At home, you’re a pro. You are the subject matter expert, the go-to person. You regularly run trainings for your colleagues, or maybe you are a professional trainer. You get the room warmed up quickly, you are funny, you flow, you delight the audience, and you always get great feedback.
But now you are training in India for the first time. No one laughs at your jokes. Everything feels tense. Some participants seem combative. No one is getting the concepts. Your ‘flow’ never seems to show up.
It’s a trainer’s worst nightmare. You covered the material, but you suspect that everyone might hate you, and you are pretty sure the training didn’t make a difference. You feel like the whole day (and maybe the whole trip) was a waste.
34 Tips for Training in India
Whether it’s technical training, updating your India office on new tax laws, or even soft skills, there are certain ways you need to adapt your training style. Here are 34 tips I’ve compiled about how to make the most out of your training in India.
Looking at the big picture
1. Remember relationships. In a previous article on how to get the most out of your short-term business trip, I said that your primary goal should be to establish and build relationships. There are very few exceptions to this rule. If your company or client only wanted the knowledge, they would have bought the book or done the training over video-conference. If someone is spending the money to have a live trainer in the room in India, the point is to have a relationship with that person. #See1See100
Therefore, as you think about your trip, make sure to…
2. Set aside time to meet with people. Individual and group meetings should make up a significant chunk of your time in India, even if you are giving presentations all day long. If you just go from the training room to your hotel every day, you are wasting your time.
3. Have your slides and materials done early. If relationships trump your material, then stop formatting your slides up until the last participant walks in. Do the tedious work ahead of time, and be okay with things not being perfect in exchange for more time talking with people.
4. Know who will be in the room. Specifically, you want to know the hierarchy. If the big boss shows up, you want to know exactly who that person is and how to show respect for him/her. #PowerPlays
5. Do background research on participants. Use LinkedIn or Facebook to learn as much as you can about their background and look for talking points. They will be very impressed at anything you mention.
6. Restrict participants to two levels of hierarchy at the most. Insist on this with the training coordinator. Participants won’t be as open or free to talk if a ‘super-boss’ is in the room, and it will change the dynamics completely.
7. Research the region of India you are traveling to. Remember that it is #IndiasNotIndia. Bengalis won’t be impressed that you love naan, and Tamils won’t care as much that you saw the latest SRK movie on the airplane. Good small-talk topics to research are food, politics, language, and celebrities.
Setting the Agenda
8. Keep a loose schedule. If your agenda cannot accommodate a ten-minute delay, you have too much material. Group discussions and activities will definitely take longer than you think. #TimeIsEternal
9. Assume you will start 15 minutes late. This is not always the case, but it usually happens.
10. Don’t spend a long time on one topic. Indians like a quick pace. If it’s an in-depth topic, come back to it later.
11. There is no such thing as a five-minute break. All breaks should be a minimum of 15 minutes and assign a full 60 minutes for lunch. Morning and afternoon tea breaks are required.
Planning your material
12. Don’t spend a lot of time on theory. Indians are practical people and like it when you spend more time on clear takeaways. Theoretical topics can also go off on rabbit trails.
13. Use lots of quotes from famous people. This will add to your credibility and memorability, even if it isn’t directly relevant.
14. AAA. Acronyms are awesome.
15. Don’t be afraid to get sentimental. What Americans tend to call ‘corny’ is often very well-received in India.
16. Play games. Indians can be very competitive and love to be in teams.
17. Split them up in groups. Some who are intimidated to speak up in a large group will be very active in a small group. For a real treat, ask them to come up with team names.
18. Check the cultural relevancy of your material. To make a point, one trainer said that in Europe you wouldn’t feel obligated to help your boss paint his own house if he asked you, but in India you might feel obligated to say yes. The audience thought the example was ridiculous because no one paints their own house.
19. Take a cue from the coordinator before you start. If he/she suggests that you wait to start, it might be because someone very important has not arrived yet.
20. If you must start late, ask permission from those in the room. They will give it, but it is seen as proper. Create small talk in the meantime to establish a rapport.
21. Establish yourself as the expert. Even though you might feel pretentious doing it, you need to list your credentials, experience, and drop any and all-powerful names you can at the beginning.
22. Better yet, have someone else introduce you. Again, the more titles, academic achievements, and top hierarchy you can display the better. If you do give someone a profile to introduce you, they will read it word-for-word.
In the flow
23. Don’t rely on humor. If you usually win over crowds with your humor, remember that jokes don’t usually translate well into a new culture. And never be sarcastic, as it doesn’t go over well.
24. Never criticize India. It might sound like a no-brainer, but a lot of people do it without realizing. Avoid talking about skin color, disorganized traffic, Indian stereotypes (snake charmers, Bollywood, call center workers). And, for goodness sake, never try to imitate the accent. #Thinskinned
25. Praise India. Mention specific things you love about the country while you are presenting. Good topics are economic development, scientific achievements (like the Mars mission), the food (regionally), and the people.
26. Read up on how to be more understandable. Don’t use your own idioms, watch your accent, speak simply, and go slow.
27. Work hard at listening. You may not be used to the accent, intonation, or speed. If you need to ask someone to repeat a phrase, take the blame for the miscommunication.
28. Be overly clear in giving directions. Another trainer gave the group a task to complete which didn’t go very well. He had them stop and discuss what happened, hoping they would realize where they had gone wrong. The group said, “It was your fault for not giving clear instructions.”
29. Be ready for anything. Everything can change at the last-minute. Make sure some of your activities don’t require electricity in case there is a power cut.
30. Ensure understanding. Just saying “Does everyone get it?” won’t be enough. Create low-risk practice situations where people can show that they understand the topic.
31. Use names as much as possible. Resist the urge to avoid names because they are unfamiliar. If they are filling out a nametag, ask them to write down “what you want me to call you”. Otherwise they might put their entire official name.
32. Let them know you are available afterwards. Your job doesn’t stop at the end of the session, especially if you are doing technical training. They will expect you to be available in the coming weeks.
33. Take a group photo. Not only will this help endear you to the group, it will also help you match faces to names later on.
34. Accept LinkedIn requests afterwards. This is just a way to cement a relationship. Don’t feel obligated to accept requests on more personal sites like Facebook.
Training in India can be a lot of fun, especially if you follow these tips! Please leave comments with other tips that you have, and remember to sign up for more great articles like these.
Photo Credit: Pankaj Kaushal on Flickr