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Learning & Development Blog

Because Murphy’s Law Is Real – Preparing For A Training Session

Leslie Ciborowski
President Of TrainSmart, Inc.

It could have been a disaster. One of my personal best practices when conducting a training in a new venue is always to preview the facility. Weird room configurations, problems with the equipment syncing, and a host of other issues can all be resolved much more calmly the day before, than on the actual day of training. That often means when I am flying to a different location that I take a flight earlier in the day so I can check out the space during working hours.

That’s exactly what I intended to do on a recent training in Southern California. I was planning on checking out the space, but my colleagues convinced me it was not necessary for two legitimate reasons. The training was an hour away from where I was staying, and it would be a long commute. And more convincingly this was technically not an unknown facility.

The California location has similar offices throughout the country. One of the benefits of using this particular space is that we had been in their offices in other cities, knew the quality of the facility and were familiar with all the amenities. So there shouldn’t have been a problem, and I skipped my preview.

That was a huge mistake. On the day of the training, I put in the address of the building into my GPS. When my computer generated navigator said, “your destination is on the right,” I gasped. What I saw was a building enveloped in black construction wrap. It didn’t look like it was inhabited.

I found a parking space; double checked the address, and it was definitely the address I had been given. Still believing that there was a mega mistake, I googled the facility and was reassured that it was the correct building.

Had I followed my own advice I could have avoided hyper-ventilating an hour before starting a workshop. I could have also sent an email to all the participants alerting them to the bizarre looking building that was hosting the training. Because I didn’t preview the building, none of that was possible. I started the training feeling rattled, and we had to start late because others struggled with finding the building as well.

It is fast becoming my favorite Murphy’s Law story. Get a group of trainers together and sooner or later the conversations will center on their near disasters – those trainings that could have gone terribly wrong if they didn’t have their training emergency kit to save the day.

Anyone who has trained more than three times has probably experienced Murphy’s Law – what can go wrong will probably go wrong. The key is to realize Murphy’s Law is going to happen more often than not and be prepared with a Trainer’s Emergency Kit when Murphy raises her sarcastic head.

One of the favorite items in trainer Delphene Black’s emergency kit is an extension cord. It saved the day the time she was teaching a presentation skills class with eight participants. For whatever reason, the client gave her a room that seated 150. Needless to say, unless Delphene did some major rearranging the space would be too intimating for the group. And, the last emotion that you want people who are about to practice their presentation skills is to feel intimated.

The solution was to move lots of furniture around to make it workable for a small group. But once she did that, she had a different set of problems – the new furniture arrangement was far away from a power source for the projector, computer and video camera. It was only because Delphene always carries an extension cord that she was able to conduct the class in the most conducive arrangement for the environment she was given.

When you think about an extension cord, you also want to think of gaffers tape to make sure that no one trips over the cords that you connect to that extension cord. Why gaffers tape instead of duct tape?

“Typically made from vinyl, or sturdy, durable cotton cloth, this tape is pressure-sensitive, and once it has been pressed into place it produces a strong adhesive bond. This incredible tape is different from other strong, industrial tapes like duct tape, in that its adhesive is a synthetic, petroleum-based substance, instead of an adhesive made from natural rubber. Unlike duct tape that can be hard to remove, this unique synthetic adhesive provides for clean removal.” – Jennifer’s Blog

Anne Harlow’s favorite item in her emergency kit is her index cards. She has multiple uses for these cards. She says, “Instead of having people count off for an impromptu table team activity, I have numbers pre-written on cards and hand them out. It saves time and confusion.”

She also uses the cards as a way of breaking the silence with a group that is not interacting or participating. She writes questions or answers on the cards and then has participants pick one.

In classes where everyone has to present or role play, she writes numbers on the cards and then has participants pick a card. They present when their number is up.

For Donna Steffey, who does a great deal of international training, her favorite item is her neck pillow, “so I can sleep anywhere.” She also always carries a printed version of her slides, a thumb drive with the presentation even if she is using her computer and the presentation has been downloaded. And, she always travels with toys for the group.

TrainSmart’s Recommended Emergency Kit:

Index Cards
Extension Cord
AA & AAA batteries
Gaffers tape
Thumb drive
Sticky notes
Markers
Converter Cable
Pens
Blue Stick adhesive putty when location doesn’t allow tape on walls
Card Stock for name tents
Bell or some other kind of noise maker
Water Bottle
Aleve