This week's topic: Building Credibility as a Trainer
I promised a few colleagues and students that I would begin to post suggestions, tips and techniques on "the art of facilitation." I hope to open up some dialogue with others about what works and what doesn't to build your credibility as a facilitator, engage your audience, and make sure that the learning sticks. So here goes, my first post on this subject:
Nothing does more to shatter your credibility with your students, clients or peers than a lack of follow-through. What I mean by this is making sure you deliver what you promise. For example, in a conflict resolution workshop, you may inform your participants that they can expect to understand the root causes of conflict, learn their personal responses to conflict, and then learn a model for speaking assertively. These are reasonable expectations for a workshop, but be aware, you can lose credibility with your audience if you only cover one or two of your stated objectives!
So the very first thing to remember is: Don't try to do too much in a session! It's far more important to plan to address one specific aspect of a learning topic and then provide different avenues and opportunities to delve into that subject. If you promise the moon up front, but only deliver a sliver of cheese, it leaves your participants wondering, "did she mismanage her time?" or "were the other three objectives not important?"
There are other ways - whether within the classroom or through your correspondence or interactions with students - that this lack of follow-through plays out. If someone brings up a point in the classroom and you promise to address it later, please make sure you do! That participant who asked the question, or had the need, is keeping mental track of your response! I make it a point to jot down a note so that I don't forget to cover a question in class; others use the traditional "parking lot" where they post, for all to see, the questions that need to be addressed in a session. Or you can simply answer questions off-line during a break or at lunch. This is an especially nice way to provide the participant with your undivided attention. Whatever you do, find a system that works for you.
The other way this can play out is through your correspondence. Make sure that you follow through on any promises you make via email, otherwise, again, you risk losing credibility with your participants. So if you promise to send out an article or include a particular handout, make sure you do!
Of course, we as facilitators are human and can lose track of things or be forgetful. It happens. I don't mean to suggest that if you forget to cover something in a class that you will lose all credibility with your audience. I just want to remind all of us that the questions that are posed to us in our classes and workshops are one of the primary reasons we are there. Keep your focus on your participants' needs, follow-through on what you say you are going to do, and your credibility will soar!