Expert Interview Series: Marsha Weisleder of Langevin Learning Services Inc. About How to Effectively Train Trainers

Marsha Weisleder is a course leader for Langevin Learning Services with over 20 years of experience as a training professional who has trained thousands of clients. We recently had a chance to sit down with Marsha to hear her thoughts on best practices for trainers and coaches, the challenges they face, and the ways they help their students achieve their potential.

Why is Langevin better than other “train-the-trainer” coursework providers?

Langevin Learning Services is the world’s largest and most renowned “train-the-trainer” company in the United States, Canada, and abroad. Originating in 1984, we have trained thousands of clients from Fortune 500 companies and government agencies from over 100 countries. Our courses are skill-based, highly interactive, and relevant, and also incorporate real world scenarios. Our material is drawn from years of experience in the training industry and is based on well-documented research. Our main goal and focus are consistent: to improve performance on the job. We offer a one-year unlimited post-course follow-up service, and we always receive rave reviews from our clients.

If a trainer were to say to you, “Conducting real-world training sessions is more valuable for a trainer’s growth and development than taking additional ‘train the trainer’ courses,” how might you respond?

Yes, trainers can learn on the job. But think about having the ability to learn and apply best practices in a safe and controlled learning environment – all while getting valuable, constructive feedback from your peers and course leader. Which is better? I would choose the latter.

What are some common course design pitfalls that make training sessions less interesting? How can the trainer eliminate these from the curriculum?

Can you say, “Death by PowerPoint?”

Over the years I’ve been working with clients, I still see training materials that are basically a data dump or slide show featuring instructors standing at the front of the room reading slides to the group. Instead, let’s focus on tasks and the things people do in their jobs. Let’s present the information in an interactive way and give the participants plenty of opportunities for practice. As we say at Langevin, “Never do for the learners what they can do for themselves.” You know it’s a great course when the learners are working harder than the instructor.

Other than participants who are being forced to take a training course they don’t want to take, what are some other examples of “difficult participants,” and how should the trainer handle these individuals?

Unfortunately, it’s a long list. You’ve got the latecomer, the cell phone addict, the dominator, the know-it-all, the skeptic, and the sidebar talker, just to name a few.

Fortunately, there are simple strategies we can use to handle them. Typically, we start with subtle interventions where it’s not as obvious that we’re dealing with the issue. For example, if I have someone engaging in a sidebar conversation, I could move closer to that individual while I’m presenting, I could take a silent pause, or I could use that person’s name in a sentence. (You’d be amazed how often people react to hearing their own name, even if they’re talking.) I could even change up the table groups.

Now, if these subtle techniques didn’t work, I would then move on to a more direct approach with a private discussion. I would say the following, “I’m so glad that you’re here and I appreciate all of your insights in class. It’s just that when there are sidebar conversations, I get distracted. It would help me if we could limit them to break time. What do you think?” This type of language is respectful and nonconfrontational, and it always does the trick!

Finish this sentence: “The biggest difference between how adults learn and how children or teenagers learn is…” 

that adults bring a vast amount of experience with them. That means they want to speak, participate, and contribute to the session. Adults also want courses that focus on real-life problems rather than academic material. They don’t like their time being wasted. This means that trainers must use real world scenarios with a strong how-to focus.

What are some additional challenges that virtual trainers must face that don’t affect conventional trainers?

The biggest challenges are not being able to see the participants, managing a new learning platform, and dealing with possible technical issues. With regards to seeing our participants, we’re so used to making eye contact and interpreting body language. Luckily, we have other ways of reading our participants in the virtual classroom, such as feedback icons and comments in the chat pod. As for the new platform, it’s important to do your homework and master the virtual classroom software and tools so you can assist your learners. Finally, with technical issues we can mitigate unexpected issues by creating a troubleshooting guide. Most importantly, we should stay calm as we assess the situation.

What are some of the intangible benefits that a person might receive from completing a training workshop?

Participants walk away with renewed self-confidence that they can do their jobs better. They leave energized, refreshed, and ready to tackle challenges with a new perspective. All of this leads to higher employee engagement and morale.

Over the next decade, how much of a role will continuing education and professional development courses play in shaping future business leaders?

Continuing education will always play a vital role in shaping tomorrow’s leaders. Few of us are born to lead. So what do great leaders do differently than the rest? They continue to develop their skills so they can reach their full potential. They embrace learning so they can grow and take on new challenges.

I love this quote, “The key to success is to never stop learning. The key to failure is to think you know it all.”

Start your “never stop learning” journey today by viewing open courses.

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