Based on my 20 years’ experience on the ‘receiving’ (client) side and 15+ years on the ‘giving’ (trainer/teacher) side, here are my thoughts on what it takes to be an effective international trainer:
Ten Tips for International Trainers
- Start well in advance. This is always challenging because budgets and approvals can block pre-planning activities but try and maintain progress even if it’s conditional on final approval.
- Insist on a complete brief and then confirm all key details via Skype® and in writing. There is no substitute for direct communication, especially if the client’s written English is not a strength.
- Confirm early on who is on the client team. If a regional training session is involved, key stakeholders may be based in different markets. Who are the key line managers? Is there a training manager involved? Is HR involved? Keep the entire team informed and regularly confirm their agreement.
- Identify longer lead-time issues and confirm agreement to goals and key activities. Examples include: venue, number of participants, budget, pre-workshop preparation such as readings, pre-workshop communication to participants, small group composition, and use of and specific case studies. Some materials may require payment of licensing fees and/or ordering lead-times.
- Arrive one day in advance to confirm all venue arrangements and minimize potential disruption from delayed travel connections and jet-lag. Meet with hotel conference staff. Confirm start/finish times and break/meal times and arrangements. Check out technology like audio/projection systems, WiFi, lighting controls, etc. Check out/use the fitness centre facilities. Get a good night’s rest.
- Insist on an in-person meeting with a client representative the day before the first training day. Are there any last-minute additions/changes required? How will any client ‘observers’ interact with the group? Any changes/fine- tuning to the schedule? For example, in Muslim countries, should prayers times be accommodated?
- Minimize distractions/maximize engagement during the training. For the past few years, I have insisted on collecting mobile phones which are returned during breaks. Some cultures are more ‘discussion-oriented’ which can be a challenge/opportunity. Use a ‘parking lot’ to note any topics that cannot be fully resolved during the session. Take frequent breaks. Intersperse ‘heavy’ content with short videos, exercises, and games that reinforce key concepts.
- Speak slowly and clearly using less complex English. Summarize key points frequently. Use plenty of illustrations.
- Check for understanding by using short quizzes, talking to participants at breaks and ‘insiders’ who will give you honest/candid feedback. Try using a short anonymous survey at the end of day 1 that asks two simple questions: i. Are you satisfied with the training so far? and ii. How could it be improved?
- Follow-up after the session with a timely and thorough report/conversation to ensure that the client was delighted and to explore extra-value activities. These could include additional training, access to self-learning resources, key concept reminders, etc. Follow-up again in 3-6 months to check in.