When I was engaged in training in for a Government Department, we had to devise a new training course to reflect new legislation. The Act had been passed, the implications had been studied, and the critical teaching points had been extracted. It was now time to decide on the methods of instruction. The boss looked around the group with a twinkle in his eye and said “Well you know what’s going to happen. I am going to create the PowerPoint presentation and Michele is going to find another way to do it!!”

It appears my love of innovative training was well known to the group! Now there are very good academic reasons for engaging in innovative training; but my reliance on ‘finding another way to do it” came out of my time in the military. All the theory in the world can’t beat one hour of truly practical experience.

My first inclination that ‘there has to be a better way’ came early on in my military career. I was detailed to take a session on the theory of navigation. This wasn’t a problem, I knew my subject thoroughly – and then I checked the time-table. My session was scheduled immediately after a two hour drill lesson. I was a trifle concerned. It was December; the drill lesson was conducted on a hard standing parade ground. It was hot and humid and the Drill Instructor was known for his attention to detail. It seemed that the poor recruits would be put through the wringer, and then they would tumble into a cool air-conditioned classroom; hot, tired, dreaming of the upcoming Christmas leave and I had to try and teach them all about that exciting subject – the angle of declination. I thought I might have my hands full – I was right!

The result was nothing short of disaster, and after the 40 minutes from hell I fearfully faced my assessor – (Did I tell you that we often had someone sitting quietly in the back of the classroom assessing our abilities?). He was sympathetic but there was no denying the fact that the training objectives had not been met. For heaven’s sake, it was all I could do to keep them awake. “There has to be a better way of doing this” I wailed. “There probably is” he said “So go and find it”.

Armed with this encouragement I grabbed all the books I could read on the Theory of Adult Training, and they were great, but the authors had not faced my unique set of circumstances. Things were looking bleak, and then one night, having a drink in the mess, I got into conversation with an ex-British Army instructor. His problems had been similar, only he was faced with trying to stop them freezing to death, while mine were … well you’ve heard the story. We spend a long evening discussing the many ways in which we could engage the soldiers in really effective interactive training. Next day I sat down and devised a completely new way of approaching the subject, and armed with new confidence I approached the boss and requested another opportunity to present the lesson.

The day came, and in tumbled the hot, tired soldiers to drink in the pearls of wisdom I had to offer. I won’t deny I was nervous, there were about four assessors in the back of the room, including my mentor; but it was make or break. I couldn’t yell and scream like some of the others, I simply had to ‘find a different way to do it.” And I did. By using a range of different interactive techniques I managed to get the subject across to them, and managed to keep them awake and alert. At the end I was rewarded by some enthusiastic soldiers asking if I could do all the navigation session as “that was great!” And some perplexed assessors who told me that they would never had the courage to do it ‘that way” I had found my niche.

So, as you can see when I moved into other areas of training I found that innovative methods were still essential. Regardless of what subject I am asked to cover, my first reaction is “How would I teach that to a platoon of hot and tired soldiers?” I have found that this is a fabulous maxim to ensure that my training courses remain unusual, fun and effective.

While you may not be a platoon of soldiers, rest assured that the same detail goes into Trischel’s communication courses. Yes, we can improve your personal ability to speak in public, or we can give your staff the edge with better understanding of the art of communication; and if it would hold the attention of those solders, I am sure that you will be equally absorbed. Go on, try it yourself – there has to be a better way of teaching communication skills! Well there is, and Trischel has it.

Michele @ Trischel

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