FROM THE MOMENT THE TRAINER walked into the room you knew he had presence. Everyone could feel his presence. Several people even whispered, “Wow! This guy’s got presence!”. As he introduced himself it turned out ‘Presence’ was his middle name. For the whole day eyes were fixated on him, pulse rates went up, and everyone who watched him couldn’t help but perspire. Obviously this guy has got presence. But what exactly is this magical substance called presence?
It means you, as the person controlling the room, are focussed on what you need to be focussed on. When a trainee is sharing with the rest of the class, you are focussed on what they are saying. When you are sharing an anecdote with the class, you are focussed on how the trainees are reacting. [quote float=”right”]At any moment in the training, you are focussed on exactly what you need to be focussed on.[/quote]When trainees are practicing, you are focussed on making sure the trainees are following the instructions. When time is tight, you are focussed on bringing the process to a stop. At any moment in the training, you are focussed on exactly what you need to be focussed on.
Quite often, it can be very difficult to maintain presence. For example, you could be 15 minutes late to the class, because the taxi driver took you to the wrong place. As you introduce yourself you are thinking curse that taxi driver, why was he so stupid! As a result, you speak a bit slower, your eyes look up and down as you recall what happened, and you forget what you are saying. Worse still, when you look at the PowerPoint slide that you’ve just been describing you realise you’ve been describing the wrong slide!
As the class goes on, you fail to notice which trainees have not understood your instructions and you fail to notice if people are following the instructions. Slowly the class goes out of control, as you you miss critical timings. [quote float=”left”]Slowly the class goes out of control, as you you miss critical timings.[/quote] The trainees feel you are unprofessional. They feel disconnected from you. They feel you’re not paying them attention. They don’t feel interested in the class, and are now demotivated to learn.
It may not be a taxi driver that steals our presence. It could be anything from a mobile phone message, nervousness, or issues in our personal life. So how we can develop and maintain this magical presence stuff?
Here are 3 tips:
1. Be Prepared
The more prepared you are, the less you have to worry about what comes next in your PowerPoint slide deck, and the easier you will find it to focus on what you need to at that moment in time. The amount of preparation required really depends on many different factors. But if you feel no need to worry about what comes next then most likely you’re well enough prepared.
If you are quite new in the field of training and facilitation, then it will be a great to help to have a very detailed plan. Plan down to the minute if you can. Plan backups. This doesn’t mean you need to follow your plan exactly, but it will at least give you peace of mind.
Give yourself time to get into the right frame of mind. [quote float=”right”]Give yourself time to get into the right frame of mind.[/quote]If you’ve arrived late due to bad traffic and you’re quite flustered, then take some time to calm down. Tell the class you need an extra 10 minutes or so before you launch into your course.
2. Snap Back.
At times, you will forget to focus on what you should be focussing on, and you will get distracted. So, just snap back. It’s really that simple. Notice when you’ve drifted, and come back. If you missed what a trainee was saying, ask them to repeat it again. If you’ve lost where you were in the course, take a few moments just to look back at your slides. Focus on regaining your focus as opposed to pretending you didn’t lose your focus in the first place. Pretending is just another distraction to damage your focus.
3. Forgive Yourself.
Everyone makes mistakes. The more quickly you forgive yourself, the less time you will spend thinking about what you should and shouldn’t have done, which in itself is yet another distraction. It happened. Get over it. Move on. Now focus on the task at hand.
It can take years of practice to develop the level of presence described at the beginning of this article. Author, Malcolm Gladwell, in his book ‘Outliers‘, believes it takes over 10,000 hours to reach mastery in any field, and training is no different. Ten thousand hours is equivalent to 10 years of experience, so if you are just starting your career in training and development, don’t expect to be a master in only a month or even a year. And if you’re looking for a training company to assist you with the development of your organisation, be sure to find one that is over 10 years!
Want to learn more about ClarkMorgan’s Train-the-Trainer (TTT) programs? Click here.