According to multiple internet resources, the average turnover rate for Direct Support Staff is anywhere between 37% to 45%. Regardless of the percentage gap, it is safe to say that there is a retention issue with our industry. Though these internet articles tell us there is a problem, very few have a viable solution. Most indicate the issue is salary related, and that makes sense. In New York State you can make more money hourly in the fast food industry than you can as Direct Support Staff.
Though MediSked cannot directly fix the high turnover rate our customers are experiencing, we can help prepare them when it comes time to train the new staff. Not so surprisingly, one of the top 5 reasons employees quit their jobs within the first 6 months is due to poor, or incomplete training. So we could help lower the large percentages a bit by utilizing better training techniques.
When you purchase a MediSked product, there is an Implementation phase that you and your team go through, that encompasses configuration and training. An Implementation and Training Specialist from the MediSked Premier team will work to setup your product, and prepare you, and your core MediSked product users, to be Subject Matter Experts (SMEs). This better prepares your Core MediSked team to train the rest of the staff. Since training is a large part of the implementation process, we want to make sure that you are comfortable relaying the information to your staff, that we passed on to you. We accomplish this by providing training guides and other documentation, as well as lead by example when training you. We understand that not everyone believes that they have the natural ability to stand in front of a group, large or small, and present the knowledge given to them. But I want to tell you that it can be done, and I speak from experience. No matter how shy or introverted you are, I can give you some tips and tricks to make it more relaxing and enjoyable to project your thoughts to an audience, and in return, make the learning experience more satisfying for them.
When it comes to public speaking or training, there are two ways I like to categorize people; you either have it, or you don’t! Ok, that statement is pretty generalized, and not completely accurate. However, if you happen to be an Introvert, who make up 25% to 50% of the world’s population, that statement probably holds true. Now let’s be clear, being an Introvert is not a bad thing. In fact, they tend to be better listeners and are more task oriented. To be fair, we shouldn’t classify a person as simply an Introvert or Extrovert, since the spectrum is more gradient gray than it is black and white. Also, there is another category that some are not aware of. You might even fall somewhere in the middle of the spectrum and have the best of both worlds. If this is the case, you would be an Ambivert. Ok, enough of the Personality Trait Spectrum lesson. Though this article does lend its self towards the introverted side of the spectrum, the tips and tricks mentioned can work for anyone.
Due to position requirements over the years, I needed to learn to overcome my fears and reservations of standing in front of people I did not know and instruct them. In the beginning it was difficult, and seemed pointless, but as I pushed on, I started to learn ways to get past my anxieties. Out of everything I learned over that time, the most important is that an introvert can be a good speaker, and they can be a good trainer. They just need to learn the secret, which comes naturally and is instinctive to extroverts. The overall secret to public speaking isn’t rocket science, and may not surprise you, but it is crucial to understand. That secret is simply, “confidence.” I know, not very ground breaking, and confidence is not that easy for some to obtain. But in fact, if you speak with confidence, others are naturally drawn to listen to you, even if you have little knowledge of the topic. So, it’s that easy, just have confidence and you will be a great speaker/teacher, right? Well, if it was that easy, you would not have to read this article. If confidence is the overall objective to reach, how can we gain or obtain it? The one thing that I did to learn this was to observe the class or audience of a good speaker or trainer. We have all heard great speakers or teachers in our past, and if we stop focusing on them and turn our attention to the audience, we start to notice something spectacular. The audience is being controlled and manipulated, but in a good way. It is like watching a clown make balloon animals for kids, were words are not the only things keeping them entertained. A good clown, or speaker in this case, can make the audience laugh, interact, and learn, by their actions, not just words. So that’s the answer, if you control the audience you can gain confidence and overcome your fears. But now the magic question is “how do you control the audience”?
Over the past 25 years, I have been absorbing as much as I can from watching good speakers and trainers, and the audience they address. I have watched their movements, gestures, and facial expressions, in hope that I can mimic what they do. I have also learned some things on my own that I incorporate into my methods. I may never be an extrovert, but I can speak and teach like one. Below I have listed my top five tips/tricks that I use to control the audience and create a better learning environment for everyone.
#1 Make Introductions
If at all possible, greet your audience as they walk in the room. This shows dominance, or a feeling that the classroom is in your control. Also, introduce yourself to class or audience at the very beginning, before you start your lecture or training (even if you have greeted everyone as they came in). Tell them who you are and give them your credentials, so they understand why you are qualified to speak to them. This can include how long you worked at your company, how long you have been instructing, or why you are an expert in the subject you are presenting.
