If you are going to accept the role of a trainer then you have a responsibility to the people in your training session.
If you are a speaker at a conference or event you have a responsibility to your audience, your fellow speakers and the organizers who invited you to speak.
You have a responsibility to prepare and rehearse your material to make it relevant to this audience and appropriate for the allotted time.
You have a responsibility to show up early enough that you can set up and test your AV to make sure everything works and solve problems if there are any.
You have a responsibility to start and end on time.
If the event planners did not schedule a break between you and the next presenter (first speaker 8:00 to 10:00 and the second speaker 10:00 to 12:00) and you are in the 8:00 a.m. time slot, then end 15 minutes early to give the audience a chance to use the washroom and check their voicemail. This shows respect for the audience and allows the speaker following you to start and end on time. I know. It sucks to have cut 15 minutes from your presentation. Be a professional, remember your responsibilities and Embrace the Suck.
If there is another speaker immediately after you then you have a responsibility at the end of your presentation to gather your computer and other materials and get out of the way so they can get set up. If audience members come to the front with questions for you then politely ask them to step out of the room with you so you are not holding up the next speaker. You can then take the time necessary to answer all their questions.
Here are some things I have experienced at recent events, which frustrate me as a both a participant and as a trainer:
- One trainer showed up 20 minutes before their scheduled 8:00 am start time, then started panicking when the AV was not working. Fortunately the hotel AV people were very responsive and fixed the issue prior to 8:00. The trainer, who had a two hour time block, started by telling the audience they had over 100 slides to cover so they were going to have to blast through them and not take any breaks. Many of the slides were text heavy and throughout the presentation the trainer stood at the front of the room, facing the screen and read every slide word for word. At the 110 minute point in a 120 minute time block they were on slide 46 (they used a template and all the slides were numbered). They ran over their scheduled end time and only covered half the slides they told the audience they would cover. Everyone left frustrated and wondering what was on the last 50 slides and if they missed any critical information.
- One trainer finished exactly at the end of their two hour time block in an 8:00 a.m. time slot then stood on the podium for 10 minutes answering questions from people who came up to talk to them. While they were answering questions their computer was still connected to the projector forcing the next speaker, who was standing on the podium waiting, to be unable to get set up. The two speakers then stood on the podium visiting while the audience sat patiently waiting for the presentation, which was now 15 minutes late starting, to begin.
- One trainer, who proudly told the audience they spoke all over the country on their topic, had obviously spent a great deal of time building two slide decks using Prezi, which they had to switch between part way through their presentation. During the presentation the trainer stood at the front of the room facing the screen and read word for word from every new slide in the presentation. Due to poor management of their allotted time they felt they were going to run out of time so they started blasting through slides repeatedly saying, “I was going to cover this but don’t have time.”
- Another trainer, who informed us they had been giving this presentation all over the country, also told us they were going to have to blast through their material as this was normally a 3 hour and 15 minute presentation and they only had about 2 1/2 hours. They did blast through a number of slides, not because the time they were allotted was insufficient, but because they wasted a huge amount of time during the presentation. It became clear to almost everyone in the room that the trainer had about an hour worth of content, which apparently they routinely took 3 plus hours to get through. They too read word for word from the screen to the audience.
As trainers we owe the people who show up at our presentations better than this. I get it. We have all misjudged the amount of material and showed up with too much material for the allotted time. We have also been jacked up because of the audience or the venue and found ourselves talking too fast and rushing because we want to get through all the material. There are ways to deal with this without being disrespectful of the audience.
In 2017 we should not have to explain to trainers that reading the slides to the audience interferes with learning and pisses them off. They can read, so let shut up and let them read it themselves, then talk about the material after they have read through it.
As a trainer you have a great deal of influence within your agency and the profession. Use that influence to inspire, engage and educate the people you have the privilege to teach and train.
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