Good trainers don’t ramble on about how great they are. Take the time to tell your class why you’re qualified to teach them. Then, move on to explain what they can expect to get out of the class and what your expectations will be. PHOTO DALE STOCKTON
FEATURED IN TRAINING
In my opinion, a good introduction at the beginning of a class can have a significant effect on how well an instructor gets the message across to the students. Throughout the years, it’s been my experience that connecting with the folks in front of you with your first words helps set the tone for what will follow. With that introduction to introductions, let’s take some time to explore this topic and share some ideas.
First off, a self-check doesn’t hurt. Before you step into the classroom, take a moment to ensure you’re ready. I’m not just talking about knowing the material and having the room ready. Ensure that you are properly attired and presentable. I’ve made some classic errors and one of the worst was forgetting to “re-zip.” Now for the lady trainers out there, this may not be a problem. But certainly for the male instructor cadre, standing in front of a bunch of cops with a “wardrobe malfunction,” such as your fly at half-mast, is guaranteed to be a memorable, Lord of the Flies moment that you’ll wish you could erase from world history.
Another example: I recently taught a class at TREXPO West. I was using a PowerPoint presentation that required the lights to be dimmed. After it was over, a student approached to ask a question. He wanted to know when I had my pacemaker implanted! He was totally serious and I was totally floored. I asked him what would cause that kind of insult to my current physical fitness commitment. (I try to work out every day.) He pointed to my dress-shirt pocket, and then I understood. At the start of the class, I had been wearing my Bluetooth cell phone device. I had dropped it into the shirt pocket but forgot to turn it off. For the next two hours, the students watched the Bluetooth’s little blue light flashing through the fabric. Because of this, at least one student became concerned that I might be on the verge of cardiac arrest. That day, I added another item to my pre-introduction check list.
Set the Hook
So, the self-check has gone well and you’re taking your place in front of the class. Your challenge now is to get the hook into them as fast and securely as possible. A big part of your success depends on your instructor command presence and, often, your sense of humor.
Used appropriately, a sense of humor demonstrates that you might just be OK as the trainer du jour. Most cops have seen instructors come and go. Make them laugh—even at your own expense—and it often leads to a better learning environment. Just make sure you use humor—jokes, videos, personal anecdotes, etc.—that is professional and appropriate. If you’re not sure about appropriateness, it’s probably best to leave it out.
It’s also important to be straight with your students. Part of the formula for an effective introduction is to tell the students what they need to hear regarding the training that is about to start, not what they may want to hear. The introduction is necessary in order for the students to understand where they are headed with this learning event.
Won’t You Guess My Name?
Your students will want to know a little bit about you. This usually focuses on the knowledge and accomplishments that qualify you to be their instructor. My advice is to give a few relevant details and then move on. From having watched other instructors, I have found there are two extremes to be avoided. Some instructors are minimalists: Too modest or too insecure, they don’t share with the class what makes them worthy of the students’ time. At the other end of the spectrum are the overkill instructors who drag out the intro by talking about seemingly everything they’ve done. Cops attend training to learn, not listen to an extensive, expansive bio. If an instructor goes on and on, pretty soon they begin taking dubious credit for accomplishments—like inventing the Internet.
I once worked with an instructor whose ego was as big as his comb-over hair style was bad. What was worse was that his lack of credibility was painfully obvious to students and instructors alike. That type of behavior doesn’t sit well with me. The reality: If trainers know their stuff, it will soon be recognized by those around them. Cops will respect an instructor based on the way he or she blends a professional bio with teaching them information they need to know.
I also normally make it a point to provide the students with both my cell phone number and e-mail address. It’s a given that at some point after the class, at least one of them will have a question. Sharing with them a way to obtain the answers they need by contacting you in the future is, I believe, part of Basic Instructor Responsibilities 101. I find that providing them with this info at the beginning of the class is more effective than throwing it out as the course is wrapping up and the chaos of getting home ensues.