#2 Set Expectations
In the beginning of class, right after introductions, let the learner(s) or audience know what you expect from them during your time together. This can include rules, such as no cell phones, when breaks will happen, and when they can ask questions. You might want to include an Agenda handout, so they will know about when those breaks will happen. This will again show them that you are in charge and in control. Of course this also keeps them focused on the learning, and not what is coming next.
#3 Get Moving
Another way to keep the attention of the learner or audience is to move around. This is not to say you should look agitated or nervous but move in a slow pace around the room (or on stage) so the audience has to follow you by moving their head, or at least their eyes. What I like to do is to have three designated spots that I move to at different times. I will stop at each location for a 10 to 20 seconds, and then move to one of the other designated spots. Do this all through the training or speech so that the audience is forced to follow you. This will keep them more alert and awake, without them knowing what you are doing.
#4 Know What to Do with Your Hands
This topic is one of the more psychological parts of any training session, or public speaking engagements. With a simple hand gesture, you can change the mood of the entire class, and this can be good or bad. If you have ever watched any of the past or present President speeches, you would notice that the do their best never to point their finger to the camera. In fact, they will point, but it will be with a slightly closed hand (maybe pointing with the knuckle of their index finger). Pointing your finger at someone can make them feel uncomfortable. Another thing you might notice with professional speakers is that they will rarely ever gesture their hands outside the body frame unless they want to excite the crowd. So, if you want to crowd to be calm, keep your hands in close to your body.
Here are some hand gestures that can help during training or speaking:
For the times you just do not know what to do with your hands, loosely clasp your hands together. This will insure that you keep them with in your body frame. Having your hands together gives the message that you are in control and you have a direction.
- When you are speaking about something important that you want the audience to pay attention to, open your hands loosely, face your palms up or down slightly (like you are about to play a piano, or like you are about to give something to the learner with both hands). Think of this like you are “pushing” information to the audience. When you do it enough times, subconsciously, they will start to pay more attention when you do this.
- When asking a question to the group or looking for feedback (without asking for it), then do the reverse from above. Turn your palms face up and bring your hands a little closer to your body. This signifies that you are accepting input and open to suggestions.
- If you are looking to have one person’s attention to ask a question, keep your hands lightly clasped together and move your hands in their direction. So is to point, without pointing fingers.
- When you have an important point to get across to the audience, make a slight fist with one hand, moving your thump over the side of your index finger (not laid across the front of your fingers). Then lightly pound the fist into the open palm of your other hand. You might have seen Presidents do something similar to this but utilize the top of a podium, rather than an open palm. This tells the audience that they need to pay attention at this point.
- Never play with anything in your hands, such as writing utensils, pointers, change from your pocket. These are distractions that will draw the learner’s attention away from learning.
#5 Three Second Rule
Another psychological component to training or public speaking is the eyes, or where the instructor looks. If we want the learner to focus on absorbing the knowledge we are passing on to them, they need to watch the instructor or speaker, the reverse should not happen. The last thing we want to do is to make them feel uncomfortable, but if we stare at one individual too long, then that is exactly what will happen. Also, if the instructor does not focus their attention around the entire room, they will not know how the others are receiving the training or lecture. So now the Trainer or Speaker needs to focus on the learner, without staring at them, but it is not as hard as it sounds. I call this method the 3 second rule. The idea is for the Trainer or Speaker to look around the room and look at every person, but not for more than 3 seconds. After a few tries, it will become natural. The 3 second rule also gives you the ability to see how the learners are receiving your instruction. You can look for signs of confusion or discontent, which may tell you that you need to repeat, or re-explain the last statement again, but in a different way. You also might find the learners fidgeting or becoming restless, which are signs that it is time for a break.
So, there you have it, 5 simple methods that can help create a high reward learning environment for everyone you need to address. Let me give you one last parting comment that might help as well. Your audience already think of you as the subject matter expert before you say or do anything. When you stand in front of them for the first time, they will look up to you as the leader of the room. So, the room is already yours to command, and the audience, being part of the learning group, have given you permission to command them through the learning process. That said, relax and enjoy the moment.
Russ Norsworthy is an Implementation and Training Specialist at MediSked. Russ brings almost three decades of experience in training individuals.