Training Layout – The Devil is in the detail.
Do you give much thought to this? Are you a trainer who is employed by a provider and turns up to deliver in the hope of finding something that resembles a room suitable for training, but in reality you find something closer to a cupboard/storeroom at best?
This is a common problem, and I am lucky enough to have a suite of training rooms spacious and comfortable and most importantly flexible for different types of delivery style and course type. I do really feel very sad when companies have the best interests of their employees development at heart, after they have paid for the training haven’t they? Oh you are still waiting for payment, that is an accounts thing and a different blog, but I share your pain. I digress, but they don’t follow through with suitable facilities in which a delegate can effectively learn. OK I know extra resources are expensive, I get that, and space that is not being used, is not generating money and therefore a luxury, but hang on a second. Don’t employers always bang on about their best assets being their staff? Yes they do. So they need to be looked after, from a bigger picture point of view, assets must be looked after and cared for, as they are investable. In HR this is know as Human Capital, to the layman this is the sum total of the skills, knowledge and experience of the workforce, have a shonky unengaged one and no invests and vice versa. All this is well and good, but you do want your teams to invest themselves into training too. They must see training attendance as a valuable thing, something they enjoy, can learn from (obviously) and also share. Ultimately it is about them advocating it to others, in retail they talk about the shopping experience, in training the same is true, therefore keeping alive the training function. Believe me, no one knows this better than me. This is why the training environment plays such a big role.
When are room is set out for training think about the things that delegates can see from their point of view. Are they looking at a tired wall, a dirty wall, a distracting image, lots of furniture? Also think about what they can hear, do the acoustics work properly, is there feedback from a microphone, is the air conditioning too loud. On that, is the room too hot, too cold, and too drafty? Have you considered playing music when people arrive? It is an amazing atmosphere warmer, I always have something playing, it stops the awkward silences and creates a great welcome. Avoid cheesy training music “things can only get better”, “eye of the tiger”, seriously no, put that bloody CD in the bin. Think more about Vivaldi, Mamas and Papas, that type of thing, something easy and upbeat.
What about lighting? If you can control it then do, start the day with lighting slightly dimmed, not “dating in the dark” dim, but just warm, then when you hit the ‘post lunch slump’ or you need to lift the room then use the main lights, you will be surprised at the difference it makes.
Tables and chairs. Hopefully they can be moved around so you can create a nice space, comfortable, with everyone having a good view. Try to keep and eye on peoples feet too. Sounds funny but if you can see their feet, then you can also see them twitch and fidget, we have no control over these involuntary movements and it can give you a clue as to when people have had enough and need a break. I am not talking about being bored that is different. if you are boring then change your material or find a new career, no, I am talking about when people are reaching the overload point. They won’t be aware of their feet, but you will, it is an interesting body language trick.
Layout tips. Chairs cinema style works for a seminar or in a horseshoe for high levels of interaction, not having a table prevents barriers being built between you and the delegate. Boardroom table and chairs is good for a more formal discussion style course, but there is a clue in the name and people can get bored sat around a table as it can feel like a meeting and not training. Small clusters of tables with four to a group, is highly effective and you can visit each group and mix people up. Try different styles and find which works best for you. I have delivered with people on beanbags and even sitting on the floor and this adds quite an interesting dynamic if you have it available to you.
Food-How many times have you seen a feedback form come back with the answer to ‘how can this course be improved?’ and the answer filled in says ‘better biscuits’, ‘more cake’, we have all seen it. Well pay attention to this, some people want the whole training experience, and in my experience delegates appreciate a bit of a spread. After all who doesn’t love a buffet? Mmm brown food on sticks, why not? Try to get food sent in if budget allows, and if you are limited invest in decent biscuits, not ‘old people biscuits’, you know the type I mean, but proper cookies, it will make a difference to the experience. Or try fruit. It is the little things sometimes. Oh and water is essential. Try to avoid anything that can be eaten noisily during training, nothing is worse than listening to a very active masticator when putting a point across.
Little extras- how many times have delegates turned up to training with no pen, no pad, shoe laces undone, well maybe not the last one, but I am baffled that people do not come with these essentials. So have them ready, and spares, pens have a habit of conspiring together, they have an unwritten agreement (well they would, they need us to write don’t they-sorry) that when one runs out they al do so be prepared. Oh and make sure your pads are branded too with your company logo, keep your company in the mind of the delegate, never stop advertising as they say.
Think about your appearance too, make sure you look and dress the part, find out the culture, is a tie appropriate or is open collar better or polo shirt; would a short skirt offend, is a jacket needed? Again it all contributes
Lastly, it goes without saying that the room should be clean. Fluff bunnies rolling around the legs of coffee stained tables is not acceptable.
It is these finer details that can make or break some training, surprise and delight your delegates, ruin them from another trainer so that you are the standard to which comparisons are made