It’s that time of year. The days are getting colder and the nights are getting longer. Everyone is busy raking leaves and putting their garden beds ‘to sleep’ for the winter.

But before we bring out the snow shovels, we all start to think about Halloween. It  sidetracks us from our outdoor to-do list and it delays us from thinking about the inevitable cold winter ahead.

Many children dig out their Halloween decorations from the back of the garage and howl with delight as they try to scare their siblings (or parents). And then we all search for just the right pumpkin (or two or three) to carve into a jack-o-lantern.

In our house we also bring out our PRIZED Halloween accoutrement. I don’t know what we’d do without it; although I cursed my husband when he started using it. (Don’t tell him that I told you that he was right…)

"Will o' the Wisps" / Foolish Fire


Halloween, or “All Hallows Eve”, dates back centuries to the Celts in Europe. It was celebrated to honour their dead on October 31st, since they were marking the end of the summer season. They believed the dead roamed the streets and hence left out treats to pacify them. (This is one of the theories behind the origin of trick or treating.) Some folks even dressed up like ghosts to frighten away the dead.  (For a more complete background on Halloween click here.)

And then there is the legend of Jack of the Lantern. It starts with stories about a man carrying a light in the moors or bogs in Ireland. If approached, the light would advance and remain out of reach. This phenomenon of strange light in the bogs is called  “will o’ the wisps” OR in Gaelic (the Irish language), “ignis fatuus”, meaning foolish fire. More on Jack, a little later…


There are parallels between the training ‘world’ and the celebration of Halloween. Be advised to:

  1. Understand that no one is wrong. Just like Halloween, with training there can be different view points. The right answer is many times, “it depends”.  For example if you are asked to pick the best [fill in the blank], assuming this is not objective (based on straight facts) the right answer is often, “It depends”…. Think about it: the best [fill in the blank] as measured how?
  2. Use stories and analogies. Probably the most famous Halloween symbol is the jack-o-lantern (i.e. the carved pumpkin). To read the story of the jack-o-lantern click here. While the morale of Jack’s story could be debated, it illustrates the point that it is not a good idea to deal with the devil. Using stories and analogies while training can be a great way to engage your audience and  effectively illustrate a point.
  3. Be Creative. The status quo is boring.  Just get ‘into it’ and everyone will have more fun.
  4. Accept that it’s not so scary. Don’t be afraid when you start training. Just like Halloween, some of your visitors (attendees) may be tentative… so, encourage them without scaring the living day lights out of them.
  5. Get into character. Some times you just have to get into character. Now, I’m not asking you to dress up in costume, just consider what you can do to make the experience more true to life. Role playing and discussions can positively enhance learning, especially if you are preparing your attendees to perform differently when they leave your session.


While it is not really a superstition, we just HAVE to have our PRIZED Halloween accoutrement ready before the ghosts, and goblins arrive at our door. What is it? It’s our Halloween ‘Log Book’. Since 1991, we’ve even kept records of the temperature and number of ghouls that have knocked on our door. Seriously! If you don’t believe me, leave a comment below asking for the details of a certain year and I’ll give you the day of the week, temperature & the number of ghouls that dared to knock on our door. (Kidding aside, having a historical view does help you plan to buy the right number of treats…)

So, TRICK yourself into thinking Training is not so scary and TREAT your audience with a more creative, engaging session by leveraging some old fashion Halloween tricks of getting into character, being creative and of course Irish story telling.

Until next time…Watch out for Jack!


Jack-o-Lanterns Image by Gord Palin

“Will of the Wisps” Flickr Creative Commons Image by Beej Jorgensen