The trainer makes the training

by | Apr 7, 2015

Lawrence-Corr-Modelstorming
Lawrence Corr in full swing at OptimalHQ, delivering Agile Data Warehouse Design.
Geoff posted a few weeks ago about what makes for good training. On his list were the right motivation and attitude on the part of attendees, a conducive environment, and most importantly good food. Conspicuously absent was “a great trainer”. We’ve all attended training where a voice up front droned through bad slides. I usually leave those sessions with a sneaking suspicion I’ve lost more knowledge than gained.
Last week at OptimalBI we hosted Lawrence Corr of DecisionOne, who gave his three-day workshop on Agile Data Warehouse design to an audience of seventeen. Given we stacked the audience with our favourite customers and plenty of our own people, used our fantastic training room with whiteboard walls, and nailed the food, it was all up to Lawrence to deliver! Over the course I learned plenty about AgileBI, but just as much about being a great trainer.
So what makes for a great trainer, and why does the trainer make the training?
Passion for the subject is the most important quality in my book. Without believing in the value of the knowledge transferred, the other qualities below are just fluff. Training that is just oratory will definitely engage the audience for an hour, before they realise the act and lose interest. This is all the more crucial for training content that has a tendency to be dry, which quite frankly applies to data warehouse design. As Lawrence co-wrote the book on Agile Data Warehouse Design I never doubted he would bring it to life, but his passion for the material was infectious and unflagging across twenty classroom hours.
Expertise is a close second to passion for the subject. Especially for multi-day workshops, the person up front has to go well beyond “presenting well with enthusiasm”. They need to weave in anecdotes to bring life to the concepts covered, and those are best when they come from on-the-ground experience. This builds credibility with the audience and puts the trainer in a strong position to respond to all those left-field questions that come up during the day. Lawrence’s three-day course covers a lot of ground but leaves plenty of room for participant questions, which he could always answer from experience. His time working for Channel Four in the UK was particularly informative, but he has dozens more customers to draw on!
Knowing when to dive deep versus push on rounds out my take on the qualities of great trainers. Those who don’t understand this fine balance tend to waste time chasing down detailed answers to vague questions only one participant cares about. Or even worse, they brush past even the very well-formed, widely interesting questions in order to stay on top of the schedule. Given the scope of Lawrence’s book, there was always a possibility for either to happen, but we got to beer-o-clock on the last day having covered everything and in just the right amount of detail.
From my perspective as a participant in this workshop, and a facilitator of our own “Optimal Introduction to BEAM” one-day workshop, the trainer makes or breaks the training. Even if the content, room and food are great you only have the conditions for success, but no guarantee. After the workshop we had a day with Lawrence talking through the future of his course and the possibilities are very exciting…watch this space for more!
Keep asking better questions,
Shaun
You can book your place on the next Data Driven Requirements Gathering Course here.

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