds.

Site after site had variations of the same instructions:  they needed to be taken down, soaked in the bath, gently wiped then hung flat to dry.

Now, to be honest, that seemed like a fairly time consuming process and I figured there must be an easier or quicker way to get the job done, so I refined my search.  Lo-and-behold I discovered a You Tube video which (in 5 short mins) gave me a step-by-step process to wash my blinds in my washing machine with perfect results!  Brilliant.

I watched the video all the way to the end, making a note of each of the steps in preparation.  The video ended with the blinds in the washing machine, all neatly tied together inside a pillow slip getting lovely and clean.  The final still said “watch part 2 for the amazing results”.

So I search for part 2 of the video and it was no-where to be found.  Literally nowhere.  So I went back to my original search and altered it to “washing blinds in washing machine” and I discovered that washing your blinds in a machine cause them to crease when they dry out, leaving them slightly rumpled looking when you re-hang them.

The morale of this story is of course that the content you find online is only as good as the search that you do and the basic knowledge that you already have.

If you leave your learners entirely to their own devices there is a real danger that they will discover information which is inaccurate, out-of-date of or goes against your company procedures/policies.  This makes effective learning curation a vital process for any company to remove some of the guess-work for learners and to sign-post learners to high-quality, relevant information.

Share you examples of learning curation below!  :)


Posted in Learning Methods Tagged with: , ,

Are you reinventing the wheel?

caveman-159359_1280A number of years ago I worked for the NHS up here in Scotland.  About 4 months into my employment I was asked to develop a course on appraisal skills aimed at hospital consultants. I duly went away and started the process.  A few weeks later I happened to meet up with a few other NHS Trainers and we got talking about the various projects we were working on. I mentioned the Appraisal Skills course I was working on and almost before I could finish speaking my colleagues were telling me about the various appraisal courses that they had written over the years. Sessions aimed at Dentists, Ward Managers, GP’s, Phsyios and Office based staff. Delivered in all manner of formats and timescales.


Obviously I had known that some sort of appraisal skills training would have been provided in the past, but it had never occurred to me that I would be asked to create something “new” when other courses on the same topic (albeit that they were targeting a different audience) had been designed as recently as 3 months previously!

I very much felt like I was re-inventing the wheel. I had already spent at least 10 hours on the needs analysis for the course, trying to work out exactly what was needed, but this 10 hours could have been more effectively spent reviewing the materials which already existed and determining how the content needed to be adapted and tailored to my target group. I could have been much further down the design/development road if only the NHS had conducted a recent content audit or had a content curation strategy in place.

When was the last time you performed a content audit?  either of your own materials that you have gathered over the years or the materials that your company holds?  If you haven’t done one recently, I would highly recommend that you do!  You never know what little gems you have hidden away.  And once you have don’t an audit, make sure you put in place an easy process to keep the record of files up to date, that way you’ll never have to do it again!

Share how you got on in the comments below.


Posted in Uncategorized

The “Blue Peter” Approach to Training

blue peterI had a really interesting experience last week. An organisation that I volunteer with were running a welcome night to give some newly trained volunteers the opportunity to mingle with some of the longer serving team.  They wanted to do something that was light-hearted, generate a bit of camaraderie and encourage people to talk to each other BUT of course it had to be cheap and cheerful.  I was more than happy to provide them with a range of ideas, many of which I had facilitated myself countless times.

In the end, they plumped for an exercise called “spaghetti tower” (you can download it from The Material Bank).

When I arrived at the session there were many jokes about whether or not I should be allowed to participate in the exercise and whether my team should be given a points “handicap” due to my insider knowledge.

Amidst much hilarity the exercise began.  My team and I (four of us in total) developed a strategy and got building.  It only took a few moments for me to realise that whilst I had facilitated this particular task numerous times, I had in fact never completed it myself.

As it transpired, watching others over the years build their spaghetti towers did not in fact give me any kind of advantage over the other teams on the night.  Out tower was really a very poor show! Another team built a brilliant tower.  And I ended the night being teased about my inability to complete the task even with years of experience!

Do you subscribe to the “Blue Peter” method of training where you try out everything that you are going to do in a session, or are you more a “suck it and see” sort of a trainer?

Let me know what works for you in the comments or on our twitter/facebook pages,


Posted in Facilitation, Training Tagged with:

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