“Need a New Year’s Fix? Try Vic’s Top 10 Tips for Trainers” by Vic Bonacci

Vic Bonacci here, writing for Sharon’s blog. Are you a trainer with a passion for continuous improvement? Do you believe that lifelong learning is a key to satisfaction and success? Then read on for my “Top 10 Tips for Trainers” for 2017.

I do a moderate amount of training each year, and one of the things I love about training is that learning goes two ways. Each time I finish conducting a session, I’m fascinated by the many new things I’ve taken away, whether related to content or process. So, if you are on the lookout for new techniques to sharpen your skills or to set challenging goals, I would like to provide my “Top 10 Tips for Trainers.”

1. Stay Positive

One of the most significant improvements you can make to your teaching is changing the way you think about it. Beginning a new year is a great time to figure out how to adjust your mindset. Mindset has a powerful impact on how you experience your work and whether or not your training room is a happy and safe place for you and your students. Positivity reduces fear and increases learning.

A couple of things to try outside of work include creating a support group with other trainers and building mindfulness practices into your regular routine. Both of these activities will help you reduce stress, feel more purposeful, and actually become more productive and positive.

2. Spice Up Your Routine

Here’s another area we could all improve on. If your training class isn’t run well and your students aren’t focused, it’s pretty hard to get anything else done. You can attack this issue from a lot of different angles.

For example, try one new technique from Sharon’s book “Training from the BACK of the Room” (or other resources) each time you train to keep things new and challenging for both you and your students. Going through the book and making a list of techniques you haven’t yet used will help you focus.

3. Build Fitness into Your Curriculum

Another spicy tip is to make health a classroom affair. By integrating movement into your training activities, you’ll surely get your routine out of any rut it may have been stuck in. Also, simply encouraging your students to take care of their bodies throughout the day might be enough of a motivator to get them moving more. And the more we get our blood flowing, the better our retention of the material. (Remember that trump about movement…)

Health-related bonus: Think about food. If you provide meals or snacks, try offering some alternative healthy foods. Sugars and simple carbohydrates will spike insulin levels, giving you – and your students – immediate energy but long-term brain fog. Instead, look to provide complex carbs: whole grains, nuts, carrots and veggies.

4. Get Students Involved and Empowered

Do you start your sessions by having students share their goals for what they hope to achieve? If not, you’re leaving money on the table. By giving your students more control over their learning objectives and activities, they will take more ownership of their learning and use their experiences and interests in a positive way.

Sharon’s 4Cs are filled with opportunities to get your students involved – and C3 (Concrete Practice) is the mother lode. Here, your students will be actively practicing their new skills and teaching each other, while you observe from the back of the room.

5. Freshen Up Your Slide Presentations

Chances are, you probably use at least some PowerPoint slides in your sessions. But are you familiar with best practices for slide creation? Most people aren’t, and that means the world is chock-full of heinously ineffective slideshows, a.k.a. “Death by PowerPoint.”

To start improving your slides, go to Sharon’s Slides About PowerPoint web page. In minutes you’ll start to understand exactly what needs to change about your slideshows, and you’ll be motivated to fix them.

6. Dress to Impress Yourself

Don’t worry. We haven’t turned this into a fashion blog, but I would like to share a valuable tip that you might not have thought of: what to wear. Don’t underestimate how feeling good in your clothes and wearing something you love can lift your mood and start your day on a positive note. And considering that we tend to be on our feet moving around for the better part of eight hours, comfort is key! So grab a few new, fun pieces to add to your typical outfits and turn the front (or back) of the room into your own personal runway!

7. Get Organized – Work Smarter, Not Harder

If organization is your issue, the first tip I can give you for getting more organized is to narrow that goal down to something more specific: Do you want to manage your time better? Organize your digital files? Pull together all the pieces of dozens of little training materials you have going on? Here are some tools that can get you started:

To organize your time, try Google Calendar. It might take a little while to learn it, but soon you’ll be able to keep all of your important events, daily tasks, birthdays, everything on it. And what I love is that it’s also synced with my phone, so I get reminders on the go as well.

To organize your digital files and and other digital materials, consider using a cloud-based storage platform like Dropbox or Google Drive.

To organize your ideas, a note-taking tool like Evernote can really help you keep all the pieces in one place.

8. Get Your Work/Life Balance in Order

As best you can, keep your work at the training site and enjoy your time at home (or in your hotel, or wherever you find yourself when you’re not at work). It’s tempting to tweak your slides or update your lesson plan in the evenings, but it usually only leads to exhaustion. Treat yourself with relaxation or exercise – it makes you sharper in the next session.

After extended time in the classroom, some people can’t let off steam unless they head to Vegas or Cancun. Others find a golf course or hiking path, or they may just unplug at home with family and a stack of books. Whatever your outlet, make sure it’s available to you in some form wherever you are. Making yourself happy will be better for you AND your students.

9. Plan Your Move Up the Pay Scale

You’re out there doing the work and getting better at it with each session. In effect, you’re making yourself more valuable by the hour. But have you considered adding professional development hours or graduate credits? Is there a new position you can move into? It’s vital to consider what your career goals are and to take action before you get complacent!

Maybe there’s a certification you can work to earn. Often this is the absolute best professional decision you can make, significantly impacting the quality of your teaching. Even re-certifications can raise your expectations for yourself and drastically change the way you measure the quality of your training work.

10. Set Goals & Avoid Autopilot Mode

I don’t mean your work and official achievement goals; I mean your own personal training goals. What are one or two things you think are important but forget as soon as the flurry of the training gets in the way? Keep a notepad handy (electronic is fine) to jot down these ideas as they spring up. Take time to focus on one achievable goal a month, perhaps setting aside the same date each month, and make improvement a priority.

If you made it this far through this blog post, you’re clearly interested in improving yourself. So, if you’re not improving, you’re likely in pain. Let’s fix this by focusing on it. Start small, and make the goals SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-based). Get an accountability buddy if you need to – a family member, friend, or work colleague – and keep yourself off autopilot mode.

What resolutions will you bring to your classes and training in 2017? Please share your comments on this blog post.

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About Vic Bonacci 

Vic started his career as a filmmaker, then worked a few years as a teacher before moving into software development. He grew into project management roles, but his role as an Agile coach, facilitator, and trainer is clearly the “sweet spot” where he feels most effective, passionate and happy. He is a Certified Trainer for “Training from the BACK of the Room!”

In 2012 Vic created Agile Coffee for the purpose of bringing together the local Agile/Lean community around a focal point of conversations. As more trainer/coaches joined the community, they exchanged many creative ideas – and consumed a lot of coffee! Vic’s use of the moniker “Agile Coffee” owes as much to the Lean Coffee (and What is Lean Coffee?) movement as to his own love for the roasted bean. You can find out more about Vic on this website’s Certified Trainers page and on his previous blog post (and podcast – click HERE).

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