Adult training should be fairly straightforward should it not? You’ve got a presenter who has some valuable knowledge, skill, insight or attitudes to impart, and a bunch of adults open to hearing and seeing the trainer. If only it were half that simple! Usually training goes well and is valuable, but there are many ways in which training seems to diverge from this simple model and nearly all of it is down to the characters in the training room. Let’s start with the trainers – they come in several distinct forms.
The incompetent – this is the chronically under-prepared speaker. They don’t understand their topic, but this doesn’t seem to stop them. They will arrive with overhead slides (yes overheads), photocopied in black and white cheaply at the newsagents. The slides will be uniformly grey with no hint of text or graphics visible. The acetate slides will be dropped just prior to the start of the talk. Strangely the random order of the slides has no tangible impact on the presentation, because the overhead projector is out of focus.
The Power presenter – they use “advanced” techniques in powerpoint with disastrous consequences. In this group there is the “runaway train” – those that set their slides to automatically progress at pre-set times. Then someone interrupts their speill with a question and the rest of the talk is spent providing a commentary two or three slides behind the action.
Fairy Delight – Whoa! Hey! All get up and dance! Clap your hands! Be great! Love yourself the way I love me! Go for it! Whoa! Hey! Yes! Usually dressed in black and wearing a microphone pinched from a call centre, they will be fit looking, move around a lot, tell you that you can do it, and then leave in an expensive car with your money and you with a sense that there was nothing of substance to digest.
The Drone – let me just go over that one more time, this is really exciting this is, no really, I cannot emphasise enough the importance of the changes in the framework working party evaluation and oversight project scoping activities in work-package 3.2.1 and it’s articulation into the policy guidelines relating to the procurement of non-essential policy meeting cup holders.
The Comedian – just get on with it.
The Torturer – I don’t care what you think. I have been instructed to ensure that all of you know the procedures and can demonstrate an understanding of the model and that is what you are going to do today whether you like it or not. What’s that you say? I am afraid I am going to have to report you to Mr Bullivant if you don’t show me some cooperation right now.
The Humiliator – ok, we are going to start the day by revealing something very embarrassing from our personal lives, but don’t worry your colleagues are not going to text your secret to all your colleagues at the first opportunity….
The Stuntman/woman – I have planned a lot of exercises for us today, we are going to start by making plasticine animals that resemble our work attitudes, then we are going to workshop the plasticine and write pretentious things on butcher’s paper. If there’s time I’ll try and relate all these stunts back to your workplace, but don’t hold your breath.
And then there are the participants.
The Loud Mouth – will always sit toward the front on the left hand side of the speaker. They will take seriously the offer to ask questions or seek clarification and do so at least every 3 minutes throughout the day. They will volunteer answers to every question posed and as they get bolder will answer questions on behalf of the trainer before they can get a word in.
The Paranoid – everyone knows this training is really an attempt by management to measure our performance and we know you will be reporting back who should be sacked.
The Narcoleptic – you could attach them to the power lines and they would still fall asleep. Mind you, knowing Energy Australia, the lines are probably down anyway…
The Big Issue – They will listen carefully to the first five minutes of your material and then interrupt with statements that start “the problem with that around here you will find”, or “that’s all very well for the main office/metropolitan regions/Northern Beaches/Victoria/Mainland/tall people, but it wont work with us”. Such sentiments are then repeated ad-nauseum throughout the day regardless of what is said.
The White rabbit – may stay in the room until morning tea if you are lucky, and will next be seen creeping into the room to collect their things at the end of the day thinking you’ve packed up and left. Or at conferences they will register in the morning and then reappear in the evening for cocktails.
The Startled – They tend to sit there looking as though they suspect you are about to announce that you’ve found the bodies they buried all those years ago in Adelaide.
The Gladiator – training is a battle and I am going to win it. This is Christians and lions and so me roar! The favourite line usually begins “Have you ever worked” and then insert “here/in my job/overseas/under pressure/for my boss/in your life” etc. The second favourite line of attack is the hypothetical which normally goes: “but if you had an irate customer, and the fire alarm was ringing, but your mobile phone was flat and someone had stolen your trousers the model you are describing wouldn’t work would it?”
The Holidaymakers – well anything has got to be worth getting out of the office for, even this. You don’t expect us to participate actively surely?!
Jim Bright is Professor of Career Education and Development at ACU National and a Partner at Bright and Associates, a Career Management Consultancy.