Training Tips: It’s Not Enough to Just Show Up
by Steve Gillick, CTM /

The following guest column is the latest in a series by the founder of Talking Travel.

The good news for today’s travel agent is that training opportunities abound – from on-demand webinars available 24/7to in-person training seminars and conferences. But it’s not enough to just show up.

Wherever you choose to receive your training, you are investing time and money, so you want to maximize its effectiveness and the outcomes.

Here are a few tips for doing so.

1. Make a plan
Whether you’re attending a training session to learn about a niche market, satisfy a personal interest, acquire new skills or meet a current business need, you should prepare a professional development plan.

Before participating in a specific training session, write down three to five things you expect to get out of it.

2. Ask for what you need
If a training session isn’t delivering what you hoped for, if your educational outcomes are not being realized, post a question to the speaker during the session or write to the host afterward to seek answers to your questions.

Think of each training session you attend as a business transaction – not a friendly, “I’ll get whatever comes out at the session.”  It’s your time and it’s your agency’s time, so make the most of it.

3. Retain what you learn
Unless you have a photographic memory, you’ll need to facilitate your retention of information by making the training memorable. Whether you take notes, record the session, draw cartoons or snag slides off a webinar, your involvement with the training session beyond just sitting and listening will result in your taking home more information that you can then put into practice.
 
4. Be a teacher
One of the best ways to master information is to teach it to others. If you work at a brick and mortar location, when you participate in a training session think of yourself as being on assignment to learn information that will benefit the agency as a whole.

Your approach should be to listen, understand, question, dig deeper and ultimately come up with a short summary that you can distribute or deliver to your co-workers.  

If you are home-based, the same attitude applies. You can share a summary with colleagues at your host agency or with networking groups you participate in, or simply mention it to colleagues in a way that reinforces what you’ve learned.

So next time someone asks if you’ve attended any training sessions lately, instead of replying, “The session was on client retention or something like that, and the food was lousy,” take the opportunity to solidify your knowledge. “Yes, I went to a great session on customer service. Did you know that it cost five times more to get a new customer than to retain an existing one?”

5. Focus on the message
Don’t be distracted by the training medium. Whether the material is presented in a webinar, an in-person lecture or in an interactive game show format, direct your attention to the topic at hand. Similarly, don’t be distracted by the speaker’s style. You can learn from a speaker even if you don’t particularly like his or her tone or delivery.

The trick is to approach each session with an eye to detecting the gems hidden within the talk. Turn around any negative energy created during the training session so you don’t miss the opportunity to positively influence your career. Accentuate the positive.

6. Go for the ROI
Every training session is an opportunity to add to your repertoire of knowledge. The more knowledge you have at your fingertips, the better equipped you are to respond to the needs of your clients, which in turn will advance your career.  

My favorite example relates to my China trip a few years ago. My well-informed travel agent knew that the Nadam festival was taking place in Mongolia on July 1, so she suggested I take the one-hour flight from Beijing to Ulan Bator.

To this day, that festival is one of my favorite travel memories. And while as the client I received value and satisfaction, my agent earned added commission, a repeat customer, referrals and a testimonial. That’s great ROI.

Invest in your future
Training is an investment in your future earnings, based on that tried and true travel industry slogan “learn more, earn more.” The expected return on your investment of time, and often money, is that you will generate more revenue upon completion of the session. But it’s up to you to make it happen.

Travel educator Steve Gillick delivers sales, marketing and destination training to travel professionals via his consultancy Talking Travel. He served as president and COO of the Canadian Institute of Travel Counsellors from 2001 to 2012. Contact Steve at steve@talkingtravel.ca.