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Educating Volunteer and Professional Trainers

New Webinar Featuring Elaine Biech

As you may know, I am currently hosting a new webinar series, Managing eLearning: Thought Leaders, in which I invite thought leaders from the training & development and eLearning industries to discuss how associations can benefit from recent innovations in eLearning. This month’s webinar will feature Elaine Biech. I’m really excited to be associated with Elaine; she’s a big name in T&D and has published many, many books in the field, including the popular and acclaimed Training for Dummies. (It’s only $15 on Amazon—check it out!)

I caught up with Elaine the other day to get a preview of what we all can look forward to in her webinar later this month. She’ll be presenting on a topic of great importance to association education departments: how to “train the trainer,” as it’s commonly called.

One of the things associations sometimes struggle with when building an education program is working with volunteer trainers drawn from their membership. These individuals are subject matter experts, but they may not be educators trained in adult learning. As Elaine put it, “SMEs are good at talking at people and giving them lots of good information. A good trainer pays attention to adult learning theory and integrates those principles into everything they do.”

Clearly there is a need for associations to invest resources into helping their volunteer trainers become more effective presenters. But how best to go about this? Elaine cautioned against making train-the-trainer sessions mandatory because volunteer trainers could perceive that as an affront to their abilities. Instead, associations should position such sessions as professional development opportunities. “Everyone wants to learn and develop themselves,” Elaine said. “If an association provided train-the-trainer at an annual meeting or conference, people would jump at it.”

As for the content of those trainer training sessions—the adult learning theory mentioned earlier—well, that’s the meat of the webinar, and I don’t want to spoil it for you. But here’s a sneak preview of some of the main themes Elaine will discuss:

  • Respecting your audience. Trainers should realize that they are not the final authority on their subject. “When you combine all the knowledge that everyone else in the room has, they know more than you do,” Elaine said.
  • Creating opportunities for active learning. With all that knowledge, the audience members have a lot to contribute to the discussion as well, and the trainer should give them opportunities to reflect and share what they know.
  • Practice makes perfect. Having good training materials only gets you so far. Practicing your delivery will pay huge dividends for your learners. “It may feel like work, but if you put your learners first, you’ll do what needs to be done,” Elaine said.

When it comes to training trainers, Elaine is both a subject matter expert and an expert trainer herself. To learn all about how to build your training dream team, be sure to attend her webinar Dreaming of a Perfect Trainer? Educating Volunteer & Professional Trainers on Tuesday, March 29 at 10 am PT / 1 pm ET. Claim your seat now.

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