Wednesday, August 29, 2007

what to ask a media trainer

Whether you're booking a media training for someone on your team, or shopping around for your own training, use these questions to interview your prospects:
- what's your approach to media training? Media trainers have many different styles: Some want you to hammer a message over and over -- no longer considered a best practice in the field. Some have no experience as journalists, something we consider a distinct advantage. Some aren't up to speed on new media and answering questions from bloggers. Take the time to hear your prospective trainer's beliefs and approaches.

- can you combine media and presentation training? can you do both? Because media and presentation training share a basic skill set, a good trainer should be able to point out to you which skills work in many settings. However, if you're going to be doing multiple interviews or multiple speeches, consider a separate training for each specific skill.

- how do you price your training? Ask about group and individual rates, and be ready to discuss any special needs or goals you have. Group trainings are less expensive per participant, but mean less practice time for individuals, and some special needs are best corrected one-on-one.

- do you use video and audio recording? Effective training can be done without cameras, and may be less expensive; it's a fine option if you don't anticipate many television interviews. At the same time, seeing or hearing yourself on tape, while uncomfortable, offers the best feedback to help you learn. But don't assume cameras will be used--ask.

- will you offer a discount if I book more than one session?Always worth asking, followed by "how would two sessions change the training?"

- who else have you trained? may I speak with them? The best trainings happen one-on-one, so most trainers don't allow observers -- and some clients require confidentiality agreements from their trainers. But you should be able to talk to other referres, ideally someone in your profession or situation.

- what does your training cover? The answer will vary depending on the number of trainees and the amount of time, but you should get a fulsome list of skills to be learned during the session.

- how do you handle these special issues I have? A good trainer will admit when a specific issue -- such as a speech impediment -- is beyond her abilities, but should be able to bring in a specific type of coach to augment the training.

- how long are the trainings? what time of day do you recommend for training? We recommend no more than a half-day at a time, and prefer to train in the morning, for the same reason: Your energy. Training's intensive, especially one-on-one. Be sure you don't lose the learning because you're tired.

- what's your own experience as a speaker and trainer?Feel free to ask us how we learned the ropes. If you can, go see your trainer speak in front of a group.

- where do you conduct the training? Trainings shouldn't happen in your own office, where you can be interrupted and distracted. But they may take place in a conference room you provide, a hotel room, a television studio, or the trainer's own facility.

- for group trainings, are there guidelines on participation? See our post on why we prefer training groups of peers, rather than supervisors and subordinates.

- what will I need to do to prepare?You may need to provide a biography, messages you're already using in interviews and a list of your goals for the training. Your trainer should do independent research as well, looking at coverage of your topics and you, in order to help you develop effective messages and anticipate questions.

- what materials or resources do I get to reinforce my learning? Do you get take-away materials? Online resources? Follow-up consultations?
I'm always happy to answer questions like these to make your media training a better experience. Email Denise Graveline at info[at]dontgetcaught[dot]biz.

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