Some of the courses I facilitate are at venues that are optimised for learning, but others are at my clients’ premises.
Where the client’s internal space is being used I make sure to be really clear with my contact about room requirements and space in advance, explaining the effect that the environment has on the ability of participants to take in and retain key messages.
Once I explain to clients that the transfer of knowledge back to the workplace (their investment) can be hindered by poor surroundings, they quickly get on board – with the result that in the majority of cases I end up with amazing facilities that are fit for use.
Earlier this year though, I faced my first major challenge in terms of the learning environment. The client in question was limited by budget, so an external venue was not an option. Neither was refreshment. They were in an impressive location, but it was an older building that had quirks with heating and cooling. The final nail in the coffin was that internal meeting rooms were at a premium.
What am I saying? The room we were allocated was tiny – especially for the number of delegates, and we were crammed in like sardines. Once we were all seated, no one could get out of the room without others being displaced. The air conditioning did not work. So with the extra bodies it was hot, boiling hot. And – we had to switch rooms during the day as the room we were in was not available for the duration of the session. The switch was scheduled for 2:30pm, right in the middle of a session. I wish I could tell you the second room was better, but it was at best, equivalent.
There was not much that I could do to enact change on Day 1 – the air conditioning could not be fixed, fans were not available and I could not change the time of the room switchover.
But I did think on my feet. I tweaked the Agenda to afford shorter, more frequent breaks to give my participants a chance to get up and move more during the course day. I arranged break out activities and discussions to happen outside of the room – in canteen or lounge areas, so the delegates could get some much needed space. I ran out in the first break to get snacks and other refreshment and for the afternoon break I brought in popsicles to help us cool down. The kinaesthetic learning toys I take with me everywhere came in very handy for helping the group focus, and I also had background music during exercises to lighten the atmosphere in the room and help sustain concentration.
Day 2 was a new day – and I came ready. Here’s a picture of my Optimisation Bag. In addition to all the things listed above, I also had fans – big and small, extension leads for power, a better range of snacks and treats to keep energy levels up throughout the day, and speakers for the music. I also managed to arrange room changes to happen over the lunch break – and not in the middle of sessions so that I we didn’t lose time during the day and I could arrange for all materials to be moved so participants weren’t too inconvenienced. It all paid off. I got comments on the course like:
“A really engaging trainer, who made the 2 days really fun despite some internal issues with facilities”
“Dana was fantastic. I had so much fun & the sessions were extremely informative”
“Dana was an excellent, engaging, enjoyable, well informed facilitator. A brilliant choice, especially given the constraints of the session”
The experience reassured me that no matter what I walk into now, whatever surprises the learning environment reveals I can handle it. I hope that this never happens to you, but if it does – I hope my sharing this gives you some ideas and the confidence to know that you can make it better and even the little things you do can make a big difference.