Horror Stories from a Learning Consultant



I've been working as a trainer for more than a decade, and while I'd like to pretend things have always gone smoothly, the truth is I hit bumps pretty frequently when facilitating sessions. In the spirit of Halloween, today I'd like to share a few of those stories with you, and how you can improvise them should you ever find yourself in that situation.

Technical difficulties

I've been educating on SaaS products for 10 years - I cannot tell you the number of times that the wifi in the room has gone down (sometimes when there are hundreds of attendees, naturally), the virtual meeting room is glitchy, or the product at that very moment has an unexpected outage. It's hard to learn about a product that you can't access or isn't working.

Improvise: taking a short break if the product is done, incorporate group discussions into the experience you can go to if needed, get attendees to tether or plug in to internet, having screenshots to guide facilitated content to proceed with, and if all else fails scheduling.

You're sick, and the only facilitator available

I've delivered a lot of training while under the weather, but one instance sticks out. I traveled to deliver two workshops in EMEA for a total of 60 attendees. I was a bit sick before I left, but once I arrived I not only got a fever but also lost my voice entirely. There was no one in the local office that could deliver, and rescheduling was not an option as the majority of attendees had traveled themselves.

Improvise: I'm guilty of living on Tylenol Cold & Flu, keep you distance of attendees but also explain why you aren't shaking hands, if AV equipment is available get mic'ed up, fully leverage group breakouts and minimal facilitation (in my instance the program was launched using the 80/20 rule for facilitation, and that gave me the opportunity to project as much as I could a few minutes at a time, and visit individuals and groups during group and hands on time to ensure I could cover anything attendees couldn't hear).

A registration snafu occurs and attendees are at the wrong place or you have the wrong list

This happened to me at a conference training day where there was a room location change that wasn't well communicated. I've also had where attendees show me their confirmations but don't appear on my list of paid registrations.

Improvise: If you're working wit a coodinator have them help redirect people - at a conference there is probably a large team that can help. If in doubt, I also tend to let people in if they have a confirmation but aren't on my list, if it's a paid session I'll take breaktime to validate.

No one shows up

This have happened to me for early morning classes, and sessions at conferences that were booked in proximity to or at the same time as a keynote.

Improvise: Take advantage! If you have a particularly intimate group, or even a 1:1 session cease the opportunity to provide a more personalized session, more collaboration, and the opportunity for learners to get to know you and each other (and you them). A smaller session may be more efficient, so if you find time at the end having additional hands on time is helpful, and take time to get qualitative feedback on the content.

There is no coffee

This is truly the stuff of my nightmares! I once led a 8:30am coding class at a conference; all sessions the day prior had a full coffee and tea serving at the back of the room. I guess catering didn't start until 9:00am though - I arrived at 7:00am pre-coffee and realized there was none.

Improvise: There is no improvising for coffee! I tweet on the hashtag to pre-warn attendees, and luckily the onsite starbucks was open!

I'd love to hear about your training horror stories and how you improvised. Please share in the comments (at least tell me I'm not alone)!


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