8 Things Great Trainers Say

8 Things Great Trainers Say

By Marcia Quackenbush, MS, MFT, MCHES | April 27, 2017
Senior Editor, ETR

Yesterday I spent some time with an extraordinary group of people. They’re not the kind of folks you’re likely to see on TV or read about in the news. They’re the kind who go out into their communities every day, do their work with commitment, and make a world of difference.

ETR’s Professional Development team is hosting a Training of Trainers (TOT) event in Oakland, California. Participants from across the nation will be training educators in their own regions on evidence-based programs that reduce sexual risks for teens.

I was invited to observe the group yesterday and I was impressed! It wasn’t just the ETR trainers who made a splash with their knowledge, skill and general savoir faire. I already knew they were an outstanding team.

The participants in this room are top-of-their field, too. They know their communities, understand youth development, and have the dedication and sensitivity to work effectively with our most vulnerable youth. They are training educators of all stripes—committed, unsure, knowledgeable, neophyte. It’s not easy work.

I heard a lot of wisdom about the meaning of their work, the ways they address challenges and the sources of their inspiration. I also heard a lot about how to deliver trainings to adult learners.

I picked out some of the gems to share with you.

Fantastic trainers, helping to make your communities better!

Here Are the Pearls

  1. This is a great journey, and you never really arrive.

Some of these people have decades of experience. They’re still open and learning from one another. And sometimes the newest person in the room delivers an astonishing insight.

  1. A good leader builds bridges to make connections for participants.

Building those bridges means getting people engaged in their own learning process.

  1. The brain is designed to forget.

It’s human nature! We can’t remember everything. We remember things that are relevant in a personal way, that are compelling, that tell our brains to stand up, take notice and process this into long-term memory. Movement, breathing, self-reflection and sharing with others help this happen.

  1. On the other side of any training, you want people to do something different. And change can be difficult.

People like comfort. They like feeling authoritative on the job. It’s easier to stick with familiar ideas than embrace something new and different. So trainers need to make change relevant, meaningful and achievable. Pre- and post-training work is an important element to getting a training to “stick.”

  1. Liking isn’t learning.

Related to #4. The goal in delivering a training isn’t to entertain or win a popularity contest. The goal is to build understanding and skill to change behaviors and make people’s work more effective.

  1. Your participants bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to the room. Use it!

People like to learn from their peers and share their own experiences. Skilled trainers acknowledge and embrace the diversity of their participants. They take steps to highlight the particular wisdom of every person present.

  1. Everyone likes to play.

Give participants opportunities to stand and move, to draw or use stickers, to play silly games that engage their brains and boost learning, or to notice something new and playful about their colleagues.

A great example: in a small group exercise, the trainer told each group to choose who would go first by identifying the person with the most stylish shoes. Fun jokes about stylish shoes sparked the rest of the day.

  1. I’m staying up late tonight, prepping for tomorrow!

I was observing day two of a four-day training. The participants headed off to dinners, rest and calls to their families. The trainers focused on clean-up, set-up and debriefs. They reviewed the daily evaluations and made adjustments to their plans based on the feedback. Then they left individually to review the presentations they’d lead the next day.


Adaptability. Preparation. Listening. It’s what trainers do. We are lucky this great cadre of folks is doing the work and getting better at it all the time. Thanks, TOT facilitators and participants. You are fabulous!


Marcia Quackenbush, MS, MFT, MCHES, is Senior Editor at ETR. She used to manage a training group and loves to watch good trainers do their stuff! She can be reached at quam@etr.org


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