Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Helping communicators gain expertise in training experts: A new workshop


bombWhen it comes to making sure your company or organization doesn't get caught, training is key. But what if the out-front people--your experts--don't want to submit to training? Many times, instead of opting out in advance, they'll choose to blow up the training. Some take all the time allotted without letting training happen. Some stalk out, or come in announcing they can't stay the whole time. The worst of it: Because they've gone through the training, you're still paying for it.

Even so, blown-up trainings can be instructive. Here are some lessons for communicators I've observed:
  • You have to start where the trainee is: Too many communicators start training at a level they're comfortable with. But your experts don't know what you know...yet.
  • Often, your expertise is the one skill they don't have: Some of the smartest experts I know never learned how to communicate. Don't show them up. Do show them how. 
  • Understanding personality is key: Introverts can be great public speakers and interviewees...with prep. Extroverts can learn to rein it in...with prep. And each type is great at pretending they're not that way, which can trip you up. You can learn to recognize who's an introvert, or get them to tell you about it, with practice and observation.
  • You need to reflect their concerns to build trust: If you can't express what they're feeling--especially what's holding them back--or let them do so, they won't trust you. It's essential for trainers to build this level of credibility with trainees.
  • Those who blow up trainings reveal much more, so you'll learn things like where your expert is likely to step in it, verbal patterns, what she'll blurt out, and what his assumptions are. Soak it in, counter what you can, and use the intelligence to strategize better.
If I'm your trainer-for-hire, even if your expert blows up a training with me, I'll share a full set of observations and recommendations with you--and I ask a series of questions before we start to make sure trainings appear to be viable before you engage me. But you and your team will be doing plenty of training in less formal ways with your experts, doing pre-interview coaching, building an ongoing relationship, and helping them learn how to face new public situations from speeches with a Twitter backchannel to an especially challenging interview. Is your team consistent--and competent--in training your experts? Are you structuring training for experts so it works for them, as well as for you?

Clients have asked me to develop this workshop to help communicators work effectively with experts--a train-the-trainer session to make sure their communications teams understand how to counsel, coach and train experts for public appearances, media interviews and speeches. From understanding how your experts approach communications to learning effective techniques for training, sharing feedback and helping them learn by doing, the workshop offers ample opportunities to discuss tough cases, practice tactics and get feedback on your training style.

I'm bringing this workshop to clients privately this summer and would be delighted to do so for your company or organizational communications team. In addition, I'm working on dates for a special session this summer that individual communicators can attend in Washington, DC.  Email me at info[at]dontgetcaught[dot]biz for information about a custom session at your workplace, or about the session for individuals.
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