The tech conference season is just getting started in Europe and North America and many of those conferences will have live training sessions.
With over 500 live OSTraining classes completed, we've learned a lot. We've made many mistakes and had to survive many mishaps.
So, we decided to ask our staff and the people we know to provide tips on how to do live training.
Here are our 13 tips for staying sane while providing a great live training class.
Tip #1: Get attendees to register
All of your good preparation starts here. If you know approximately how many people will attend and can contact them all, you can prepare yourself and all the students.
If do attempt a trainign class, but don't require people to register, expect complications. There's nothing more disruptive to your class than having unready students or more students than you expected.
Tip #2: Never trust the internet
Everyone who goes to conferences has experienced bad wireless connections. Wifi is inherently unreliable and it's even worse when 100's of people are trying to connect at once.
Plan your class as if you won't have any internet connection all day. If the wireless works, that's a bonus, but plan on being offline.
Tip #3: Preload everything
Before our classes, we sent out an email to all the attendees. If the class requires students to bring a laptop, we provide instructions on how to get set up on a localhost. We also include a link to a zipped-up folder with all of the files that they might need during the class. If the class is in the computer training lab, we preload all of those resources onto the machines.
Marcus Deglos from Deglos.com knows how long it can take students to get set up. For his classes, he makes sure that all the computers are set up with VMWare before anyone enters the classroom.
We also prepare flash drives with all our localhost options and our zipped-up folder. This allows us to quickly help students set up if they had problems preparing before the class.
Tip #4: Bring power
If you're running an all-day class, people's laptops will run out of power. You can buy power strips and extension cords on Amazon for $10.
Tip #5: Dress appropriately
Rod Martin, who does much of the live training for OSTraining, believes that it's really important to dress one level above your audience. If your audience are in shorts, wear pants. If your audience is wearing ties, wear a jacket as well. If you're going to be leading people, it's important to dress the part.
Tip #6: Get everyone to come early
This includes you! We ask all our teacher to be at their classes and hour before the start.
For attendees, it's worth asking them to come 30 minutes before you intend to start. That allows you to help get everyone set up. It also allows you to chat with the students and get a feel for who you have in the class and what they need to learn.
Tip #7: Provide handouts
Even if it's just a single sheet of paper with an outline of the class, a handout will help prepare and guide your students. It will also help you with Tip #8.
If you're feeling more ambitious, you can provide details of the key concepts you cover throughout the day. Here's our handout for Drupal beginners.
Tip #8: Plan the whole event
We've all been to presentation and training sessions where the presenter is ad-libbing. Even if you're not charging for the training, be respectful of the students time and have a detailed plan.
Tip #9: Be hands-on
We believe in this so much that we deliberately remove all of the Powerpoint slides that we can from our training classes.
If you're teaching students to use software, any moment that they spend watching you click slides is a moment wasted. Aim to the students actively working within 20 minutes of the class starting,
Tip #10: Tell a story
We've found that the best classes have a narrative or a story running through them.
A common example we use is building a city website. We often get people to build a website with information about the city the class is in. This often sparks interesting conversations and provides an example that everyone can relate to.
We've also seen interesting class projects build around everything from bicycle stores to staff directories, but the class should tell a clear story from beginning to end.
Tip #11: Be social
One of the big benefits of coming to a live training class is that students are in a social setting. They can go home and follow instructions via videos or books, but they won't be able to recreate the interaction with the other students. Plan activities where the students are brainstorming and planning together.
One common social task we use (if the wireless is working) is to ask students to get into pairs and browse drupal.org, wordpress.org or joomla.org, trying to find and evaluate add-ons.
Tip #12: Stay at the front of the class
A good training class has momentum and one of the easiest ways to provide that is by always keeping a teacher at the front of the class. That teacher provides a focal point and can keep the class moving while other teachers circulate and help the students. Generally, it's best to have no more than 15 students for every teacher.
Tip #13: Plan the end of the class
I'd recommend having five things ready for when you finish:
- A project that recaps what you've done so far. Ideally, this project can be expanded or contracted as you need. If you find that you finish 2 hours early, you can expand the project to include more items.
- A time for questions. This works best for a short class. If students have been learning all day, they're generally tired and ready to leave.
- A way for students to send you feedback.
- A link to whatever slides you used, already uploaded to a site such as http://slideshare.net.
- Resources for ongoing training. The best end to a training class allows you to pass the students on to the next stage of their learning, whether it's a book, videos or even another class.
If you're feeling really clever, you can sent out a "Thank You" email to the students after the class, including 3, 4 and 5.
Over to you ...
I'm sure many of you have done live training before. Do you have any advice for other potential teachers?