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Seb Anthony

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First time training – anxiety issues



I've been asked if I'd be happy to take over running an internal training course (I am a support analyst normally).

I've been looking around for information on training as I've never done it before or even really done any presentations etc.

I've found some useful information on this site, if anyone knows of any other good 'beginners guides' around it would be really helpful. I will be training people from a range of technical abilities.

Also I have issues with the whole standing up in front of people thing, I'm usally a fairly introverted and shy person. I'm not sure how I'll cope with it until I do the first one, so is there anything I can do/read beforehand to prepare myself for this?

I'm really up for doing it, but I'm worried my nerves will get the better of me.

16 Responses

  1. First Time Trainer

    I came into training having had no previous experience so I understand exactly where you are coming from.

    If I were you I would look to go on a short course for train the trainer (lots of suppliers out there and usually not too expensive) as they will cover the basics in design, presentation, using training materials and dealing with delegates etc.

    Other than that I would try and get opportunities to observe others training as you can pick up alot about structure, tone, body language and lots of other stuff from them.

    Make sure you know your topic, review all the materials available and run through them with someone so you have a good understanding. Don’t worry you don’t have to be an expert and it is OK not to know something as long as it is not too fundamental to the course.

    The next thing I would say is practice, practice, practice!!! in front of work colleagues or friends but someone you feel comfortable with and someone who will give you honest feedback. Even use a video recorder as watching yourself back is a great way to see how you come across.

    Finally, for the nerves, if you do all of the above you will start to feel better and more confident.

    Practical exercises within the course keep delegates busy and also give you time to have a breather and gather your thoughts.

    Try grounding (it worked for me!!) I have a ring and I imagine nice calming thoughts (like being on holiday!) then touch the ring with my finger. This way when I am nervous I just touch the ring and I associate this with the calming thoughts and I feel better! Might sound a bit daft but it worked for me.

    Finally, if you panic and need a minute have an extra break, send them for coffee while you get sorted out.

    Don’t worry too much…after the first 10 minutes you will feel alot better and I hope you enjoy it. Loads of luck!


  2. Ask for feedback
    This may sound really obvious but the best way to get good at this is to ask for help – not just from us – but from your audience (as they are internal).

    Ask them what they hope to get out of the course at the start, put the points up on a flipchart, tick them off as you go through them, address any unanswered points at the end, ask them for feedback at the end.

    Practice is good, but try not to be a robot, learn to talk around bullet point notes – not to recite them.

    Don’t go for death by power point – I prefer my trainees to look at me not the wall when I’m delivering (unless it’s systems training…).

    Remember – your audience don’t know that you are introverted and shy – unless you tell them.

    Remember – your audience don’t know it’s your first time – unless you tell them.

    Remember – your audience haven’t heard the material before – they won’t know when you make a minor wording error etc. – unless you tell them.

    It’s up to you how much or how little you tell your audience.

  3. Thanks for your comments
    Thanks for all your comments, they are very helpful.

    The course doesn’t use Powerpoint in its current form anyway, and I don’t intend to put it in.

    I do intend to re-write the course as I went on it myself a while ago and saw some room for improvement. Plus I’ll know it better than if it was all content by someone else.

    It also has exercises spaced fairly evenly throughout, which will help he take breathers. Luckily it’s only a one day course, usually takes from about 9:30 to 4:30 including coffee and lunch breaks.

    I’m feeling better about it now, I think once I get throught the first half hour or so I’ll be fine.

    Is there a recommended way to start, like what questions to ask the people about themselves, etc?

    I intend to try and find out their level of expertise on the subject before the course so I’m prepared for what range I’ve got to deal with.

  4. Tips
    Hi Simon,

    I have always been terrified of talking to groups and still get nervous after several years as an IT trainer. It sounds like you are doing IT training from your post, so I’ll pass on a few of my tips.

    – Arrive really early so you have plenty of time to get drinks for people and chat to them, find out a bit more about them etc. Then you ‘know’ them a bit before you start and you’re not in a room full of strangers, and neither are they. Also they’re on your side from the start as you made them a coffee!!

    – Don’t use the traditional classroom setup. I sit with the learners rather than at the front of the room like a school teachers. This helps their nerves (lots of people are frightened of coming to training, particularly IT, as they had bad experiences at school) as well as mine as I’m not standing up in front of a room full of expectant faces.

