There’s nothing quite like learning how to use a new piece of gear or practicing a new technique, and then having to train someone else on your team how to be proficient with it!
The great thing about this is that it forces you to truly grasp the fundamental concepts of what you’re doing and why.
In order to teach something effectively, you need to distill the complex variables of your task into manageable concepts that your student can comprehend and then put into practice.
I know it’s easy to be dazzled by the latest piece of technology, and it’s just as easy to allow that to be a distraction for our fellow tech team members or potential recruits. But no matter the technology, focusing on the fundamentals is key:
It’s About The Concept
Instead of letting the whistles and bells of your gadgets do the talking, try focusing on the basic fundamentals by asking yourself the following:
- Why are you using a particular tech solution?
- What is the most effective and efficient use for the technology?
- How is this different from other solutions you could have chosen?
- What does an acceptable workflow look like to achieve the intended result?
- Are there fundamental processes from older technologies that apply to this new component?
Answering these questions will help you drill down to the core concepts that define why you do what you do, and how you approach the use of your high tech tools.
Trust me, this will immensely help anyone who may be unfamiliar with what you are about to show them.
How did you figure it out?
A lot of us involved in creative technology like audio, video, lighting, and other tech arts can sometimes take for granted the process by which we learned our craft. But try to step back and recall those “ah-ha” moments when something finally clicked for you.
Chances are, it wasn’t some slick presentation or copious amounts of jargon-laced nonsense that caused the light to come on for you.
It was probably a simple analogy about how something worked. Or it was a basic explanation of a workflow scenario that helped you understand why a particular tech component was critical.
Consider some helpful analogies that can help an unfamiliar person relate to what this technology does.
Know Your Team
When it comes to teaching, this one simple thing can make a huge impact: get to know the members of your team personally.
If you can have a good understanding of your team members and how they approach problems/solutions, you can explain things in ways that they will appreciate and latch onto. Try to find concepts that are relevant to their previous experience and apply those concepts to your technology instruction.
Here’s a fun example: My wife is a baker, so I recently explained to her the concept of how building an audio mix was like making a pie. You’ve got your crust (foundation rhythms, tones, and instruments), the filling (melodies and supporting instruments/vocals), the top (clarity of primary instruments and vocals that are leading the congregation), and the final pinch of sugar, cinnamon, and spice that bring it all together (harmonies, solo instruments, and effects).
Now, if I can find a way to relate sound to food, I think you can come up with something for your team!
Block It Out
Another important component of instructing is to ensure that you have an environment that is suitable for learning.
Minimize distractions (turn off those phones). Schedule your training sessions and be prompt (show up on time and wrap up on time). Set clear expectations of what needs to be accomplished.
When you approach your “official” training sessions, make sure that you and your trainees have a clear understanding of what you plan to cover, why it’s important, and what the expectations will be after the training is over.
Is there a practical component of your training, or is it simply show-and-tell?
What opportunities are available for the trainee to practice what they’ve just learned?
Be sure to schedule time for training, but also block out dedicated time for practice and follow-up advice.
It’s true that we all have various ways of learning. Some prefer reading or hearing or watching, etc.
Try to be aware of the fact that your student might not learn and absorb things the same way that you do. Don’t make the mistake of forcing your learning style on them.
If you’re not able to provide all of the training your team may need, then look for other resources that are available to meet the needs of the individual learner. Some team members may benefit from video training. Others may be thrilled with a book or manual. There might even be audiobooks and apps for a more “on the go” experience.
And remember, we all learn by doing. So always allow plenty of hands-on time after any training session.
Can you recall what it was like to not know anything about the technology you work with today? (Come on, I know you weren’t always an expert!)
The way you approach teaching tech skills to a new recruit will likely be different than if you were to provide a “refresher course” to someone who’s generally familiar with your setup.
Rookies require a slightly different approach when it comes to training. It’s especially important that you cover the fundamentals of why you do what you do. You don’t have to get academic about it and start lecturing about calculus and physics, but you do need to set the stage for why a particular technology is important and exactly what problem it is helping to solve.
It’s also helpful to have a clear on-boarding process for new team members so that everyone knows what to expect when they sign up for serving in your technical ministry. Defining a few of these concepts and processes will go a long way in helping you be effective with any instruction you provide.
My challenge to you and your tech team (even a team of one) is to look for more teachable moments, simple analogies, and effective methods for cultivating the next group of tech team leaders.
Adding just one more letter to your T-E-C-H can make a huge difference in your team’s ability grow, while continuing to use your technology more effectively and consistently.