We all understand the value of training to keep up-to-date with the latest technology, develop our skills and stay on top of the game. Training sessions can also be great source of inspiration and an opportunity to learn those tips and tricks that make everyday (work) life run just a little bit smoother.
It's not always easy to overcome the challenges of budget restraints, travel restrictions and last-minute projects to name a few… but once the stars align, and you find the budget and the gap in your schedule allowing you to sign up for tech training, make sure you really make the most of it!
Below are eight tips from Dataton’s Academy team based on more than seven years' experience organizing and hosting training sessions worldwide. Enjoy!
- Choose the right educator
- Get added value
- Do your homework – before training
- Location, location, location
- Activate auto-reply
- Be brave – ask questions
- Use that free pen
- Don't forget to sweat!
1. CHOOSE THE RIGHT EDUCATOR
Training is big business for some companies. And even though most of them know their stuff, and do it well (especially in the AV industry), it pays to do your research when it comes to selecting both course and organizer.
A rule of thumb is to stay close to the source. That means if you want to enhance your knowledge about a specific product, check if the manufacturer of that product offers any training. If not, do they recommend or approve courses led by other companies?
Another suggestion is to ascertain if your chosen training session is part of an industry certification program… (see next point!)
2. Get ADDED VALUE
When you're choosing training options, it's worth thinking beyond the content itself. Does the training program give you any added value in terms of discounts on products or nice promo material? Or perhaps the opportunity to meet with experts in the industry is a good enough reason to attend a specific training?
What creates added value is of course highly individual. Many courses run by manufacturers, including Dataton, provide it in the form of renewal points for industry-wide certification programs, for example. Commercial Integrator discussed the pros of these kind of programs in a very interesting article on the subject last year, listing the benefits of AV certification, such as higher wages and boosted confidence.
Even if you are not already a AVIXA CTS-holder or part of another recognized program, I would still recommend attending training that offers some kind of industry certification. See it as a stamp of quality. If the course has been accepted into a broader industry-certification program, then it has most likely been reviewed by several independent experts to make sure it lives up to a certain standard and quality.
3. DO YOUR HOMEWORK BEFORE TRAINING
Yes, your mailbox is overflowing. Yes, you have loads to do before you leave the office. But please make sure you study all the confirmation and information emails sent in advance by the organizer. They'll give you a better idea of what you can expect from the training, and, not least, what is expected from you.
Do you need to brush up on anything, have a look at any video tutorials or bring any particular equipment with you for the training? Perhaps you need to have administrative rights on your laptop to install a certain program, or you need to bring some adapters, or prepare a case. For some tech training, you may even have to take a test before admission, just to ensure you have enough knowledge to actually benefit from and understand what the course is all about.
Most organizers will also send you some good-to-know info about the location, such as accommodation or transport suggestions, which can prove very useful if you are travelling to a new city or country.
4. Location, location, Location - prepare FOR travel
You're headed to a different town or country for training and, yes, you will probably spend most of your time inside a classroom or a conference room, many times in darkness.
To make the most of going someplace else, assign some time to investigate what you can do outside class hours. If you are lucky, you may be able to combine business with pleasure and find an installation or an event nearby that utilises the very products/features you're studying!
Don't forget to check the weather forecast in order to bring the right clothes. In Sweden we have a saying “there is no bad weather, only bad clothes” – a very figurative way of telling you what to expect if you travel to the north. But the fact is, sitting freezing for a whole training session is not going to improve anyone's learning curve…
5. ACTIVATE AN AUTO-REPLY
Instead of getting more and more stressed as you see (and hear) the never-ending stream of emails arriving in your inbox, activate an auto-reply. Tell people you are away on training and that you will respond upon your return. Most people will have no problems accepting this, and some may even see it as a positive thing – you are actually investing in yourself to become an even better technician/project manager/designer or whatever your title/job description. It will also give you a mental breather and the time to interact with people IRL during coffee breaks and lunches (instead of sneaking off to panic-answer emails or return missed phone calls). In other words, it will give you the chance to network!
Networking (a worn-out expression but oh-so-important!) often occurs naturally at training sessions, especially when there are a limited number of participants. Be curious, ask questions, listen and, who knows, that auto-reply may reward you with both peace of mind as well as new friends and valuable connections. Yes, you attend a course to learn whatever the trainer is saying/showing, but don’t forget that your peers may have fantastic experiences or knowledge to share with you as well.
6. BE BRAVE – ASK QUESTIONS!
You are probably paying good money to attend the training session. And even if training itself is free of charge, you are still investing your time and effort to be there. That's a really good reason to not be the person sitting at the back of the room, quiet as a church mouse.
From my experience, the best training sessions are the ones where people dare to ask questions and in particular those “stupid questions”. A wise industry expert once told me “there are no stupid questions – only stupid answers” and I have come to love that expression – it is so true. However, far too often people feel embarrassed to ask questions, probably thinking they are the only ones who don't get it, or that their question is irrelevant.
All I can say is: think again! I can guarantee that in 90 % of the cases,the other people in the room are wondering about the exact same thing as you. And from a trainer point of view, I can assure you that most trainers hate monologues. When participants show interest and engage by asking questions, a good trainer will be inspired to walk the extra mile in order to explain. By being brave you have the chance to transform training from a one-man show to a dynamic discussion. It's a win-win situation.
7. USE THAT FREE PEN
Unless you have a photographic memory – take notes! Even though you may think you are remembering each and every point made by the teacher/trainer, write it down (or draw a picture) so you have something to refer to after training.
Just the act of taking notes will help you remember. And the longer the course, the more important it is to take notes to help you reflect on what you have learnt afterwards. Not a notes type of guy/gal? Ask if you are allowed to take pictures instead.
This list of tips could probably go on forever, but as all good things must come to an end, here's one last piece of advice:
8. DON'T FORGET TO SWEAT
There are plenty of studies and scientific evidence showing that exercise has a positive impact on learning and information retention. Even if you are dead-tired after many hours in a dark, stuffy classroom, make the effort to get out, raise your pulse and reboot your internal hard drive. Exercise gives your mind a well-deserved rest after a full day of cramming it with new information.
Don't fancy a work-out at the gym or a long run? Revitalize your brain by going for a stroll and enjoying some fresh air. Even the shortest of walks can work wonders, and as a bonus you will probably sleep better too – ready for day 2 of training!