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The six keys to training success

by Andy Clutton

TCT002 - Chris Atkin portrait - HNChris Atkin of Total Comms Training reveals the six things you should do to get the most from training courses

Picture the scene, you are heading around the M25 in your car or van and your fuel gauge is gradually ticking down towards empty! You know you have to fill up, but you also want to get home as quickly as possible. You pass one set of services and then the next, but decide you can hold on for just another few miles. Filling up is such a chore.

For most people, training and continuous professional development is a lot like filling up their car. It’s a distress purchase and one they rarely look forward to.

But that’s the wrong way of approaching things. Training should be seen as an occasion, an event, even a joy – an opportunity to build on your professional skills and improve yourself. But what can you do, as someone attending a training session, to make sure you also get the most out of it? Here are my top six tips:

Don’t regard a training course as ‘just’ an attendance event: Take a holistic approach and use the session as a portal to open your mind to other possibilities. After the training, be proactive and use resources you can access online, as well as textbooks, to expand on the key points from the day, allowing you to gain further insight.

Studies suggest that after twenty minutes or so people tend to turn off a little bit if they are only listening to speech. By reinforcing the listening you do during the training session with a further layer of training created through private study, you will achieve much more. You only get as much out as you put in yourself.

Engage with the trainer during the day: The trainer is there to help you expand your knowledge base using intelligent questioning. Most trainers will be very keen to help you understand the course materials better. Not to mention, they will be pleased if you ask relevant questions outside the course materials. 

And don’t worry if you don’t know what the questions are until you attend the event. If you pick up one new and valuable piece of information that benefits your business, the investment in training will be worth it.

For me there are three ways of breaking down your questions. There are the ‘must-knows’, which will help you pass a critical examination. Then there is an area which we might call the ‘should-knows’, that help you increase on key areas of knowledge. Finally, there are ‘could-knows’, which are wider issues that could be expanded upon through further learning. Thinking about it in this way will help you prioritise your questions.

Bear in mind you are in a safe environment: When you go to a training session you are in a place where no-one is going to embarrass or criticiseFrustrated high school student you. In a sense, you have ownership of the event – the trainer is there to assist, help and guide you. In one respect, this is the fundamental message of City & Guilds.

But if you do feel shy or nervous, a good technique is to write the question down and approach the trainer during the break. This can often help create a useful post-break session from which the entire group will benefit.

Think about what you are learning: It might sound obvious, but the way you address information in your own mind is the key to understanding. You may have heard people say they can’t remember a word of their O-level or GCSE French. That’s often because the second they left the examination, they stopped thinking about the subject.

This can be particularly true if you have been sent to a training session by your boss, without being fully engaged yourself. The answer is to get involved and think about the subject matter; you are going to be there anyway – you may as well get as much from the event as possible.

Remember you are in a network: At the end of a training event there is always a feeling of sadness for me, as a trainer, because you have developed a relationship with the individuals you are helping. 

We all understand intuitively that people learn better in a group, so it makes sense to take advantage of the crowd. One of the best ways of doing this is to follow up via LinkedIn and build on those relationships in that way. And don’t forget to include your trainer in that group – we learn a lot from our delegates as well!

Reflect on the training long after the event: It pays to return to the subject of the training session several weeks after you have completed it to revise the material and ensure your learning is fully embedded.

It also pays to reinforce those skills every few years, which may mean re-sitting a qualification or attending an update session. My own business has many clients who come back time-after-time for further training to build on their existing skills. Just like filling up your car it doesn’t have to be a chore and it can provide you with the mental fuel you need for the journey ahead.

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