On the ICT team we wear many hats and have many responsibilities. We are technical specialists who support our company’s global development projects in the design and use of digital solutions. We are evangelists who teach others about the potential of digital technologies to enhance and sustain the impact of development programming. We are thought leaders who answer strategic questions about where digital development is as a technical field and where it might be going. These are the aspects of our work that often appear in our blog posts.
But another hat we wear is as trainers: It is our responsibility to familiarize our projects and clients with the fundamentals of digital design and to equip colleagues with practical knowledge on how to effectively integrate digital programming into their work so they can design and deliver their own digital programs. Since joining the team some 19 months ago, I have had the chance to train 100+ people in three countries on the fundamentals of digital development. Below are my biggest takeaways on how to ensure that participants get the most out of their training.
Pre-Training Engagement: I can’t stress this point enough. In fact, it is so important that I would divide it into three subpoints:
a) Market the Training Early: It has happened in the past that someone has approached me to say, “I heard about the training you ran, and I was so disappointed that I wasn’t there.” Getting the word out about a planned training and using local networks that can spread the word early offers those that stand to gain the most and would be the most engaged the chance to find out about and plan to attend your training.
b) Get the right people in the room: Of course, when offering an introductory training course on ICT4D, we want to be inclusive. After all, one of the things we stress in our trainings is how important it is for all project staff to understand how ICT can benefit their projects, not just specialists. But being clear during pre-training engagement about what the training will cover and what it will accomplish will help ensure that attendees will have the right expectations.
c) Collect information on your audience: As a trainer, you want to know who is in the room when you deliver a training. You want to have a sense for how comfortable people in your training are with digital tools, and in what capacity they have or hope to use them within the context of your work. You also want to know what they are ultimately hoping to get out of the training. Collecting this information (via survey, for example) before the training will help you to tweak and tailor the course content to best fit the needs of your audience.
Break the ice! This is another very important point. To get people comfortable with the setting and being open and conversational with one another and yourself, it is important to put them at ease early. This is particularly true for an ICT training since many of the people we train already come to the training feeling intimidated by ICT and wary of the technical level of the training and the jargon surrounding the field.
Use tailored, real world examples: Would you be surprised that when asked about what participants liked the most about a training session, the least likely answer you are going to get is “the presentation?” I didn’t think so. A presentation is a presentation is a presentation. But what we do hear a lot is what participants think about the specific examples we use during our presentations to illustrate how theory has been turned into practice. Make sure you use examples and that they speak to the context and experience of your audience based on the information you collected during pre-training engagement.
Keep it interactive Again, no one is thrilled to sit in a chair for an entire day straining their neck to look at slide after slide as a presenter’s voice seems to morph into a cartoonish mumble like the teacher in “Peanuts.” In all of our trainings, we have interactive sessions that break up each presentation content segment, during which participants apply lessons they have learned during the earlier presentations. These interactive sessions should foster discussion and teamwork. The interactive parts of our trainings consistently receive positive feedback, and it is common for participants to ask for more of them.
Hand out printed materials This point seems like it might not be as important, but the truth of the matter is that when we began handing out presentation context to participants so they could follow along and take notes on printed slides, we were surprised by how useful they found this simple thing to be. Let’s be honest—if you’re in a training session for an entire day, chances are that you won’t be sharp and attentive 100 percent of the time. Every now and then you will zone out, or maybe the slide will change before you are able to grasp its content. Being able to refer to printed materials during and, even more so, after a training is very useful.
Plan for feedback and collect it: If you want to make sure your training is accomplishing its goal and getting better, you need to be collecting feedback from participants on such things as whether the training was useful, whether it met their expectations, and what specific aspects of the training worked well and which could be improved upon. This feedback should ideally loop back to baseline data collected in pre-training engagement, so it is important to design pre-training engagement with post-training feedback in mind. For example, by asking “How comfortable would you be assessing whether a price quote from a potential software vendor” before AND after the training will offer you as a trainer the chance to gauge how well you are imparting practical knowledge on your audience.