Instructional Design

What Makes a Trainer Exceptional?

The 8 Qualities of a good trainer - TalentLMS Blog

It’s often said that “the mediocre teacher tells, the good teacher explains, the superior teacher demonstrates, and the great teacher inspires”. Almost anyone who’s ever wondered how to be a good trainer has also wondered how to inspire learners to perform at their best. And when it comes to delivering an effective training program, the qualities of a good trainer can make all the difference.

Many people think that training is as easy as knowing the subject matter and being able to communicate well. While you absolutely need both of these qualities, they’re hardly enough to make an effective trainer.

So, what other trainer qualities and skills do you need?

The Core Qualities Of A Good Trainer

Inspiring, superstar trainers are made, not born. So, what makes a good trainer?

Effective trainers continuously practice and develop qualities that improve their understanding of learner and organizational needs. They understand that the more they exercise these qualities, the better equipped they’ll be to deliver training with accuracy and precision, create an active learning atmosphere, incorporate current learning trends – and the list goes on.

Let’s take a closer look at what it takes to be a good trainer:

1. Be a good (and patient) listener

Some of the qualities of a good trainer are absolutely non-negotiable. The capacity to listen, ask the right questions, and understand the needs of the learner is at the top of this list.

What is needs analysis if not the process of carefully listening to the target audience and unpacking what they need most? A talented trainer is able to listen so closely to what their target audience thinks they need, that they can clearly see what they actually need.

For example, a group of sales associates might report that they need product training so that they can close more deals per month. A good trainer might determine that sales staff actually have sufficient product knowledge already, but really need negotiation training to win customers over more quickly.

2. Approach training strategically

A strategic trainer knows that training is only effective if it keeps within costs and delivers a desirable return on investment (ROI). Sounds obvious, right? Well, unfortunately, these factors are easily forgotten once the complexities of the training process start to pile up.

One of the most important qualities of a good trainer is their ability to keep their eye on the goal, and the associated restrictions, without compromising on training quality. This is best achieved through partnering with various roles within the organization, such as department managers, operations, and human resources.

No strategic trainer will start a project without first understanding the costs, desired ROI, and benchmarks involved. This knowledge arms them to deliver the most effective training they can, with the full support of key stakeholders.

3. Encourage engagement

Turning training into a two-way street (rather than a one-man show) is at the core of what makes a good trainer. Yes, being entertaining is a fantastic quality in any trainer. But getting learners to absorb and retain new skills goes way beyond entertainment.

For skill development to really happen, learners need opportunities to share their ideas, answer questions, and practice what they’ve learned. The traditional “top-down” lecture style simply isn’t effective for achieving meaningful learning, even if the lecturer is a blast.

The best trainers encourage learners to ask questions, get involved in activities, and be active in their learning rather than passively absorbing the material.

4. Be organized

Some trainers are gloriously inspiring one day, and lackluster the next. This is usually due to a lack of effective organization. Want to be consistently great? Take time to plan your training materials and facilitation delivery carefully.

Well-organized lessons and materials help you to remain focused on the topic at hand, instead of jumping around. This prevents facilitated sessions from becoming dragged out and losing the audience’s attention.

The role of the trainer as a project manager shouldn’t be underestimated, either. Keeping stakeholders up to date on the training project’s progress is important to remaining strategic and delivering effective training.

What Makes a Trainer Exceptional? - TalentLMS Blog

5. Appreciate good instructional design

The ability to design well-structured courses and build fit-for-purpose content is one of the frequently overlooked qualities of a good trainer. Rather, a trainer’s in-person presence and delivery are often mistaken as the determining factor of their effectiveness.

Truthfully, a lot of work goes into planning training programs that meet all the organization’s training goals and create seamless learning experiences. But this work can make all the difference to learners’ results and long-term behavioral improvement.

A top-notch trainer will have the savvy to design courses that suit the mode of delivery (e.g. face-to-face, blended or fully online), and create a wide variety of materials that engage and motivate all learners.

6. Have a finger on the pulse of learning trends

Another aspect of instructional design know-how that elevates a trainer from ‘just okay’ to great, is an awareness of the latest training trends. Effective trainers keep up with current research in adult education and digital delivery and look out for opportunities to incorporate proven trends into their training.

Does this mean that knowing the difference between microlearning and gamification is the be-all and end-all of how to be a good trainer? Not quite.

While excellent trainers need to know which trends are gaining traction, it’s much more important that they have the ability to be critical about which trends they choose to incorporate.

For example, if you see that webinars are trending as a content format that boosts collaboration over long distances, is it smart to incorporate a webinar in a one-week face-to-face course? Incorporating trends just because they’re trendy is a slippery slope, and easily undermines the effectiveness of training.

7. Analyze and improve again, and again, and again

The best trainers constantly ask themselves: “what makes a good trainer?”. They’re not only focused on developing their learners, but also developing themselves.

Trainers can improve their performance by taking advantage of surveys and other forms of feedback. Great trainers don’t shy away from constructive feedback but take it as an opportunity to re-examine their methods and do better the next time around.

Good trainers don’t just improve themselves, they also evaluate their training materials regularly. Old or irrelevant materials are phased out in favor of content that is more engaging and aligned with learner feedback about the course.

8. Prize lifelong learning

Finally, who better to deliver training than someone who is constantly learning themselves? That’s why lifelong learning is one of the important characteristics of a good trainer.

Trainers who regularly undertake their own learning are more in touch with the struggles and triumphs of the everyday adult learner. This makes them more effective in choosing content types, topics, and convenience features like mobile learning when planning a course.

Lifelong learners are also inherently inspirational. Their passion and thirst for learning is infectious and can make all the difference when the topic they need to teach is dry or obscure.

Equip Great Trainers With The Best Equipment

Each of the qualities of a good trainer can make a huge difference in the success of the program and the engagement of learners.

Trainers who invest their time in developing these qualities, and put them into practice too, are bound to see their course evaluations and learner results improve. The right software can take them even further, through innovative features that open up a world of design, content and delivery options.

So, do you want to level up as a trainer? Why not start today?


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