Training Tips

Here we talk about some of what we’ve learnt in the past 15 years or so of training and assessing people who want to become auditors.

There are many articles written about public speaking which discuss topics including:  grabbing your audience’s attention in the first 10 seconds, being commanding and powerful, waving your arms about, being animated. These are good for a presentation that is going to last an hour or so, maybe less, maybe a little more. But do these “rules” apply when you are training people and the training is going to last at least a day – possibly more?

Our training courses normally run for two or five days, so waving your arms about for that long can become a bit tedious.

Below are some tips that we’ve picked up along the way. It’s written in a numbered way because that’s the order in which things need to happen.

1. Before you leave home

Check you have everything. If necessary, create a checklist so you know you have everything. Don’t leave it all to the last minute. Leave with plenty of time to get to the venue, and if you arrive too early, have a cup of tea.

Dress appropriately, wear the right clothes. If it’s public training, that normally means formal without being over the top. If you’re training inside a business, ask if there is particular dress code. This is especially true for construction and mining work. Clean your shoes.

2. Early on the first day

Make sure any training aids work – turn them on. Make sure your computer is on and your presentation is open. If you don’t want people to see the presentation beforehand, press the “B” key – it will blackout the screen. If you have any handouts, arrange them so they are ready to give out. Be tidy. If you plan on using a whiteboard, make sure the pens work. I normally take my own.

Make friends with the staff – they will help you if things go wrong.

3. Greeting people

As people arrive, walk up to them, shake their hand and smile. Do this with everyone – no exceptions. If you have a list of attendees, mark the person as there.

4. Taking control

Start on time (within reason) on the first day.  I normally give 10 minutes grace for those who have trouble finding the room. Write your name on the board and tell the audience who you are and what is going to happen. Explain who you are so people know that what you say will be relevant to them. But do it quickly.

You now need to find out who is in the room. What works well is to have everyone talk to the person sitting next to them. They find out three key things, then you ask them to introduce the person to the group. This allows everyone to know at least one other person, and it gets a bit of energy going. You can scribble down a few key points about each person which might be useful later.

5. Sticking to the time

If you have set times for things, stick to those times. I will often write the break times on the board and nominate someone as a timekeeper. People are busy and often make arrangements during the breaks, so they need to be free when you said they would be. If people are there for a day, it’s good to finish a little early, but not too early as people have paid for you to be there. About 15 minutes to half an hour is good. More on finishing time later.

6. Dealing with talkers

Some people love the sound of their own voice, and there is a balance between having people who don’t stop talking and having a room full of people who don’t say anything.

If people talk a lot amongst themselves and they’re not asking questions, there are a few things you can do: ask them to be quiet because other people can’t hear, stand next to them, or ask them a question to see if they have been listening. If you are engaging enough though, you shouldn’t have talkers.

7. Phone etiquette

Nowadays phone etiquette is really hard to manage – and it doesn’t matter what you do, people will still fiddle with their phones. I tell them upfront to please turn off phones, and if they can’t, then to leave the room to take calls, preferably during the break. If people are texting, do the same as you would for a talker.

8. Presentations

Number one rule… know your presentation. Know what’s on the PowerPoint slides and what it means. Second rule… DO NOT READ THE SLIDES; your audience can read them. Keep them simple and without a lot of writing. Pictures are good, pictures of people are better – and know why the picture is there. You may be asked questions about what the picture means and how it is relevant. Don’t have too many slides (death by PowerPoint is not a good thing!), and do not use those silly moving transitions that PowerPoint does  it just confuses people.

10. Using the whiteboard

Use a whiteboard or flip chart paper. It shows that you know your topic. But have good pens – don’t use green or orange pens as they are difficult to see. Black, blue and red are good. Chisel points are better than fine points, and the 10mm tips are really good for big bold writing. Write neatly so people can read what you have written – there is no point writing if people cannot read it. If you’re not sure what your writing is like, go to the back of the room and see if you can read it.

Clean the board when you have finished – your mum is not going to do it for you.

11. Questions

Answer the question. Then ask the person if you have answered it for them, just to be sure. If your response is going to be covered in the next hour, you can ask the person to wait. If you will cover the topic later than that, answer the question then reinforce the answer when you get to it. I will often write the question on the whiteboard so that people can see I covered it.

12. Workshops

People like to do activities, it reinforces the learning; plus it’s a good way for you to know that they have understood the topic. If time is short, have people work in pairs. If you want more discussion, then form groups of three – but be warned… threes do take a long time. Have workshops that run for about half-an-hour and write the finish time on the board. Make sure you have tested any workshops, so that you know they work.

I would try and aim for four workshops per day, and have people work in different pairs each time. Explain this at the start so people know to expect it. Split the friends and the work colleagues up – without upsetting anyone.

13. People work at different speeds

Some people will work really quickly, and some will be really slow. For some, the tasks will be familiar to them, and for some it will be new. Workshops are an opportunity to pair people so they learn from each other. Another tip is to have the workshops prior to a break so that if some finish a bit quicker, they just take a longer break – but you need to tell them this.

14. Lunch

It is best if people leave the room for lunch, however this is not always possible. It is even better if they can go outside for some fresh air. The best we’ve ever done was to give people food vouchers so they could choose their own lunch. Dietary requirements are a big thing, so if people have certain intolerances, make sure you cater for them – and make sure somebody else doesn’t eat their lunch. Putting names on the lunches for people with specific dietary requirements helps.

If the course is for more than one day, make sure people don’t have the same sandwiches every day. This reminds me of the old saying: “the thing most people remember about the training is the lunch”.

15. Finishing time

This is the second number one rule… never, ever go past the finish time. People have trains and buses to catch, children to pick up, work to do, families to get home to, lives to lead. Most courses are quite elastic – you can make some parts longer and you can shorten other parts. At each break and at lunch, check how you’re going time-wise and adjust to suit.

16. Review

This is only applicable if you’re training over more than one day.

At the beginning of the next day, ask each person to write down two or three things they learnt the day before – especially what they found interesting. Then go around the room and ask for “one” learning from everyone and write each one on the board. Then go through each learning and reiterate what it was about. This gets everyone back into the course and ready to go for the rest of the day.

A word of warning: as people are telling you what they learnt, don’t say “thank you, that’s a good one” because it implies all the others are bad!

17. Finally…Know your topic

Know your topic, and if you don’t know your topic, don’t teach it.


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