If your company, organization, or government agency wants to influence people's behavior, you need presentation skills training. Everyone can benefit from presenting their service, product, or personnel in the best possible light.
(To learn how to speak more powerfully to your important audiences, download our cheat sheet, "5 Ways to Captivate an Audience.")
In order to benefit from such training, of course, you must spend time assessing your needs. Items to consider include whether a particular style of training works best for your industry, if your people have unique requirements or preferences, and whether a workshop should consist primarily of delivery skills or content. You'll find helpful suggestions along those lines in my article, "Presentation Skills Training: Assessing Your Organization's Needs."
But what about the other side of the ledger? Once you've assessed your organization's needs, what should you look for in a training company? How do you find a good match between your staff's requirements and a trainer's strengths? That's clearly a critical issue when it comes to providing exactly the training your employees need. Below are 5 tips you should keep in mind when shopping for your Goldilocks presentation skills training company: the one that's "just right" for you:
1. Think in terms of performance, not just business. By performance, I mean stage performance. Obviously, you'll be best served here by locating a company that specializes in theater-based training for business. To move audiences—to be exciting, memorable, and truly influential—your employees need to do more than turn on the fire hose of information. Workshop leaders with a background in stage performance add a dimension to presentation skills training that just isn't available otherwise. And there's the added benefit that their workshops are almost always fun and entertaining for your employees.
2. Find out what sets this training company apart. What's the "special sauce" of this outfit? (I suggest you come right out and ask that very question.) It may not be a theatrical background, but there should be some aspect of originality or uniqueness to their approach. Otherwise, why not just choose the cheapest alternative of those available to you? One way to gauge this is to bring them in for an interview and present them with a situation that actually exists with your employees: "Given this, how would you handle it? What approach would you use?"
3. Know who your actual trainer will be. Many are the training companies who will provide you with an A-list sales manager, but with actual trainers who are much lower down the totem pole in terms of experience and on-their-feet skills. It may not be necessary to go with a boutique firm (though it's not a bad idea). But it's wise to ask specifically about this aspect of the training you're paying your hard-earned dollars for.
4. Ask to see a sample workbook. A cosmetic dentist engaged my services to help her prepare a day of training for dentists interested in cosmetic procedures. I asked what she planned for the day. "First," she replied, "I'll show my PowerPoint on X." "Wonderful," I said, "What's next?" "Then it's my PowerPoint deck on Y." "Okay," I said cautiously. "And then?" "Lunch!" she said happily. You can guess what the afternoon held in store. (This presenter, incidentally, could benefit from knowing The Four Golden Rules of Using PowerPoint.) Your employees will be spending at least a day with your trainer(s). What's that going to be like? A sample workbook will give you a good idea.
5. Debrief, discuss follow-up activities, and build both into your planning. After you've invested considerable time and effort into organizing and running the training event, you mustn't let it all die on the vine. A debriefing session should be held as soon as possible, while the particulars of the training are fresh, so you can get a reasonable idea of its success. Follow-up activities are equally important. Whether the follow-up is by phone, video conference, or in person, your staff needs and deserves a mechanism whereby you and they can keep the learning process going and growing.
Key takeaways from this blog:
- If you want to influence behavior, you need presentation skills training.
- First assess your organization's needs, then look at training companies.
- Find a company that knows performance skills, not just business practice.
- Discover what sets this company part, and ask for sample materials.
- Debrief as quickly as possible, and plan for follow-up activities.