John Scott already blogged about the APEX training days we gave to an AE customer last week.
Here's how I experienced our "duo" APEX training and some tips when you're doing some onsite training yourself.
Tip 1 - Be prepared
The customers asked a while ago for APEX training. Instead of doing a "standard" reply of saying what APEX training we (= Apex Evangelists) can deliver, we try to "customize" our trainings as much as possible.
To do that, we want to know our customers: What do they know? What do they not know? Why do they want to get trained? What facilities do they have? Which topics do they want us to cover? ...
The more info you get before hand, the better!
Our training exists out of powerpoint, a lot of live demos (we like that a lot!) and exercises. Doing live demos asks for a lot of preparation, but we believe it brings a big added value to our attendees. Some people say: One picture = one thousand words.
Depending how much material you already have, I still believe it's good to start preparing a week (and more) before. Run through all demos again, review the presentations etc.
Tip 2 - Arrive on time
John and I arrived the day before. We had a look around and went over the agenda and planning again. Especially when you're with two people doing the training it's important you know about each others topics, when and how to do things or just do some fine-tuning.
We love to train people together. I think there're not many companies doing that (giving training with two people). We also train people alone, but it's so much more fun when we're together.
Also, customers can appreciate it, sure it will be more expensive, but you'll get the experience of two people and it's "different". We've both our strengths and different experience which we can fully exploit together.
Tip 3 - Get to know your audience
We normally start with an introduction and a quickly round-up so we know the persons a bit better. It depends the size of course, but if it's possible to do, I would recommend doing a quick check.
People may say in the preparation phase of the training they've all a lot of experience, but when you're onsite and talk to them, maybe that's not entirely true. (they can be experts / or don't know that much as they believe themselves)
As you could read on Johns blog, some people had over two years experience, where others had only 2 days of experience! It's a real challenge to get everybody up to speed in a short amount of time, but it's so much easier when you know a bit of background of the people. I knew for ex. some had already experience in MS Access, so I spoke about how it looks like in the environment they already know.
Tip 4 - Be flexible
We had a tight planning prepared for this customer. After the first day John and I sat together and talked about it and we decided to put some more effort in some topics, give some extra exercises and skip some other topics. Again, this is so much easier when you know your audience. We spent for ex. quiet a long time on the AJAX topic, as they user was keen to use it and we also decided to skip the "Production Issues" presentation as they had an IT department doing all that stuff.
It's hard to decide and even though to take a decision to change your planning, but in this case it was really rewarding. This came also above when we read the evaluations, the customer really appreciated what we did.
Tip 5 - Include time for Questions
During the presentations we got some questions. We're very open to questions and really like the test if we know/can find the answer ;-)
I usually not only answer them, but also try to show them (or proof them) what I think the answer is. I think I learned that from Tom Kyte, he has a statement:
It ain't so much the things we don't know that gets us in trouble. It's the things you know, that just ain't so or just ain't so anymore or just ain't always so.
I sometimes have that too, I expect something will behave like that, and it suddenly doesn't do that, maybe it's that particular version, or it was never like that... with the test I see it!
The questions part was also highly appreciated by our attendees. The questions showed us also if they really understood or the things they were interested in.
We sometimes quickly built an app in APEX to show some other things we didn't prepare. At OOW we also did some kind-a-like thing, with the roundtable conversation. At Collaborate 07 we repeated it again. It's like a "life" forum.
We also referenced to some other sessions we did, like for ex. the Shared Components presentation I gave at ODTUG and IOUG Collab.
Tip 6 - Enjoy
Doing these trainings foreign is nice, but also hard. I enjoyed being there together with John. The days were flying by, it was over before we knew. During the day you're so busy with explaining to the customer, in the evening you're preparing for the next day and reviewing the previous sessions, to get really the best value for your client.
But don't forget to take some time to enjoy too! We tried to take some time to eat together. for ex. One night we went to a Steakhouse and had some delicious lamb!
Tip 7 - Think back and learn
From last year onwards I'm more into giving presentations. I think it started at Oracle Open World last year, where I was in the roundtable panel for the APEX SIG.
After that I started to give presentations at IOUG Collaborate 07 in Las Vegas, ODTUG Kaleidoscope 07 in Daytona Beach, some more presentations in Belgium, followed by onsite training for Apex Evangelists customers. From every presentation you learn something, take it with you for the next one.
Next on the agenda are the Apex Evangelists "European APEX Training Days" in Brussels (September) - you can still subscribe for that one -, maybe Oracle Open World (November) and UKOUG (December)...
If you would have told me I would do so many presentations this year, I would have laughed at you ;-) Things can change quickly!