How do you get better? Trainer or Speaker?

What do you want to be better at? We’re a species that wants to get better! Exactly what people want to get better at varies hugely and there are heaps of ways for an individual to develop – let’s face it ‘self-development’ and ‘training and development’ are entire industries. But buyer beware! There are a lot of pitfalls along the way to becoming better. This article will help you avoid those pitfalls so you get real value and get the results you actually want.

I went to a lecture on neuroscience recently. It was delivered by an expert in their field (a Ph.D.) and was full of great information. Sadly though, their presentation skills weren’t that good and it was a muddled, unstructured and disjointed affair that ran well over time. Their PowerPoint slides were cluttered and too wordy, there was little flow and the stage setup confusing. Overall, although it was good information it wasn’t memorable and it was disappointing.

I’m not saying this to be critical of the individual who gave this talk, I’m simply illustrating the point that being an expert in a particular area doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be a good speaker on, or trainer of, their expertise.

So how can you avoid disappointment? As in hiring a coach or therapist, to avoid making any mistakes; first be clear on what you want. What does each of these areas give you? What do you gain – and what don’t you get?

A Speaker – delivers information and/or inspiration. Hopefully their presentation skills are up to par so that they can engage an audience and get the information across in a digestible way. A good speaker can be inspiring, memorable and leave a great impression. A bad speaker can leave your bored, confused and uninspired. A speaker’s main aim is to deliver information and allow their audience to reflect on the information and use it or not. The pSmiling-and-applauding-audienceurpose is to allow people to passively consider what they’ve learned and not necessarily to change anything in their lives.

A Trainer – imparts more than just information. A good trainer also facilitates positive change in participants. Trainings are generally more interactive. Trainings are more active and allow participants to grow and develop. A bad trainer will leave you with nothing but disillusionment. A good trainer is also inspiring and memorable, but more than just being a memorable presenter, they also give a memorable and practical set of skills and tools for change.

The difference between the two – trainer or speaker – can also be noted in how I’ve described the attendees in each case; an “audience” for a speaker, “participants” for a trainer. An audience sits back and says “Entertain/enlighten me”. Participants get involved and say, “Entertain/enlighten me and give me the tools so I can be better”.

So as in my last article about mistakes people often make when hiring a coach, make sure you know what exactly it is you want if you’re considering going to a talk or training. Here’s some questions to ask yourself so you don’t end up disappointed;

  • Is this event (training or talk/lecture) just for me or for others as well, my work team for instance? (This is particularly pertinent for organisations).
  • What do I want as a result of attending the training or talk, for myself and/or others?
  • Do I just want to be inspired and listen without being involved? – Go to a talk.
  • Do I want to learn new skills and come away a more effective person in [your context]? – Go to a training.

Once you’ve decided whether you want to attend just a talk or a more impactful training there is still a big consideration – how good is the trainer or speaker? So here’s a quick checklist to help you decide;

  1. As already mentioned, first be clear if you want a speaker or a trainer? Ask yourself the questions above.
  2. Ask about their training. Are they actually a trained speaker or trainer? Do they have any ‘teaching-type’ training? Lots of experts (and non-experts!) promote talks or trainings when they don’t really know how to.
  3. Do they know the content information on what they are speaking/training? This is a biggie – you’ll be surprised at how superficial (or just plain wrong) some presenters’ knowledge is. I’ve seen really good presenters give complete rubbish content and wrong information. Is what they’re delivering current and up to date or old and irrelevant? I think this can be dangerous; people can learn and then believe things that are just plain wrong.
  4. Is the speaker/trainer a specialist or generalist? I’d recommend going with the specialists.

Attending talks, lectures and trainings can all be wonderful experiences. I go to them all, and even buy online and DVD courses. To avoid disappointment, the balance is to find a good speaker or trainer who is well versed in the subject material. When you get this combination right, talks, lectures and trainings become wonderfully fulfilling experiences.

If you want a speaker for your organisation or group on any of my areas of expertise, drop me a line and find out more. If you’re wondering what areas of training I specialise in, drop by the training page and get in touch; talktoalan@optimum-mind.com

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