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While there is no one perfect sure-fire secret to conducting trainings, I have always been holding on to two main principles in my heart.  Namely, make it fun, and be as humble as I can be.

How many times have you attended training seminars and got totally annoyed by how boring or pretentious the speakers are?  Again, in Part One of this series, I am speaking about grown educated audiences and not school children.  We all have our opinions, and we all have different expectations why we are there.  Some want to learn, some want to challenge, so are curious, and so are just forced by their bosses to be there.  The last thing I can do is to bore the hell out of these people and be condescending.  After all, I have no grounds at all since usually my audience is way more experienced than I am in their lines of work.  Who am I to speak and for them to be chained to a classroom for 3 straight days?

Some readers shared with me their answers to the few scenarios I put forth in Part One, and I really appreciate your feedback.  Here I am going to share mine.

1. Dozing Off

You don’t need me to tell you that this is a really bad sign.  Something is seriously wrong, so I better take it as a cue to adjust my pace.  In many cases this is not really linked to the class but with the individual’s sleep-deprived work and social life.   Yet, don’t fool yourself.  If my class is captivating enough, I would wish that even the dead would jump up for joy.  I better do something quick, or it will be very infectious.   Usually, I will start asking questions.  Once the folks around the poor soul start to speak and I can successfully stir up a headed debate, they may hear all this commotion and realize they are missing out.  I then ask for his/her opinions.  Hearing one’s voice is the best way of coming out from any dream – hopefully.

2. Seemingly bored and kicking himself thinking why he was forced to come in the first place

This is not easy.  There is no way to really turn someone around if they are already fixated of the outcome of the training.  Again, I don’t mind having a few stubborn people around but they cannot be in the way of other more eager students.  The best way is for me to identify who they are BEFORE I even begin the training.  I can then deploy tactics to split them up and mingle them with other participating students so as to make the discussions more heated.  Most trainers ask their students to tell everyone what their expectations are of the training course, one by one, and have the key points drawn up on boards across the classroom.   This works.  I can tell whether they actually mean it, and I can usually assess their levels of experience by that exercise, so use it wisely.

3. Extremely argumentative and outspoken which is interrupting the progress of the class

They are the necessary evil.  I love them since they bring opinions and viewpoints which make the class so much more fun and exciting.  Everybody laughs and claps and boos and roll their eyes.  When I see people rolling up their sleeves and sometimes even walk around in the room, I sense energy, passion and frankly a side which they seldom present themselves in day-to-day office routines.   However, note the second part of this scenario.  If one or two are overshadowing the others and hindering the progress of the content of my class, I need to do something quick or I will lose everyone.  When people see me as weak and that I fail to contain the situation, I would have lost my credibility and the whole training. 

Tactic?  Easy – I just apologize and tell them the way it is.  “We need to move on”.  “I want to hear more differing views”.  “I feel that some students are not getting enough air time.”  “If we have time at the end of the training we can come back to these interesting topics”.  It’s always more respectful for adults to hear the true reasons rather than ignoring them.  Show them my job is not easy and that we have so much to cover in so little time.  They will usually be sympathetic and won’t be that hard on you.

4. Stone faced and authoritarian, maybe even feeling insulted from listening to a younger trainer

You will be lucky to have them in the class.  Seriously.  It can actually help you take a bit of the pressure off.  Why?  Although he seems serious and cynical, there may be questions from the floor that sometimes you just have no clues what the answers are.  If you can sense that there are a few senior members in the class, try forwarding the questions to them.  Of course, do not embarrass them.  If they see that I am respecting them and actually keen on hearing their advice and feedback, they feel dignified and will be a lot more engaged in the rest of the class.  I try this again and again even in answers I already know in order to give recognition and status to the ones who are so in need of it.

5. Fiddling with his blackberry or laptop the whole way through; and 6. Receiving and making calls as pleased

Every trainer starts off with house rules at the beginning of the training.  No phone calls, no computers or blackberries.  If you have to do it, do it out of everyone’s sight by leaving the classroom.  The fact that you can afford to miss the class does not give you the warrant of interrupting others who cannot.

I however cannot yell at them like some 4 year olds.  If I see people still doing that, I will continue speaking while slowly walking behind them as if nothing has happened.  Everyone’s eyes will follow me and naturally onto the naughty soul in front of me.  They will usually get the cue and stop.  If not, I will pull them aside quietly during break times and break the news to them.  Mobile calls however, need to be taken care of right away by me pointing them to the direction to the exiting door.

Sorry.  I need to protect the rights of the rest of the class, and I am paid to do just that.

There you have it.   Until next time, I need to doze off for a few minutes from all that typing. Whew.

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