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I'm often asked by would-be trainers how they can connect better with their audiences, particularly those who are not too keen on being on the training.

In truth, this isn't a problem just for new trainers. Us old ones also experience it from time to time.

My answer is that, if you are going to spend a day or more with people who perhaps don't know you too well, you need to become a skilled rapport-builder.

Seven Ways to Build Rapport With Anyone

On the ManageTrainLearn Customer Care courses, we put rapport-building at the top of the customer communication skills. It's one of those skills that have lots of sub-skills, all of which can be practised on their own. These include:

1. finding something in common with your trainees
2. displaying empathy with their problems
3. using small talk to break down the barriers
4. dropping people's names into the conversation in understated ways
5. using humour to bond with them
6. showing them you're just like them through mirroring, resonance and pacing
7. respecting them.

Oops!: A Story About Connecting With Others

My favourite story about building rapport comes from self-development guru, Anthony Robbins, and is called "Oops!"

It might serve as a reminder of how to click with your trainees, even if they start off in mischievous mood.

A class of schoolchildren decided one morning to play a prank on their new teacher who was late in arriving. At a pre-arranged moment when she eventually came in and reached her desk, all the children dropped their books on the floor.

Noticing at once what was going on, and determined not to play the part assigned to her, the teacher put down her chalk, picked up her own book, and, as the children all waited to see what she would do, accidentally dropped it too.

"Sorry I'm late," she said, picking up the book. "Let's start at page 23." And she continued as if nothing had happened.

From that moment on, she had the children eating out of her hand.