Ten differences between giving a conference presentation and a training


There is a significant difference when you stand up in front of two hundred people to give a single presentation or a lecture, and when you stand up in front of ten trainees, for giving a three months course. Especially an ICT course, where much of the time you have to be clicking on the right place and not making mistakes, because people use to panic, when noticing red alert messages. This latter, compared to the first, feels more like a relationship - long lasting, well planned, with predicted results. And actually, a long lasting knowledge that has to come out of all that.

This season, I am giving two parallel courses on "Building Dynamic Website with Drupal6", and I sometimes can't help thinking of how different this is from lecturing at conferences. I must admit I much enjoy at the moment giving this training, rather than giving an out-of-context presentations.

Here are 10 differences which came immediately to my mind. There are probably many more, but let's start with these:

  1. Content presentation. Presentations are given in a short, syntetic way, where you cannot get into detail on the subject and the context. You just have to shoot. One thought, one idea. One (time) impression. The course content gets deeper each time, more detailed and it gives you a possibility to fill missing gaps of information according to the participants.
  2. Relationship. You get to know your audience, but they also get to know you better. You can follow the rythm of learning, and they learn to following you. There is more time to dare asking questions, to learn about participants' background and imagine the type of content you need to cover.
  3. Learning. The aim of the training is to make participants actually LEARN something. Homeworks, questions, feedback, evaluation. Everything you do has to contribute to building of knowledge. Presenting also included transfer of knowledge, or better said "sending the message", but it does not include
  4. Preparation. While for the presentation you can spend 1-2 hrs in preparation, the training requires much more efforts, such as handouts, slides, lecture, exercises, questions and answers. While you can expect certain improvisation at your presentation, at your course is better that there's no surprises. Improvisation is not a winning tactic.
  5. Training Tools. As mentioned above, it is good to have some handouts, especially for the more complex parts. And informative (rather than performant) slides. I also often need a white/blackboard while doing a training, a tool, which is rarely used at presentations.
  6. Impressions. At a one-time presentation is very difficult to change first impressions on you. If it is not your day or not the greatest mood, you can't go back and redo. While this is valid, too, at your courses, it is also valid that you have up and down days, and that your audience knows what to expect from you. So, when you are really tired one night, people know this is not your usual state of mind, so they just look forward to the next class.
  7. Repetition. There is less chance a presentation gets repetitive, since you have to adapt it each time for the different audience, and with your views changing, the research evolving, etc. The course might get repetitive if you have to do it too often.
  8. Responsibility. While after a presentation you don't need to count how many people slept and how many actually listened to you, after giving a training you really wish people understood something. And it is clear just the next time they come - if they have learnt anything the first time, they will manage to get further next time.
  9. Your dose of learning. Oh, yes! In an ongoing training, the trainer is actually the one who learns most of it. Imagine something that you manage to do with 15 clicks, how long it takes to exmpain. As an example: Drupal installation, which can usually take 10-15 minutes, took 3 hours to 10 people to do simultaneously. Ten people who never ever had to download, unzip, export files, connect to a server (what did you say is a server?), view "hidden files", copy all to server, rename files, and change permissions. Just imagine the file/directory permission system explained to a newbie. But yes, it worked! And it worked for the 10! And guess who learnt the most about all possible risks of this installation?
  10. What was the last one? Forgot already...