Hardware

Take your place at the head of the class

Too often trainers try to step out of the classroom spotlight. Elisa Suiter explains how to stand and deliver as the trainer in charge.


It’s our job as trainers to take our place in the classroom—front and center. I’ve seen too many trainers trying to blend in with the audience and giving up their physical presence as the person in charge. We must stand and deliver instead of sitting and hiding.

Face your audience
No matter what the size of your audience, attempt to have your classroom designed so that you’re facing them. This is especially true for lecture-style classes.

I had to work in a poorly designed computer training lab that was set up with the audience facing the wall for two years. Here’s how I compensated: We had regular tables set up for the lecture sections of training, and we’d move to the computers for hands-on lessons. The tables gave students areas for writing and spreading out a bit. Moving to the computers gave them a chance to get out of their seats instead of being stuck in front of the computer all day. The beauty of this setting is that it shows the class you’re in control and makes it easier to focus on you.

On your feet, soldier
The only time you should sit down with the rest of the class is if you’re participating in some activity with them. When you sit down during a lecture, it becomes harder for students to concentrate and for you to gauge your students’ interest and comprehension.

The eyes have it
Always make eye contact with your audience. Don’t stare at any one person too long unless he or she is speaking to you or you’re trying to get a talkative person’s attention. Don’t look down either. Casting your eyes downward gives a sense of nervousness or lack of confidence on your part. It’s also a sign of not knowing what you’re going to do or say next.

Be careful not to wander around the room too much. Wandering around can also be a sign of nervousness. When I first started training, students asked me to slow down because they were getting dizzy watching me pace from side to side. Of course, there are some exceptions. If you have a long rectangular classroom, which I did, occasionally wander from one end of the room to the other so that students in the back don’t feel neglected. Just time yourself so you don’t make them dizzy.

Lose the computer
Don't hide behind a PC in the audience. Instead, set up a trainer’s workstation in the front of the room and work from there—or have different students navigate your computer to enhance training. Students paid greater attention because they never knew when they were going to navigate for me. My trainer’s computer was hooked up to a Proxima overhead projector so everyone could follow my instructions.

Observe them
Keep your eyes on the students and constantly observe their actions and reactions. With frequent observation, you can tell several things:
  • Do they understand the material? If you are getting the impression that they aren’t quite getting the picture, then explain the material in another way. Metaphors and analogies are always good to have handy.
  • Do they need a pick-me-up? Consider giving them a break if it’s been at least 50 minutes since the last one. Or consider an activity that will energize them or break the monotony of listening.
  • Do you need to separate cliques? I have often found myself having to separate talkative groups. If I’m in the middle of a topic, I use these subtle methods to signal my displeasure:
  • Walking over to the group and standing.
  • Staring at the group—while maintaining a smile.
  • Restating my general comment, “If anyone has a question, please make sure you direct it to me to ensure the correct answer. Besides, you never know when the person next to you has the same question.”
  • The first three techniques didn’t work? I get the point across by asking point-blank, “Do you have a question or statement you’d like to share with the rest of the class?” Or “Please write your questions down on a sticky note for me.” Or “Please wait until the next break to continue your conversation.” At that point, you can usually hear a pin drop.

Whatever it takes, get back where you belong, as presenter, leader, instructor, and communicator—the front of the class.
What do you do to maintain your presence as class leader? Share your advice by either posting your comments to this article or sending me a note .

Editor's Picks

Free Newsletters, In your Inbox