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Remember The Basics To Be The Best Instructor

Remember The Basics To Be The Best Instructor
As instructors we have an incredible responsibility to our students, our industry and ourselves.  When preparing to deliver a program or course there are a few things that we must always do to ensure we are successful and provide a positive impact.  

  • Dress for success.
  • Always arrive early and stay late.
  • Always come prepared.
  • Be present.
  • Ask questions during your presentation and allow time for questions to be asked. 
  • Always say "thank you" at the conclusion of your presentation.

Dress for success. Nothing says professional like a suit and tie.  You only have one chance at a first impression and unfortunately this is typically done before you are even introduced.  Your appearance projects the perception you have about yourself, your material, as well as your feelings about the audience.  Sometimes a suit and tie is not appropriate, an example is in house training or training at the academy.  If you are wearing your uniform make sure it is pressed, your shoes are shined and you are well groomed.  Your appearance gives you confidence that translates into confidence in your delivery that further translates into a successful delivery. You cannot overdress for success. 

Always arrive early and stay late.  As the presenter it is your responsibility to ensure your AV equipment works and is capable of handling your delivery needs.  Arrive at least 30 minutes early to venues that you are familiar with or have presented at before, an example is your training academy or own department.  If you are new to the location, arrive 45-60 minutes early. You must take ownership for all aspects of the course, allowing ample time prior to the start will provide a window to correct any AV needs or classroom requirements that may not be in place.  If everything is working properly, take the extra time to grab a cup of coffee and network with students as they enter the class.  You can never be too early but you definitely do not want to start class late due to “technical difficulties". 
 
Always come prepared; have your presentation ready and relevant to the topic you are presenting.  Take the time the night before to update statistics, for example, if you are talking about firefighter safety and have a statistic on LODD’s, update that data the morning of the presentation. Today’s students have a “need it now” mentality. Almost everyone has a smart phone or some type of electronic device.  Expect that your students will fact check your curriculum. This is good as it makes us, as instructors, stay on our A-game and not present irrelevant or dated material.  Make sure you know your material, there is nothing worse than sitting in a presentation only to feel like you know the topic as well or sometimes better than the presenter. 
 
Be present. This may sound simple, but being present is more than just being physically there in front of the audience.  As the instructor, you must be focused and engaged in your presentation.  Arrive ready to own your class and material. This ownership will translate into students who are engaged and a course that is both rewarding to present as well as rewarding to attend. 
 
Ask questions during your presentation and allow time for questions to be asked.  Asking questions of the audience is a method to keep them engaged, on tract and ensure that they are truly digesting the material.  Keep the questions simple and never try to stump anyone.  The questions should be like slow-pitch softballs or ducks in a barrel; easy questions that change the tone for the students as well as maintain focus.  Also allow questions to be asked. Never proceed so fast through the material that students are lost within the first thirty minutes or leave a question until the end of the day from a section that was covered during the first hour.  Remember, this is the students’ course, not yours. Always make it about them and not yourself. 
 
Always say thank you. Seems simple, but many times the course concludes and the final statement is “Any questions?”  Take the time at the start of the presentation, and the conclusion, to thank the audience, the host agency and any sponsors that may be included; as they are the reason you are standing up in the front of the room.  Also, share your contact information. Many times students want to reach out after class with a question or follow up, the simple sharing of e-mail allows for this contact and continued learning after the session is over. 
 
As instructors we have the responsibility to make sure we are doing it right. “Right” is making sure every time we have the opportunity to present we are fully respectful of it by presenting relevant material that will impact the students.  Always strive to be the instructor you would want to take a class from, never take lightly your role as an instructor, it is a great honor and privilege.
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Brian Zaitz is a fifteen-year student of the fire service, currently assigned as the Captain-Training Officer with the Metro West Fire Protection District.  Brian is an instructor with Engine House Training, LLC, as well as an instructor at the St. Louis County Fire Academy.  Brian holds several degrees including an Associates in Paramedic Technology, a Bachelors in Fire Science Management and a Masters in Human Resource Development and is currently an Accredited Chief Training Officer and student of the NFA’s Executive Fire Officer Program.

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Posted: Dec 17, 2015,
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