The key to effective training: Trust

Trust – often hard to earn and can be lost in an instant. But it’s essential for good training, says David Horsager.

Great trainers may have incredible materials and flawless delivery, but there is one thing that’s more crucial than anything else to effective training: Trust. Without trust in the trainer, participants mentally check out, default to skepticism, and become resistant to making lasting change in their work and life. 

Think back to your early years of education. The most beloved teachers are those who connect with their students, use clear materials, demonstrate strong competence in their skills, and are committed to their students. So how do you build trust when you only have two days for your training, or maybe even just a few hours? 

Trust has a branding problem. Most people hear ‘trust’ and think of some outdated concept that you either have or you don’t. In reality, trust can be actively built and consistently reinforced to standout in the training industry. From the moment you introduce yourself in a training, participants will either trust you a little bit more or a little bit less.  

As a trainer or facilitator, here are four ways to quickly build trust with your audience: 

Be clear 

One of the biggest mistakes in training is complexity. When an audience is confused, engagement plummets. Clarity builds trust because people trust the clear and distrust the ambiguous or the overly complex. In our attention span-starved world, if your audience doesn’t understand your message immediately, you’ll lose them in a heartbeat.  

Training with clear and actionable content gives participants the greatest chance of implementing real, lasting change.

Hone your material in advance to ensure that your takeaways are crystal clear and leave nothing up to interpretation. Ask yourself, ‘What else can I do to simplify the material?’ Training with clear and actionable content gives participants the greatest chance of implementing real, lasting change. Increase clarity to gain more trust with your participants. 

Be competent 

Building trust begins before you even start a training event because people trust those who stay fresh, relevant, and capable. As a trainer, you’re expected to be the expert, and experts are defined by their high degree of competency. If you’re training the same way you were five years ago, you’re likely not staying fresh, relevant, and capable. 

Think of a surgeon. A surgeon who hasn’t performed a procedure in years is not trusted. The most trusted surgeon is the one who is in the operating room multiple times a day and continually learning the latest best-practices in their field. 

Everyone gets busy and can easily lose focus on increasing competence, but those who do keep up a high level of competency will stand out as the most trusted trainer in their sphere. Continue your own education and relentlessly improve your skills.

Gaining professional competence is an absolute must when you’re looking to build trust fast with your trainees. 


Be committed 

People trust those who are reliable. For your audience to become committed to you, you must first show commitment to them. Build trust with your audience quickly by making and keeping a commitment — even a small one. If you tell your audience there will be a break at 11am, keep that commitment to increase trust. Follow-through is an essential habit for high-trust trainers.

Commitment falls into two categories: personal and public. Personal commitment builds your reputation. As a trainer, your reputation hinges on whether you consistently make or break your commitments. Public commitment builds your brand. Increasing trust in your training brand happens when you: 

  • Show how you’re unique 
  • Invite your trainees into a community beyond the training
  • Communicate often 
  • Give value with every communication
  • Provide additional follow up support 
  • Give fans of your brand special treatment 

Be connecting 

People want to follow, buy from, and be around those who connect and collaborate. At the core, trust is built through relationships and connection is foundational to genuine relationships. Start building connection in your trainings by using these four steps:  

First, listen to your participants well; people feel cared about when they are listened to. Second, show appreciation for their contributions. Everyone likes to be appreciated. Third, be present in their session; your participants can sense disconnection from a mile away when trainers’ minds are somewhere other than the training.

Lastly, serve them selflessly; make the training about the participants in the room by contextualising the content for their specific needs. 

The central question your participants will ask is, ‘Can I trust you?’ Trust is the true currency of business and life. Build clarity, competency, commitment, and connection to gain the essential element of trust from your audience.


About the author

David Horsager, MA, CSP, CPAE, is the CEO of Trust Edge Leadership Institute.


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