Learn from My Mistake: Be Sure to Prepare for Your Presentation!

Karen Perka

When I made the transition to professional technical trainer two decades ago, I’d already had a successful career as a nurse and director of admitting.

And on my first education project for a customer, I knew the application well. So I thought: How hard could it be to deliver the training?

Very hard, it turns out.

I failed spectacularly. The customer even asked me to get off the project. I was humiliated. Don’t worry; I’ve since recovered and significantly improved as a trainer. Mostly because I haven’t repeated the key mistake that led to the failure: a lack of preparation.

So, a memo to anyone tasked with being an instructor: Just because you’re a subject matter expert doesn’t mean you can deliver a good presentation.

If you fail to plan, you’re planning to fail. So, then, how do you plan to succeed? Here are three key pointers.

  1. Know your audience. What are their roles – supervisors, managers, end users? Different audiences have different needs. The specific challenges and goals of the people you’re serving should drive everything you do.
  2. Get the right tools. What training materials, exercises or job aids do you need? Keep in mind that using a variety of multimedia helps keep people engaged. Slideshows or video on a projector, flipchart, whiteboard, etc.
  3. Practice, practice, practice. An assured delivery is a compelling delivery. Practice using your audiovisuals without looking away from your audience. Be mindful of your potentially distracting personal tics – hand gestures, voice inflection and body language.

These may seem like basics, but they’re more important than the technical details. Train in the fundamentals, and you’ll be in fundamentally better shape than I was the first time I tried to lead training.

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