When Things Derail, Tips for Staying on Track

Have you ever had one of those really challenging workshops? You know the ones…the ones where everything that could go wrong, does go wrong.  Even the stuff you didn’t know was possible to go wrong, has gone wrong.  And not just a little wrong.  Completely off the chains kind of wrong.  Those are not my favorite workshops. But what’s a trainer to do?

Well, remain calm(ish).  What’s that thing we like to say here at Mandt?  Oh yeah, “affirm your emotions and choose your behavior.”  It might be time you put your attitude where your mouth is on this front!  Take a deep breath.  Assess your most immediate problems.  What are your options?  Hey, wait…this is starting to sound a little bit like RADAR, or perhaps SODAS.  Speaking of soda, it might not hurt to get yourself a nice cold coke or some water.  If you’re more a coffee drinker, that might fit the bill too.  Anyway…how can you interact with people in a way that treats them with dignity and respect?  I’ve had situations where none of my training materials that were sent ahead could be located; I’ve had situations where the person who was to unlock the room (or sometimes even the building) arrived thirty or forty minutes late; and, I’ve stepped into a room that will most definitely NOT meet our needs for the week.  Will causing a scene help me in the moment?  No.  Will it make me feel better?  Okay, probably, but again, that’s allowing my emotion to drive my behavior and I’m trying to avoid that!  Take a deep breath and try to keep your wits about you.

If it’s completely out of your control, as most things are, could it be that we have to readjust our expectations?  I have an idea of what my workshop is going to look like, but several years ago when I was on the road and contracted the flu, I knew I wasn’t going to be giving 110%.  Mostly because the flu had already stolen about 50%. And then, as if the flu isn’t enough, the training fairies decided to throw a little something extra at me and I woke up with laryngitis.  That’s a little bit tricky in my line of work, but I had to get creative.  I asked (via some sloppy hand written notes and ill received gestures) the recerts in my class if they could take over teaching some of the chapters.  I thought for sure I’d get seriously dinged on my evaluations, but the participants seemed to appreciate the variation in presenters and responded quite positively.  Was the week what I expected?  Certainly not.  Was it still a great workshop?  You betcha!  

Sometimes we get a group of people together and their personalities are such that we have to work really, REALLY hard to keep things on track.  Be it too many side conversations, people not returning from the breaks on time, people trying to “help” others but in the end not so much helping, or a simple question or remark that gets the entire group off topic and off task.  Any of these can really sabotage the flow of our presentation and jeopardize our “to do” list in the certification process.  I’ve heard many good ideas of how to address these issues ranging from just being direct (“we need to refocus on the topic at hand”) to being creative (“please park that question in the parking lot”).  It is important to answer questions, but it is also important to manage time.  I find saying things like, “I can take one more question” or “if you have questions, please write them down so I can address them all at the end of the day.”

I can’t really speak to the kinks Mother Nature might provide, since she’s thrown a hurricane, snow storms, thunderstorms, tornadoes and fire at me.  I still don’t really know what to do about her, other than just acknowledge her beauty and  be ready to roll with the punches!

Actually, rolling with the punches might just be a good idea for any of these things that might happen at your workshops! This is the way to create a safe workplace.

So, tell us, what kinds of things have almost derailed your training sessions and how have you dealt with them?  We’re always here to offer suggestions and support if you need it.

Nikki Wince – Faculty Supervisor

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