Who is more important? The Trainer or the Trainee! This is very similar to the question – Is theater about the actor on the stage or the spectator watching the play?
This is a difficult question for some people to answer and much easier for others. I am in the latter category. I have a strong opinion about it – which is, in all fairness, very contrarian. Training or facilitation or coaching or mentoring or any of the many avatars it comes in – is more about the trainer than it is about the trainee.
I know what you are thinking. What an egoist! Right? But hear me out here.
Why do people pay to go watch a play? Or a concert? They could spend far less money, and watch a recording at home. It is more comfortable too. Plus they can watch it whenever they feel like, without having to schedule their time around the performer’s convenience. Yet, there is something about performance when it is experienced life that can never quite be felt when watching a recording. Which is why people go to the trouble of attending live performances. Is corporate training a kind of performance art too?
I believe that an Instructor-Led Training (ILT) is performance art. People are willing to invest time, effort, and money to attend a session about a topic that has a million videos on youtube – many times by more accomplished trainers than you and me. Then there are Coursera, LinkedIn Learning, Udemy, and many other online platforms that provide very high-quality self-paced training sessions by the whos-who of the world – at a fraction of the price of an ILT. Why do people pay you and me then?
There is something about the experience of live learning which is worth the hassle. Something that makes it better than going with more easily available content by more accomplished trainers at a lower price, more comfortably, and with a wider variety of material.
So, when people say to trainers that “Remember the training is not about you. Don’t make it about yourself”, I am forced to disagree. Vehemently!
The training is a lot about the trainer. I don’t say this with a sense of pride, but instead with a sense of responsibility. If people are taking the trouble to come to you after declining lots of great choices, it becomes your responsibility, almost your duty, to make that trouble worth its while. If 30 people attend your session that lasts 3 hours – you are responsible for ensuring a total of 90 hours are worth the trouble.
Stop pretending, or listening to people who say, that it is not about you. It is about you. You are expected to work hard on this session. You are expected to give them an experience that will be memorable. You have to invest a lot of time to create a hero moment for your learners.
You have to stop shirking your responsibility by saying I will let everyone in the session share their thoughts as they are all experienced in this field as well. (Of course, they are. I am not denying their experience or expertise). But that’s not why they have come to you. They are here to listen to your experience. That’s why they are paying you – with their money and their time.
If the theater was about the audience, the actors would be constantly asking them what they feel about this dialogue and that plot twist. They don’t. Because the actor on the stage is more important, and the audience is paying for the privilege of enjoying that experience.
You probably have another question: We have talked about the trainer and the trainee. But, what about the training itself then? Well, if they remember you (and your performance), rest assured that they will remember your training too. That’s how the human mind works. People are not memorable in isolation. They are memorable in the context of the experience they have created for the people around them.
When you start considering yourself as a performer (and not a panelist in a discussion), you will up your game – and provide your audience with something that they will remember for a long time. Focus on the training session. Focus on the learners and their needs.
But, don’t forget yourself. You are a very vital ingredient of this recipe. Don’t listen to anyone who says otherwise