27 Jun 2011

What makes a rock star trainer?

A recent post on LinkedIn by Tania Tytherleigh asked a simple question: ‘What are the qualities of a rock star trainer?’ Tania highlighted that passion, commitment and integrity were essential qualities for a rock star trainer. I really liked the premise of trainers / facilitators as rock stars, so here are the 16 qualities that I think make a ‘rock star’ trainer:

  1. They are brilliant at getting the audience involved. Thing the Rolling Stones, John Farnham or AC/DC – the crowd sings along to the lyrics after the lead from the singer. Rock star trainers get people involved and enthusiastic without gimics, cheesy games or worn out icebreakers.
  2. When you go to their 2nd/3rd concert (training session), it is just as good as the first. I have seen Pearl Jam in concert 4 times, and they always provide a great show. Equally, I have sat in on some other quality trainer’s sessions for professional development, and those that inspire me (I am a hard task master) do it again and again. They improve their material and find greater links / stories / context to the old material to keep it current.
  3. They recognize their band, and let them take a bow. A rock star trainer recognises their sources – we rarely come up with brand new content – we are often reinventing or using other work in new ways. The rock star trainer highlights when the work is done by someone else and gives them credit.
  4. They can play big stadiums and small, intimate venues equally well. I have seen Pink perform is a large arena and acoustically, and the woman is an entertainer. She used different qualities and skills to show off her talents with different sized venues. Rock star trainers can utilise their skills for conferences, training sessions and small groups.
  5. They sound amazing ‘unplugged’. When I think unplugged I think of Nirvana’s MTV gig – one of the best acoustic sets ever. The rock star trainer is one who coaches as well as trains. They also live their message beyond the stage / venue and are as engaging up close as they are when training.
  6. They have groupies. All the great rock stars have groupies! Rock star trainers have a blog that people actually read and respond to, they have multiple recommendations of their services on LinkedIn and connect with their followers via email/Facebook/Twitter/LinkedIn and quality email marketing. I can think of three great trainers whose sessions I go out of my way to attend. They have skills / qualities that I want to emulate – they inspire me to be better.
  7. They start movements / have imitators. Think of Madonna or her copycat Lady Gaga. They are more than music; they started fashion, dance and music trends. The rock star trainers have stories, training techniques, icebreakers and interaction with participants that others find clever and want to use as their own (note Point 2 above).
  8. They can manage and coordinate a whole stage show. I was thinking of the Rolling Stones or Coldplay as I wrote this point. Massive productions involving hundreds of people in multiple countries – true rock stars are logisticians. Rock star trainers manage multiple sites, training venues, admin staff, training manual production and client interaction and make it look easy.
  9. They provide encores. What rock concert doesn’t have an encore? Rock star trainers stay engaged with their audiences after the training via websites, ezines or just free stuff that helps their learners continue their learning journey.
  10. You can’t wait to tell your friends about their concert (and remember it years later). The Offspring 1998 or Live in 1999 – still regarded as some of my best concert experiences. A rock star trainer presents things in such a way that you can still remember the work, the stories, even the flipcharts years later.
  11. They play as if to an audience of one (I can’t claim credit for that term, I heard it on a National Speakers Association CD). I heard an acoustic set of one of my favourite bands Gomez, and I felt like I was the only one in the room. A rock star trainer tailors their training / stories / style to suit participants. The truly gifted make you feel like the training was tailored just for you.
  12. Their name alone makes you think of great music / concerts. The Stones, Jimmy Hendrix, The Beatles – iconic names that almost make you hear songs in your head as you voice their names. The rock star trainers have a brand or style that immediately conjures up great training.
  13. They live their own brand / walk the talk. They walk their talk; ever had a time management trainer late for an event or a customer service trainer who can’t return calls / emails?
  14. They recognize their roots / influences and stay in their genre. While not a rock star, I heard a radio host ask Taylor Swift a question about crossing from pop to country, and whether she should try rap. Her response: ‘Oh, I would be so bad at that. It would sound awful!’. The rock star trainers know who their target markets are, their niches and the content they cover well. Nothing says amateur trainer as much as someone who says they can facilitate / train anything. (Note: I can think of one trainer who could facilitate almost anything, but he is a vary rare breed indeed).
  15. Their concerts have a flow – beginning, middle and end. Great concerts tell a story and take you on a journey. Rock star trainers do the same thing – they don’t give you all their ‘hits’ in the first 5 minutes or the last 5. The quality is interspersed through the training to make a larger body of knowledge that fits together.
  16. They have a wide body of hits and play the key songs in their concerts (could you imagine going to U2 and not hearing Sunday Bloody Sunday, or Coldplay without Clocks?) True rock stars are not one hit wonders. Rock star trainers have many great programs and key messages, and they know how to use them all in various ways for different clients.

Who are your rock star trainers?