How NOT to do training


At my previous employer, Cognitive Technologies, and at my new sponsor, Silver Bear Group, they place a high value on effective training and we routinely present to organizations on various aspects of project management fundamentals. Our goal is always to help build employee skills and knowledge. We understand that training is a benefit that should help project teams do a better job on assigned tasks, advance their careers, or learn how to behave within the organization.

As I develop the materials for a training class, I often reflect on many hours in my own training that were an excruciating use of my time. The material was tired, redundant, and boring (and many times not current). And, the same could have been said about the presenter. That is sad – Training does not have to be logging hours in an uncomfortable chair and waiting for break time. Whether training is a benefit or a loathsome duty depends to a large extend on how the training is designed and conducted.

Over my working years, I have developed some internal how-to-train guidelines based on my good training experiences and some observations on how NOT to do training. Here is my short list of training no-no’s.

Bruce’s Top Ten Things NOT to do for Training

  1. Make an entrance. A trainer becomes the center of attention when they arrive late and setup their equipment while everyone is watching.
  2. Surprise Students. Do not give them any clues about content, flow, schedule, or expectations.
  3. Don’t try to make the topic easy to understand.  As an expert on the topic, you know how difficult it was to master the concepts and information; do not make it any easier for the attendees. They will respect you and the subject more if it is hard to understand.
  4. Rely on written text in giving a training presentation. Reading a paper you carefully crafted, ensures you cover every detail exactly the same way without having to trust your memory.
  5. Don’t use humor – ever. Training is serious and should not be diluted with jokes, cartoons, or funny stories.  No one expects to laugh or chuckle in a training class.
  6. Build suspense.  You do this by saving all the key points and conclusions until the end of your training presentation.
  7. Talk, talk, talk. Adding activities and group interaction into training time removes the spotlight from you. The spontaneous sharing of thoughts and knowledge by participants is difficult to control—talking the entire time keeps you in charge.
  8. Don’t give practical examples.  Base your training exclusively on theory with many obscure references to academic research. Leave it up to the attendees to extract useful skills and information from general theories and to figure out how to apply the knowledge.
  9. Do not have handouts. Participants need to make their own notes for later reference.  And who wants to give students materials that will help them later.
  10. Do not allow questions. You are the expert. Questions from the audience interrupt the flow of your presentation and, worst case; you may not know the answer.

Add your training no no’s or best training experiences via comments.

2 Responses to “How NOT to do training”

  1. Andrew Says:

    My favorite training trick is to introduce cognitive dissonance in the experience – then resolve it. As an example: do the entire ramp up on how it’s important to develop the Critical Path, and how that governs the length of the project – then tear that concept apart with the concept of Merge Bias and how the Critical Path is always your most optimistic/unrealistic outcome – resolving the conflict through a discussion of schedule buffers.

  2. tboehm30 Says:

    Another don’t – When training on Software, don’t let the users touch the computers during class. A good PowerPoint deck with screen shots is just as useful. Besides, who wants to setup and support an entire test environment just for training?

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