what makes a good trainer

What Makes a Good Trainer?

Posted April 8th, 2022

A motivated and competent trainer can mean the difference between success and failure for your organisation. A good trainer communicates effectively, manages the participants and ensures they are clear on both the objectives of the training and what they can expect to get out of it. They’ll be knowledgeable on the topic being delivered and able to adapt to the needs of the learners throughout. We’ll explore this in more detail here. 

There are many different methods of delivering training in the modern day. With the constant growth of technology and the changes made as a consequence of the pandemic, a lot of learning is now being carried out in virtual classrooms via tools such as Zoom or MS Teams. Some organisations are also utilising e-learning more, which does not require a trainer. However, good trainers whether using online tools or in a classroom environment, are just as important as they have ever been.

The success of a training course rests on a variety of factors, and one of, if not the most important factor is the trainer themself. Without an effective trainer to lead and educate, the quality of the materials can pale into insignificance. It’s often the skills of the trainer and their ability to adapt to the participants that leave a lasting impression with learners.

In order to get a return on the time and resources invested into a training program, it must be engaged with, understood, and its importance and uses recognised. This is where the effectiveness and facilitation skills of the trainer comes in. 

Thinking about leading a course or looking to hire someone to do so? We’ve compiled a list of 9 qualities we believe are required from an effective trainer.

  1. Communication skills. Communication is perhaps the most important characteristic required of a trainer. A trainer must be engaging and able to interact well, for which successful communication abilities and interpersonal skills are crucial. In order to accommodate different learning needs, keep learners engaged and listen and respond effectively to questions and concerns, while being clear on the key points of the training. Communication skills are imperative to delivering a successful course. 
  1. Subject expertise. Training goes beyond delivering set content, and tangents can arise at any time, learners may have unpredictable questions and it is the responsibility of the trainer to be able to respond to these questions with their knowledge and understanding of the subject at hand. Where they are unsure of something, they should be clear of this and promise to research and inform later.

    Training courses may be led by the person, or one of the people, who put the course together. In this case, it should go without saying that the person creating the materials must be an expert. Sometimes, a trainer will be delivering content that they didn’t personally create – that doesn’t mean they don’t need to be extensively familiar with the topic beyond what is taught in the course as without deeper understanding, they could get caught out. Again, it’s better to be honest about knowledge gaps though, rather than making something up, which is later found to be false. 

  1. Confidence. An effective trainer must have confidence in their own ability – in both the content and the delivery. Are you confident in your knowledge of the topic? Are you confident you have the ability to effectively deliver this training? Your confidence in your own abilities presents itself in your delivery, and learners will likely disengage with an unassured trainer. Confidence comes from being prepared and while a few nerves is usually a good thing and shows you care; you can calm a lot of those nerves by being completely clear on what you are delivering. ‘Chunking’ training down into manageable sections is helpful too, as a pause while participants are engaged in an activity or exercise, gives you a chance to regroup your thoughts. 
  1. Versatility. No matter how prepared you are or how organised the course is, different environments and different groups of learners will require different approaches. An effective trainer must be able to read the room and adjust their training based on the learners they are working with. Anyone with strong communication skills can adjust their behaviour to suit the needs of those around them. If you are not getting results with one method of delivery, try and alter your approach to include things that do work. 
  1. Adaptability. Similarly, adaptability is crucial. Differing slightly from versatility in this case, adaptability refers to the ability to make changes or adjustments last minute due to unforeseen circumstances, and still be able to deliver the same standard of training. Sometimes technology fails us, or certain resources needed for the course may be unavailable, it is the responsibility of the trainer to adapt when these things happen. You can prepare for different eventualities in case of these emergencies. For instance, if your projector fails and you can’t show your slides, can you use a flipchart to deliver the content by alternative means? 
  1. Time management. Like any professional role, particularly one in leadership, the importance of time management should never be underestimated. Poor time management implies poor professionalism and can impact how you are perceived. For example, if you are late to a training course, you have already negatively impacted the rapport you will need to build with your learners. Likewise, keeping to time slots for breaks and lunch is important for the sake of learner engagement. The trainer should always be the most punctual and organised person in the room. Sloppy timekeeping will overshadow the effectiveness of your delivery, as learners will start with a poor opinion of you. 
  1. Patience. Every group of learners will be different. We all learn in different ways and at different speeds. Being able to accommodate all learners through your materials and communication is very important to being an effective trainer. You will encounter challenging learners, those that struggle with the topic, or participants that seem intent on trying to ‘catch you out’. By remaining calm and composed and not rising to any negative energy, you’ll ensure that participants know you are fully in control of the course delivery. 
  1. Passionate about educating. You must be passionate about educating your learners on the subject at hand. Those around us feed off our energy and a positive and passionate approach will usually be mirrored by your learners. As highlighted, sometimes things can get in the way of our initial plans, or hurdles can make delivering your course a little harder, if you are passionate about what you’re training, these hurdles become easier to overcome. If the topic is something you find hard to be passionate about, be passionate about the learners and helping them to understand a topic that some find uninteresting. Think about your learning aims and hitting your objectives. 
  1. Evaluation practices. A good trainer has methods in place to evaluate their performance as a trainer. This could be asking for feedback, or if the training is internal, identifying KPIs can be a useful way to measure employee progress towards an objective. Know what your goals are and set your lasers to achieving them.

Ultimately, the list of characteristics held by the best trainers could go on, but these 9 qualities are a great place to start when delivering offline or online training. Whether you’re already experienced in training, about to put together or teach your first course, or are simply considering it as a potential career, these tips can be referred to at any time to help you visualise the most effective version of yourself as a training professional.

If you want to upskill the trainers in your organisation. Consider some of the resources we have to help with their development.

Train the Trainer – Training Materials

Facilitation Skills – Training Materials


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