Session Six

On Training...


My job title with SATERN is a bit ostentatious:  National Training Coordinator.  That title indicates that I should have a staff of training officers scattered across the country.  And, contrary to what you might think, I actually do.  Each member of this network is, in fact, a training officer in waiting.  As frightening as it may sound, at some point in each of your careers as emergency communicators, you’re probably going to be asked to pass along the torch of knowledge to some new folks who have not had the benefit of  emergency communications instruction or experience.  Like it or not, when that day comes, you’ll become the training officer for your group or community.

So, today, I thought I’d pass along some tips to help prepare you for those troubled times which lay ahead..

1.  Have a plan prepared well in advance of your training session.  This serves two purposes: It bolsters your confidence as a trainer and having a well rehearsed plan in hand makes your training session to your students appear to be much more professional.  Depending on your training topic and your personal preferences, you may choose to write a complete script for your session, or, you may choose to work from index cards or other notes.  I strongly encourage you to refrain from extensive ad lib training.  Invariably, when the teacher is working from memory, some point or points will either be forgotten or misunderstood.

2.  While it’s customary to open speeches and, sometimes, classes, with something humorous, intended, of course, to ‘break the ice,’ make certain that your attempts at humor do not include comments or suggestions that may be off color or offensive to some or all of your students.  Better to leave the ice ‘unbroken’ than to create a room full of resentful students before you even start your presentation!

3.  The basic concept of training that I use and recommend is very simple:

 A.  Tell ‘em what you’re going to tell ‘em
 B.  Tell ‘em
 C.  Tell ‘em what you told ‘em

Translated into plain text, the concept reads as follows:

 A.  Provide an introduction to the material by informing your students what they
 will learn from you during the course of your training session.
 B. Conduct your training session.
 C.  Recap the highlights of the topic you presented before closing.

4.  Plan your training session with the students’ attention span in mind.  Someone once commented that the mind can only absorb what the rear end can stand.  Truer words have not often been heard.  It’s far better -- and your students will respond better -- if you hold three 20 minute classes instead of one 60 minute class.  If you’re doing your training session on the air,
remember to allow time to obtain a list of stations checking in to your net, time to identify the net, and time for the formal presentation, which, since it’s being given via radio, should run no longer than about 15 minutes in length.  Finally, there should be time for comments and/or questions from the net participants.

5.  Take your training material ‘to the kitchen table.’  When you plan your training session, do not assume that all of your students understand jargon, technical terms, or specialized abbreviations.  Teach at the level of the least common denominator.  Your class may, well, consist of a group of hams, 20 of which are old timers with more than 40 years of amateur service under their belts, along with a few hams who have only been licensed a few months.  The newer hams will probably be more familiar with computer terms...while the old timers may be more familiar with communications protocol.  In order for your training session to be successful, each student should leave the class with a clear understanding of what you were talking about.

6.  One of the more popular buzzwords in today’s language is “interactive.”  Well, our training sessions should be, to some extent, and, depending upon the method of presentation, interactive.  By that I mean that your students should be able to freely ask any questions that occur to them regarding the training topic.  You, as the trainer, should be prepared to answer those questions to which you have answers and to be willing to perform the research and follow-up necessary to answer those questions to which you do not have immediate answers.  To do less will seriously damage your credibility with your students.

If you’re lucky, your turn in the barrel as a training officer will occur well in advance of any actual emergency situation.  If you find yourself in the position of needing to train operators in the midst of an emergency, I have one piece of advice: Forget it.  It just won’t work.  An emergency situation is the worst of all possible training environments.  As an emergency NCS, you should use good procedures and attempt to keep the net operating with some measure of discipline and purpose.  Hopefully, those stations who join your net will follow your good example.

So, there you have it, SATERN training folks.  Plan your training sessions, reduce the material’s complexity to the level of the least of your students’ abilities, keep your sessions short, and, then, Tell ‘em what you’re gonna tell ‘em, tell ‘em, and, finally, tell ‘em what you told ‘em.  Do not try to train operators during emergencies.  That’s what training nets are for.