    – Take some deep breaths before you start – no-one will know you’re nervous as Nick says. And most people only wish they had the guts to do what you are. Fear of public speaking is pretty widespread!

    Good luck and let us know how it went.

  5. Relax
    The important thing to remember (which helped me when I first started) is that your audience are on your side, they want you to do well so they get the benefit out of the course.
    No one will go into the course wanting you to fail.
    And the other thing is that if you make a mistake (forget where you are or say the wrong thing) it will seem a lot worse to you than your audience.

  6. Introductions
    You asked for possible things to start with. It often helps to get people laughing early on, so a couple of suggestions:

    If they already know each other, you could ask each person to introduce themselves, give a bit of background and then share one interesting thing that nobody else is likely to know about them.

    If they don’t know one another, and you have them sitting in groups, then after the basic introductions, ask them to find one thing that, as a group, they have in common.

    Another thing that I do at the beginning of every course is to ask people for their expectations. It gives you a chance to interact before the more formal stuff, and also gives you a very good feel for their expectations of the day.

    Very good luck – we’ve all been there and all felt much the same.


  7. Don’t panic!

    I still remember having to take my first training course without any other trainer to support me… I was so scared! But lo and behold, I loved it.

    The first thing I was sure to do was write my own tutor brief. It makes you feel much more confident in what you’re doing.

    To build rapport, use an ice breaker which isn’t “what’s your name and where you from?”! There are plenty of websites with great energisers, or just do what i do, ask the basic questions then ask delegates a random question like “if you were an animal, what animal would you be?”… just remember to include yourself to the ice breaker, let your audience know you’re on their level.

    just remember that your audience have probably never been on the course you;re running… so they don’t know what’s right or wrong! if you miss a topic, just add it in at another time… no one will know!

    just be confident… a year on, i still feel a lack of confidence in my training but yesterday a delegate who i had back 6 weeks after his induction told me that i’m a great trainer. fancy that!

  8. first time
    Lots of good points here for you.
    I use a good ice breaker (depending on size of group and time available) it’s like paired introductions but with a script – so everyone asks their partner a set of questions and then introduces them to the group using their answers. I provide a simple sheet with the questions and spaces to record answers.
    I find it’s useful to mix in questions about the course – “What do you most want to get out of today?”, “What’s the most difficult part of…” etc. and short easy questions like favourite TV programme, favourite food takeaway etc.
    It’s useful to write expectations up and revisit them during the course and fun to pick one of the other questions – like favourite takeway and tally up votes on that too. (In my experience Chinese nearly always wins).
    As just about everyone else has mentioned – only you will know if you make any mistakes or miss anything out. The good thing is – you will know – and it’s perfectly OK to say “Oh, I forgot to mention…”
    Good luck!

  9. Just try 1 new thing
    Sometimes it can be overwhelmingly trying to remember all the advice & tips you have been given.

    Whilst it is important to always try and improve your training sessions, dont try and do everything.

    I find it helpful to try and remember 1 new thing each time and focus on doing that in your session. There is always next time to try something else.

    Not every idea works for everyone so use what you are comfortable with and forget the rest.

    Enjoy the experience.

  10. First Time Training
    My advice is two-fold:
    Try and do your first session with another trainer. This allows you to take chunks of the training course and deliver but give you a bit of recovery time when your partner is doing their bit.
    I was involved in some IT roll-out training last year and found that because we knew our subject inside and out we expected everyone to get it as quickly as we could deliver it (having practiced it a million times beforehand). If possible, practice on someone who can give you feedback on the pace of the course. You should also ask for feedback on the pace during the break so you can slow it down if need be. Good luck!

  11. Be Honest

    As everyone else has said, they won’t know what you’ve finished out or done in the wrong order.

    One important thing I think, if you do miss something out, tell them (when you’ve remembered it)and cover the information.

    If someone asks a question that you don’t know, be honest – tell them that you don’t know, and will get back to them. I usually make a note on my whiteboard of the question and even who asked it.

    I do use humour quite a bit, and make jokes out of my mistakes – I’m usually forgiven and we move on.

    Just do your best, and good luck.


