Assuming it’s not a beach…
Your training location will have a big impact on the audience. Distractions like various noises from inside and outside your training room. Flickering lights, moldy smells, and the creaky chairs can all have an effect on your students mindset and attitude.
Doing a training session at a train stations shouldn’t be too bad, because people use trains a lot. But If the water jugs are shaking and the cutlery is rattling, it might be a bit much.
Natural light is great for keeping people alert and awake. But it can play havoc with screens. Both yours – if you’re doing powerpoint or showing videos through a projector – and your audience’s. Tablets, laptops, computers and smart phones all get affected. Light is great, but it can work against you.
Fluorescent light is energy draining. It is good for it’s ability to light a big space without direct spotlight intensity, however if the tubes are old or flickering, the distraction and the uneven light may make it difficult to write and concentrate. Be careful that your handouts or notes have sufficient contrast to be easily read without people pulling out their torches!
Light through windows, spotlights and opening and closing doors must also be taken into consideration, because light pouring through one corner of the room can be burning the head of a student while the rest shiver in the darkness. And you should be the number one focus of everyone’s attention.
Technology has made it easy for us to share presentations with students. Teachers now use classrooms of iPads to teach in TAFE and at University, and they send assignments and tasks by email or through Google Docs or Dropbox to save printing and use less paper. Also you can tell when it was sent what’s electronic, especially when you send it to everyone in the class in front of them.
No more – the dog ate my homework.
It brings its own problem though. Smartphones access the internet faster than we can think sometimes. And the opportunity to be questioned or challenged by a student googling your topic, is very unnerving for some speakers.
What it has done is made the profession of teaching and training a more honest place. Less “creative” and more “Truth”.
Another challenge of training with technology is your reliance on power.
A workshop I led in Budapest, Hungary a few years back was a prime example. With 120 people in the room, nearly half were using laptops. They wanted to learn, and apply what they were being taught online at the same time. Some took notes, but most were mimicking what I did on the internet on the big screen – on their own screens!
This presented a challenge. With so many people accessing the internet, it got slower and slower. Eventually we melted the router and had to use someone’s mobile internet so I could continue the presentation!
When you are showing live advertising and marketing skills on the internet, you don’t want the technology to let you down. The organizer made sure future events had better internet with multiple routers, and a backup for mobile internet at the ready.
That was just the first challenge. With nearly 70 laptops, that’s 70 computers wanting to plug into power!
The room was a spiderweb of cords, extension cables, powerboards and looked like we were running a call center. Because of course everyone had a phone on their desk too! That too was plugged in. A huge cost to the workshop and a big risk if we needed to get out of there in a hurry.
All that technology did help to give a positive outcome for the workshop. But it created a lot of safety issues, and headaches from the sheer number of machines in the room along the way. It raised the temperature about 5 degrees, and when the internet melted – we thought we’d have a riot!
Know your venue, know your room can take the technology that you want to run.
Which leads me to microphones and speakers. If you have a built-in system in your venue, you need to test it. If you’re a soft speaker, and you walk under a speaker or in front of it you’ll create noisy horrible feedback, so the venue may limit your mobility.
If you have your own system, you can place it where you need to have the best possible sound and the least risk of feedback or dead spots.
I personally prefer a handheld microphone because they are a good prop for sound effects and volume control. But wireless lapel microphones are ideal for the times when I like to speak with my hands, and to be more expressive. At a recent event I had an iPad in my hands the entire time instead of having notes at a lectern or podium. So the headset microphone was ideal.
Microphone technique is something you need to learn as well. Is it unidirectional so you need to speak directly into it, and close? Or is it more omnidirectional and allows you to be more relaxed, having it further from your mouth. Most lapel microphones are designed to have about 15cm or 6 inches from the mic. Whereas the handheld always work better very close to your mouth.
If you have music, microphones, or additional speakers in your room – you need to have it all tested and working before your students show up. It’s just the professional thing to do. 30 minutes extra preparation will get you a better reputation as an organised, efficient and well-prepared speaker.
Back to your room’s construction. Walls and floors are also a trainers worst nightmare. Three words.
You want carpet.
Imagine a room of 1300 people. At least 10% of them are out of their chairs at any point in time. Up and down, in and out the doors, phones vibrating or ringing at every minute of the 10 hour day.
If you have a hard floor, tiles, concrete, wood – it’s a never-ending symphony of scraping, clunking, trotting and stomping.
That’s why the last big event I spoke at with that many people – was in a carpeted ballroom, with heavy drapes, and thick walls!
Anyone that offers you a room to hold a training session in that has a hard floor, reject it. It’s probably cheaper for a reason.
When people move in their chairs, they shouldn’t be screeching like fingers down a blackboard. They need to be comfortable to change their seating position, to stretch, lean back. Without everyone hearing it.
When you have squeaky chairs, hard floors, or echo from the walls, you’ll regret it.
The walls are an interesting case in point. In five star hotels, the ballroom or training room walls are usually wall to wall carpeted, including up to a metre off the ground. This means the sound is absorbed into the walls, and you don’t get the echo of smaller sounds.
This can be great as long as you have a microphone. Otherwise that absorbing of sound will mean you have to speak louder. A lot louder. You’ll be surprised how much noise is absorbed by carpet and walls that are lined.
The aspect of walls you have to be careful of is how thick they are, and what’s happening on the other side of them. Also, are they a partition or temporary wall? Those never hold out the sound as well unless you’re in a 5-star hotel that looks after its conference attendees.
Unless you have more than 100 people, you probably don’t need to be on a stage as a trainer. As a keynote speaker, politician or Chairman of the Board speech? Yes. But as a trainer, I highly recommend being on the same level as your audience.
If you use a stage it creates an artificial, invisible barrier between you and your audience.
You don’t need it for them to respect you or trust you. You don’t need it to be seen.
And you don’t need it to be heard.
The stage separates you, and it’s much better — if you’re stuck with one — to put products, props and other material up there as a presentation aid or reference for your training.
Being on the stage moves you further away from your audience, and in a training situation, where you are wanting to give your audience a transfer of your knowledge, the closer you are the better.
I like to move among my students, especially while they do interactive group activities, so I can hear their comments, see if they are ‘getting it’ and also start to feel out those that are passionately enjoying the session.
Then I can reference their comments and their participation later in my training session.
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