How to Prepare to Train Others

I went to a public seminar a few years ago, arriving 15 minutes or so before it was scheduled to begin. The trainer was flying around the front of a room like bat. Out of his briefcase came his leader’s guide, followed in quick succession by overheads, flipchart markers, a host of samples he would later distribute to the participants, and, believe it or not, a banana. For the next few minutes he was a blur as he tried to organize his materials and the equipment he would use. He may have had a really good reason for being late. Hey, this was in Minnesota. For all I know he may have been stuck behind a snowplow for his entire commute. But whether the delay was legitimate or the result of poor planning, the outcome was the same: not being ready for his session drained his credibility. If he’d gotten there in time and had everything ready to go, his group would have been able to focus on the content, not the frazzled presenter.

Doing the groundwork before your session sets the stage for more engaged, less distracted participants and a more effective, less stressed presenter. It ensures that you as well as all your equipment and materials are ready to go. Your goal is to start off appearing in control, relaxed, focused on your attendees.

Here are a few tips to help you get ready for your presentations.

Get a head start

Can you spot which of these examples is fiction? The presenter arrives at the session site and:

  • Finds all the windows have been painted shut. It’s 85 degrees outside. It’s hotter inside.
  • Discovers it’s being redecorated…that day. A workman is busy removing the wallpaper. She Is told the room she booked for her group isn’t available, but accommodations have been made in the grand ballroom. It’s as big as a tennis court and has 35 foot ceilings.
  • Finds out this is where the company stores extra chairs. There are chairs everywhere, at least 200 of them, which works out to about10 chairs per person scheduled to come. There are, however, no tables.
  • Sees none of the equipment he ordered in the room.

Now for the shocker: all of these are true. And these aren’t even the really scary things my colleagues and I have talked about over the years. The only thing worse than getting to your presentation site and finding something horridly wrong is getting there too late to do anything about it. So how can you avoid this?

  • Arrive about 45 minutes to an hour early. In the best of situations, you have plenty of time to get your equipment and materials set up and still have a minute to collect your thoughts. When the worst happens, you have time to correct problems or make other arrangements.
  • Set the room up the night before, if possible. If you’re working at an off-site location that doesn’t have the room you’ll use booked the night before, the management might allow you set up then. The next morning, you can arrive a little later (say 30 minutes early) to finish getting ready.
  • Lay at each participant’s place any resources he/she will use at the beginning of your session. This avoids spending the first few minutes of your time dealing out materials. Hang on to anything you’ll use later in your presentation so attendees aren’t distracted by it.

Check Your Equipment

When you order that overhead projector, PPT PROJECTOR THING, flipchart, microphone, video/dvd player, and monitor, you’re assumption is that these tools will make your presentation easier and more effective. Theoretically, this is true. Reality, however, can be an entirely different story. Projector bulbs blow out. Flipcharts have limited amounts of paper. Microphones can be dead, video/dvd players can be short the cable need to connect to the monitor, and the PPT PROJECTOR THING not compatible with your computer. We won’t even get into white boards covered with non-erasable ink. Here are some equipment checks to make before your session begins:

Overhead projector:

  • Make sure you have spare bulb (better yet, two) and that you know how to install it.
  • Turn the projector on and check that the glass clean, not covered with the last user’s stray ink marks or fingerprints.
  • Tape the cord down so no one trips over it.
  • Screen:
  • Position it so everyone in the room can see it. Turn the projector on and tour the room, checking visibility from every angle.
  • Dim the lights around the screen so participants can see better, if possible. If not, consider where else you could move it that would be a bit darker.

Do they have something to write on?


  • Save your file(s) on three different disks if you’re using someone else’s computer to show your PowerPoint presentation. For reasons known only to the MIS world, a disk that works like a charm in your computer will be a dud on another system. Hedge your bets. Bring multiple copies.
  • Save your file(s) in different ways. Consider saving as a regular PowerPoint file in the current version, as a “presentation” (which is read only) and in older PPT versions (PowerPoint 95 or PowerPoint 97-2000). Again, if you’re using someone else’s system, you can’t guarantee they have the same software version you have.
  • Email your file(s) you files if you’re working off site or for a client company and ask the recipient to open it so you know you have a working copy. In some cases, you can send it directly to the MIS person in charge of the equipment. Ask them to put it on their network/hardrive, so when you get there, you can access it. This is good when you have multiple presentations to give. It’s always ready to go.
  • Bring your own cables if you’re running the presentation on your computer and someone else’s PPT THING NAME so you know you have cabling that a) is present and b) works with your PC.
  • Charge your notebook’s battery (if that’s what you’ll be using to show your PowerPoint slides) or bring power cable and extension cord to ensure uninterrupted power.


A headset or lavaliere microphone can be a huge asset if you’re presenting to a large group, the room you’re working in is big, or you’re doing a multiple-day presentation. I once did a five-day, 8 hours a day training course. By the end of day three, my throat felt like I had a tiger in it trying to claw its way out. Oh, what a blessing a microphone would have been! Since projecting your voice for hours at a time is exhausting and can leave you too hoarse to continue, consider using a microphone. Check your microphone for:

  • How it fastens to your clothing You don’t want it flinging around your neck like a noose, so spend a minute figuring out how to attach it properly. If you’re using a headset, adjust it to fit securely so it doesn’t slip around as you move.
  • If it has enough cable to allow you to move around the room comfortably. If it’s a cordless model, make sure you have a spare battery or two.
  • The sound quality. Resolve any issues with crackling, dropping out, or dead spots in the room before your group arrives.


Ah, the flipchart! The lowest tech piece of equipment you have, yet it gets a workout every presentation you give. Yet, believe it or not, it can throw you a curveball or two if you don’t give it a thorough once over. Check things like:

  • If the stand sturdy or if it’s going to collapse if you exhale on it. Older stands tend to buckle at WHAT’S THAT THING CALLED THAT ALLOWS IT TO COLLAPSE FOR STORAGE/. If necessary, tape the THINGS open.
  • If it’s level. If it tips every time you touch it with a marker wad up some packing tape and stick it to the bottom of the short leg(s).
  • How much paper the pad has and if the remaining paper is clean. (Someone else may have used sheets in the back of the pad, leaving you less paper than you thought you had.) If it has less than ten sheets on it, replace it. Use the remaining sheets on the original pad to hand out for group work.
  • If you have an adequate number of markers on hand. Never, ever trust that a) markers come with it when you order it; b) any markers that do come with it aren’t dried up, worn out, or those awful scented ones that give you a headache. Bring your own. Stick to colors that are visible throughout the room, which pretty much lets out anything pastel, yellow, or orange.

Video/DVD player

Make sure:

  • You know where the play, stop, and pause buttons are on the video/dvd player and the volume control is on the monitor.
  • The cables are in place between the monitor and the video/dvd player.
  • The volume is correctly adjusted for the room size.
  • It’s positioned so people can easily see it from anywhere in the room.
  • No lights, including sunlight, are causing glare on the monitor.

Check your materials

The last things to check over before your presentation are the materials you’ll use. Check your:

  • Overhead transparencies. Are they in order? Are they all there?
  • Video tape. Is it cued up to the spot you want to start it?
  • Leader’s/Presenter’s Guide. Are your pages in the right order? Are the notes you use handy?
  • Job aids, demonstration materials, brochures, samples. Are they present and accounted for? Are they ready to use?

Preparation is the most important stage of any training presentation. When you take time to really consider the participants’ needs, they will notice and be able to focus on the teaching points, exercises, and how to apply what you’ve shared to their lives.