The Importance of Trainers
When I would design and develop courses I knew the information going into the course was the latest and greatest involving the topic and the design and methodology used to create the presentation products were top of the line. However, one thing I observed repeatedly was some presenters delivered the course word for word, slide for slide. In the end the Level 1 evaluations would come back indicating the course material was mediocre at best, uninformative at the worst. Then other presenters who would deliver the content using the presentation package to help keep the pace of the course going and ensure all critical learning objectives were covered. The Level 1 evaluations from these courses tended to indicate the information was helpful to their performance improvement and provided tools allowing them to apply the concepts on the job. Those of you who follow the advances applied to the Kirkpatrick 4 Levels model know if learners do not receive the material well, there is little chance they are going to be able to demonstrate behavioral change as a result of the training.
This is not to say there is not poorly designed and developed content out there. I have suffered through some of it while I worked on a military contract and everyone had to complete a huge amount of mandatory training. When you pair poor design with a poor presenter you most frequently do not get knowledge transfer. When you pair good design with a good presenter you achieve the level of knowledge transfer expected. One thing I found interesting is when you paired the poor content with a good presenter, the level of knowledge transfer increased. This showed me that while the best-written content can by laid to waste by a bad presenter; a good presenter can actually salvage bad content. I tended to see two reasons for this.
Good presenters understand their audience and take the time and energy necessary to rehearse the content. This rehearsal in not limited to regurgitating the information on the slides (see my article on PowerPoint not being the problem); rather they critically process the material. They approach the course from a learner’s perspective. If they were in an audience and saw this information during a course, what questions would they have? What life experience could reside in the audience to help them understand complex processes?
The other point is good presenters engage their audience. They establish a rapport and credibility almost immediately and never allow their conduct to detract from that position. During the delivery, they use open-ended questions to guide the audience discussion until they achieve the learning objective. They use active listening to show the members of the audience the presenter welcomes their input and when necessary the flawed thought processes redirected in such a manner as to avoid conflict.
So, what does this mean? It means instructional designers who are experiencing a mixed bag of Level 1 evaluations might consider observing multiple training sessions (if possible), or have the organizational senior trainer observe the training and determine if it might be the presenter. Presenters who are consistently receiving Level 1 evaluations indicating the content is bad, while some of their peers receive better evaluations should consider having a peer assess his/her next session to determine if their delivery needs improvement.