Tip of the Day: How to Be a Better Software Trainer

Editor's note: All this month we're publishing tech tips for nonprofits. Keep a look out for a new tip each day and let us know what you think in the comments. -Dan 

Many presenters make live or online training look easy. It’s not—at least, not for the occasional or first-time presenter facing a roomful of new users who need help learning complex software. Here are some thoughts on how to be a better trainer.

  1. Be yourself. Even if you haven’t done a lot of training, draw on your own style—everybody has one. Apply whatever personally traits make you good at talking or interacting with other people.
  2. Organize the presentation. It’s tempting to start at the beginning and walk through all the menus and pages and features of the software. Instead, pick two or three complete representative scenarios and walk through all the steps you will take in advance of demonstrating them. For this, you might find it helpful to make a slide show. Slides can also be insurance against disaster, such as an interruption in internet access, unexpected problems with the software, or anything else. Use introductory slides to set goals and expectations.
  3. Be like TV chefs. Take a page from Julia Child and all who have followed her. Viewers often see the beginning steps in great detail before the chef jumps to the finished product. Before a training, set up examples of your two or three scenarios; start with live entry, and then jump to commenting on a completed example
  4. Interactive doesn't have to mean hands-on. Hands-on-training is a luxury you can’t always afford, but you can make your session highly interactive even without it—and be all the more successful for it. Don’t wait until the end for discussion. Address your audience’s fears and anxieties. And make time for a follow-up session for new questions that may arise.
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