  12. Opening night nerves

    I was once advised to never admit that it is your first time training. The advice went on to say, concentrate on the experience you have to impart/bring to the situation, i.e. I have been a programmer for 10 years. Qualify this by stating you don’t have all the answers, but can access them.

    Use a ‘Parking sheet’ for all the questions you can not answer. At work we use sheets with a large ‘white on blue P’ in the middle to identify the parking sheet (Like a parking sign) – download a sing from clipart and pre-print/laminate it. This works on the premise that you are not necessarily a total expert, and will get back to people with the answers. Introduce this at the start of the session (domestics), sets you at ease and delegates know it is there. Give the delegates post-it notes to write their questions on, this means that you don’t have to go and write on to the parking sheet and therefore reduces the feeling of not being able to answer their questions.

    I was equally guided in the INTRO way of developing sections of the programme

    Introduction – tell the delegates what you are going to address/cover
    Need – tell the delegates why this is relevant
    Timing – let the group know how long they have
    Remainder – Content/activity
    Outcome – tell the delegates what they have covered/learned

    Another way of looking at it is;

    Tell them what you are going to tell them

    Tell them (delivery/content)

    Tell them what you have told them.

    Try not to pack too much in, give them things to do – as many activities as you can. If you finish ahead of time and they leave early, they will probably be fine with that.

    Introduce a topic with a question and an activity which gives the group the opportunity to demonstrate what they already know, then fill in the gaps in their knowledge.

    If you are using PowerPoint print out all the slides as handouts, (your notes) so you can refer to what is coming next.

    Check out; Mindtools – communication skills – Better public speaking and presenting.

    Also have a look at businessballs lots of materials and background stuff on learnnig styles, stages of group development and activities for team building etc…

    To do an instant evaluation of the programme you could finish with

    1 thing I didn’t know
    1 thing I found useful
    1 thing I want to find out more about.

    Hope it goes well – ask them for feedback.

    Feel free to e-mail me if you need to clarify any of the above.

    [email protected]

  13. Good luck!!
    Hi Simon,

    Some great advice from a lot of people, i think the thing to remember is that everyone has been there and most of us felt exactly the same as you.

    To my mind preparation is the key – spend the time to make sure you are comfortable with your material and know what you are going to deliver and when. I also find it useful to prepare a top level aide
    memoir for you to refer to if you lose track.

    As many other correspondents have stated you will be the only one who knows if you’ve made a mistake or missed something out, just return to it when you realise.

    Don’t be afraid to try new things and don’t worry if they don’t work – chalk it down to experience – some of my greatest ideas that i get most excited about at my desk turn into car crashes when i try them, but with tweaking the original idea you usually get a result.

    As for the nerves, I’ve been delivering training for almost 10 years now and i still feel nervous before a session, particularly if its a new session – personally i think the nerves keep you on edge and when you start to lose those nerves, maybe you may not be so effective.

    Best of luck fella – let us know how you go on.

  14. Enjoy
    I have been delivering training for years and still get nervous (I think most trainers do). You have already had a lot of good advice which I won’t repeat so I will keep it short.
    Here are the 2 things I tell myself before every course I run
    1) They wouldn’t ask me do it if they didn’t think I could do it.
    2) Delegates want to enjoy the course and want to see me enjoying myself

    All the best – just be aware that once you’ve done it once you will almost certainly want to do it again and again and again.

  15. Thanks again
    Thanks again for all your help. Some very helpful stuff there, lots to think about. Thought I’d let you know I am still checking back regularly and reading all your comments!

    I’ve now got a better situation, where I’m writing a basic course from scratch and delivering it to only a couple of people who I know well anyway, so I’m fine about doing it. It will also be very informal. This way I can test how I feel in the training room and get an idea of how it will be ‘for real’ with a more formal environment. I’ll let you know how I get on…

  16. Barry White
    Good luck Simon. I still get nervous every time, after quite a few years of training but I agree that it can add something too.
    We seem to all have our own way of coping and there is loads of good advice here. Not just for being nervous but if I’m not in the best of moods (i.e bad weekend, my team lost, or other hassles) then I play a bit of music on earphones to myself (or sing loudly in the car)and get as positive as I can before I start. This just puts it all in perspective for me and it helps me feel more confident and ready to go. Barry White – My Everything(as in Ally Macbeal) works particularly well!


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