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How much prep time do I need, and how do I work that time into my already busy schedule?

Darrell Harmon

Darrell Harmon is a Master Trainer.


QHow much preparation time should I put in before I teach, and how do I work that prep time into my already busy schedule?

A I often discuss this question with trainer certification groups. Based on their input and my own experience, my definitive answer is: it depends. That’s actually not a cop-out; here’s my reasoning.

Remember your overall purpose: teach the class effectively. Prep time is a means to that end.

Given our different learning styles, overall training experience, and familiarity with the content, each of us will have individual preparation needs, ranging from a 1:1 to a 5:1 ratio of prep time-to-presentation time. Personally, I fall closer to the 5:1 prep style, whereas my boss is a 1:1 guy. He’s found that if he over-prepares he’s not as effective when he teaches: He over-thinks the material and gets caught up in trying to remember it too precisely. Instead, he needs to grasp the main points, then use his experience to create a more spontaneous learning experience. By contrast, if I don’t thoroughly dive into the material and soak it into my DNA, I second-guess myself and wind up stumbling and fumbling my way through. But when I’ve put in sufficient time, I can bring the material alive.

So, each of us must consider our:

  1. need for in-depth understanding;
  2. level of facilitation skill; and
  3. familiarity with the concepts and skills we are to teach.

Of course we also have to ensure we have a solid grasp on the many videos and exercises we use. We need to feel comfortable with their content and learning objectives.

Now, how to carve out that time in our already busy schedules? As with all change projects, follow the Influencer model. When I certify trainers in Influencer Training, I have them create a prep plan as their first “influence challenge.” Answering these questions may be fruitful:

Personal Motivation

  • How much do I value the ability to lead a rich learning experience?
  • What’s possible if I prepare well? What’s at risk if I don’t?

Personal Ability

  • How can I manage my daily tasks so that prep time is a high priority that gets regular attention?
  • Given my learning needs, facilitation background, and familiarity with the content, how much time should I invest in preparation?

Social Motivation and Ability

  • How do I get my manager’s (or teammates’) help in creating time for preparation?
  • Which colleagues/friends/family members would help me prep?

Structural Motivation

  • How can I track my progress, e.g., logging prep hours or number of lessons reviewed?
  • What small but meaningful rewards would keep it fun?

Structural Ability

  • Where can I go to study alone?
  • How should I rearrange my work space so that my Trainer’s Guide is within arm’s reach, so I can review it when I have down time?
  • When could I set an appointment (with alarm) to review the material?
  • How can I use my review cards to help me prep?

I hope these ideas spark some creative solutions that will work specifically for you.

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1 thought

  1. AmyDD

    Excellent suggestions, Darrell – thanks!

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