Although using a tripod is a lot less complicated than a camera, we see people out on our night time photo safaris all the time doing it badly. Their technique isn't wrong per se, but it could be better.
1. Extending the legs of your tripod. Leave all of the legs collapsed towards the center column and not spread out. Extend one leg starting at the bottom section and then locking it tight. Extend the next one and then the next one until you reach the desired height. This leg should be a little bit shorter than the final height you think you will need your tripod to be. Now extend the other two legs to match. Use the ground to help make sure all the legs are the same length.
2. Now spread each leg away from the center column until it is out and fully locked.
3. Position your tripod so that one leg is pointing at the subject. This gives you a place to stand. This way it won't be in your way and you won't inadvertently knock over your tripod.
4. Give your tripod a firm push down to make sure that all your legs are tightly/properly locked.
5. Attach your camera to the tripod head. If you have a quick release plate be sure to remove it from the head and attach it first. Make sure it's FIRMLY attached.
6. If you are using a pan tilt head, be sure to have the handles close to you. If you are using a ball head, position the head so that the knobs/releases are located conveniently and the vertical slot is on the left or the right (certainly to the opposite side of any walls).
7. Ready to pack up your tripod? Simply bring all the legs together first. Then turn the entire unit upside down. Release all of the leg locks and let gravity help you collapse the legs. Lock them all up and off you go.