Describe how your career as a trainer started.
I began as a sales manager for a smaller training organization in Boston in the ’80s. I was contacting companies and pitching them to see the growing need to get their workforce better prepared for the exploding phenomenon of workstations in the professional environment. Remember, this was at a time when PCs were still deployed on a sometimes limited basis, even in larger companies. To improve my sales technique, I attended classes to see the process (and quality) of formal training. By my third or fourth session. I realized that I had more affinity with standing up in front of a group than I did talking on a phone. The rest, as they say, is history.
At the end of the three week period, they exchanged emails with me, and within the next month, 9 of the 12 had secured jobs and were already settled in their new situations. They all claimed that my ‘personalized’ presentations made a big impact and helped them focus. That was extremely gratifying.Daniel McBride
What has been your favorite moment as a trainer?
I remember a brokerage house was going through a downsize. As part of the severance process, they offered training in productivity packages (Word, Excel, Access, etc.) to help them present themselves as more valuable potential candidates to other companies. I was assigned a group of twelve for a 3 week period and we got to work. Initially, they were anxious and somewhat reluctant. I customized the content of the sessions as a way of engaging them. We updated their resumes and composed cover letters using Word, created and populated databases of potential employers using Access and even set up personal budgets using Excel (this was the early ’90s, and many people had never seen PCs used in some of these ways). By the end of the second week, I saw enthusiasm to the point where I was extending class time 2 or more hours beyond scheduled time. At the end of the three week period, they exchanged emails with me, and within the next month, 9 of the 12 had secured jobs and were already settled in their new situations. They all claimed that my ‘personalized’ presentations made a big impact and helped them focus. That was extremely gratifying. As a matter of fact, I still hear from some of them!
Please give some tips to a person about to train a class for the first time.
There are many suggestions I could make to first time presenters, but I’ll try and streamline a response. I believe that public training is a daunting prospect to most people (both for the trainer and attendees). To me, there are 3 aspects to a successful training experience; knowledge, poise and flexibility. The first, knowledge, is self evident. You must really absorb the content prior to getting up in front of any group. With this knowledge usually confidence follows, and this manifests as poise in the presentation. Flexibility is a more challenging aspect for some people and I’ve found it usually comes with experience (for first time trainers, I always say – “If you know the topic, let your personality come through, don’t get ‘robotic'”).
What topics do you love to teach?
It’s not so much the topic as the level of experience of the users. I love to train topics at the introductory level. Some people will say “Of course, it’s easier!”, but I maintain that starting a user’s exposure to the possibilities and potential of a software system correctly with enthusiasm is the most important and challenging aspect of the training experience.
What do you do to go the extra mile as a trainer?
I always strive to make the training as pertinent and engaging as possible. In multiple sessions (or ongoing situations), I encourage the users to bring ‘real world’ examples into the process and work as hard as I can to work that into the presentation.
Do you have a “fun fact” that you’d like to share?
I once gave Robert Redford a two hour tour of Beaver Creek ski resort in Colorado in the mid ’80s when I was a seasonal employee there…